The Origins of BURP – The First Meetings

By Bill Ridgely, BURP Archivist
(Reprinted from BURP News, Sep 2006)

It has generally been accepted that the first meeting of what was to become the BURP club was held at the home of Dan McCoubrey in Wheaton, MD on Sep 27, 1981. Dan had sent a letter to as many homebrewers in the Baltimore-Frederick-DC triangle as he could locate. Assistance in this effort was provided by the AHA, which kindly provided Dan with the names and addresses of all of its area members. Here is the text of Dan’s letter, postmarked on 5 Sep:

Dear Friend of Homebrew,

On Monday, Aug 24, eight homebrewers met at the home of Rick Gaskins in Gaithersburg. At that time, it was determined we should form an organization made up of homebrewers and homebrew patrons from the Washington-Baltimore area.

Four officers were chosen, to hold office until a general election at the beginning of 1982. They included George Burgess, treasurer, who then left for Europe with our petty cash (he’ll be back); Dan McCoubrey, secretary; Kevin Giblin, membership, and Tom Rusnack, activities.

It was agreed that the purpose of the organization should be to compare and trade recipes and homebrews; to promote homebrew, and to celebrate our successes in brewing with occasional parties.

We agreed to meet once a month, at McCoubrey’s home in Wheaton.

The first meeting of the formal organization (as yet unnamed, which is to be the first order of business of the meeting) will be held on Sunday, Sept 27 in conjunction with a homebrew and crab feast at the McCoubrey house (12301 Dalewood Drive, Wheaton, MD, 20902). The party will commence at 1:00 p.m. and go as long as the beer and crabs hold out. A meeting of members and prospective members will be held beginning at 12:30. Likely the only pressing business at that time will be the naming of the organization, discussion on whether or not to align with the American Homebrewers’ Association, and selecting a date for the next meeting.

You and yours are cordially invited to the crabfeast and requested to show up in time for the meeting if you have any interest in the organization (Beer will be served at the meeting; Crabs come later). RSVP (301) 949-5783.

Enclosed are a map to the party and an informational sheet to be filled out and returned to me at the above address or at the party.

Dan McCoubrey

Notable in the letter is the first paragraph, which shows that while the club was named and formalized at the Sep meeting, it wasn’t the first time the group of homebrewers that eventually became BURP had met. Not only had a meeting already been held in Aug, but a slate of officers had also been elected.

As it turns out, even this meeting was not the first for the group. In the BURP archives, I recently located a brief article from the Frederick Post dated Jul 30, 1981. The full text of the article, which I believe documents the first meeting of what would eventually become BURP, is reproduced below:

Homebrewers Organize, Plan Activities

The first organized meeting of homebrewers in the Baltimore-Washington-Frederick area was held July 23, in Gaithersburg at the home of Rick Gaskins. The group is planning to sponsor such events as: tasting and rating homebrew and commercial beers, demonstrations and classes, pub crawls, brewery tours, mass buying, and bottle and equipment trading events. Other plans are to organize a club and become associated with the American Homebrewers Association and educate the public about the new homebrewing movement throughout the country.

The host provided a large selection of snacks while each attendee provided beverages to be shared by the group. George Burgess of Potomac had his homebrew (a stout) voted the finest of the evening and shared his recipe with everyone.

The next meeting will be held in Gaithersburg on Aug 24. Anyone interested in more details may contact Rick Gaskins, P.O. Box 2008, Gaithersburg, 20760; Bob Frank, 8119 Glendale Drive, Frederick, 21701; or stop at the Flying Barrel Brewing Supplies at Steve’s Flea Market, 530 E. South St., Frederick.

So, while BURP as a club may have come into formal existence in Sep 1981, the first organized meetings of area homebrewers were actually held over the course of that summer in Gaithersburg, MD. Those who attended those early meetings continued to participate in club activities, and Rick Gaskins, who served as first host, was elected as BURP’s first President in Jan 1982.