No longer does Lee Feather fight through crowds, hoping to find that perfect gift for someone at Christmas time. The Sheridan native and retired pharmacist doesn’t weed through catalogs or surf the web in search of a present for a friend’s birthday.
Feather simply starts brewing beer. About seven years ago, Feather discovered his new favorite hobby — homebrewing. Now, all he needs to know is someone’s favorite flavor.
“It’s kind of my go-to gift,” Feather said. “At Christmas, I show up with a case (of) beer. At somebody’s birthday party, I show up with a case of beer.”
Feather’s hobby also brought him into contact with the Bighorn Homebrew Club. The organization doesn’t have a fancy mission statement or a large financial backing; it’s simply a small contingent of locals who like beer and can brew up whatever their heart desires.
Dennis Gresham remembers a time about seven years ago when he was new to the area, wasn’t married and didn’t have kids. Upon scouring the town’s liquor stores for a beer to enjoy on a lazy Sunday afternoon, Gresham found his options were limited.
He would half-heartedly reach for a six pack of New Belgium or perhaps something from Odell Brewing Company, but the fact remained, there weren’t an array of craft beer options in Sheridan.
“There wasn’t a whole lot of craft beer up here,” Gresham said. “There was a lot of Budweiser, Coors Light, and so that was kind of the start of the group.”
Gresham, a self-proclaimed big fan of craft beer, wanted a means to meet people, share brews and have that perfect ice-cold beverage after a long work week.
The Bighorn Homebrew Club started in a primitive way — word of mouth. At first, 10 people showed interest and chipped in $40 apiece to pay for the $400 filing fee with the IRS to become a nonprofit.
The group held meetings, brew days and tastings in garages and backyards as the organization searched for its footing. The Tour de Sheridan was one of the group’s first fundraisers. For $20, one could ride around town and experience more than 15 different homebrews.
The nonprofit gained traction in the years following its 2012 inception. Today, the group now meets monthly for tastings, events, fundraisers and homebrew competitions.
The organization has adopted a highway, held a coveted spot at Third Thursdays and, this past summer, made its biggest splash at its first-ever Untapped Homebrew Festival. Members were asked to dial up their best home brew for a competition hosted at the WYO Performing Arts and Education Center the Saturday before Sheridan WYO Rodeo.
“We kind of fit in the calendar perfectly,” Gresham said.
“Hopefully, we’ll continue to fit that rodeo week — kind of that week of fun.”
What started out as a means to create craft beer options has blossomed into a group of people conversing, sharing and enjoying each other’s company over a pint. The group, which started out as Gresham’s friends or friends of Gresham’s friends, has welcomed out-of-towners who share a similar craft beer passion.
“We just moved out here in June, saw their tent out there on Third Thursdays and introduced ourselves,” said Steve Tremaine, who recently moved to Sheridan from Oregon with his wife, Barbara. “We went to the next meeting and have been coming ever since.”
Tremaine has been homebrewing for the majority of his life. His lifelong passion had a place in his garage when he lived in the more temperate climates of California and Oregon.
Wyoming’s winters make it difficult to have a year-round homebrew operation, and that’s where Sheridan’s microbreweries have come into play. Both Black Tooth Brewing Company and Luminous Brewhouse have allowed the organization to utilize their facilities for brew days and events while also donating ingredients and giving advice during tastings.
Gresham would like to see the club continue to grow. He’d like to someday purchase a community space where members can meet and brew at their leisure.
The organization has come a long way. What started out as an idea and grew by word of mouth has turned into a Sheridan staple.
Gresham, who is married with kids, now has that beer to reach for while relaxing in his backyard. Maybe it’s Feather’s popular habanero-lime concoction or one of Tremaine’s double Indian Pale Ales that he cooked up, or perhaps it’s another byproduct of the nonprofit Gresham built seven years ago.
Whichever one he chooses, they all have a flavor unique to Sheridan and the people who brew it.