Before she attended her first Beauties and the Beers event, Jeanine Long was a Bud Light girl.
She had no idea she was also an India Pale Ale girl.
Now, when Long orders a beer, it’s usually a hoppy IPA.
“When my friends go out with me and I order an IPA, there’s a raised eyebrow or two, people looking at me like, ‘Are you sure?’ ” she said. “My beer tastes have grown up.”
Long and about 100 other local women involved in River City Brewing Co’s Beauties and the Beers club have spent the past year exploring the world of craft beer – a world that tends to be populated mostly by men.
They meet on the third Thursday of each month at River City, 150 N. Mosley, to sample and learn about beer styles, from pale ale to wheat to Oktoberfest. Admission to each meeting is limited to 40 women, who also socialize and snack on River City food during the two-hour get-togethers.
The group officially formed last August at the request of River City’s operating partner, Chris Arnold. He’d learned about the national organization Barley’s Angels, which has all-female beer-tasting clubs in cities across the country, including Manhattan, and Arnold thought Wichita needed a chapter, too.
He enlisted Liz Jackel, the wife of River City brewer Nathan Jackel, to get things started. Jackel, a longtime beer fan whose interest grew once she married a beer brewer, said she loved the idea.
“Especially in more recent, modern times, beer marketing in particular from big beer companies has been aimed at men,” Jackel said. “It’s filled with dancing cheerleaders and no one even trying to market to women. It’s kind of an afterthought. But women love beer, too.”
Jackel named the Wichita chapter Beauties and the Beers and started a Facebook page and Twitter account. She attracted a good crowd to her first meeting in August. The group really started to grow after September’s Midwest Beerfest, where Jackel distributed fliers about the club to women in attendance.
Beer education is the focus of each meeting, Jackel said. She chooses a different beer style each month, gets the beer from Goebel Liquor and researches its brewing process, origin and more. Club members get one full “welcome” beer and five samples at each meeting.
Tickets to each meeting are $20, and members in attendance get first crack at the next month’s tickets. The remainder are for sale until the Wednesday before the meeting at River City. The meetings almost always sell out, Jackel said.
So far, the group’s activities revolve around the monthly meetings, but Jackel has plans to expand the focus. She organized a special Christmas outing last year, where members conducted their sampling on a party bus. She’s considering adding other field trips to learn about the process of making beer as well as T-shirts and official membership dues to pay for it all.
The meetings have attracted women who range from their early 20s to late 50s, Jackel said, and they have a variety of careers, from zookeepers to meteorologists to dietitians. Some are new to beer drinking. Others are beer veterans.
“Among the group, there are seasoned beer drinkers, a few ladies who themselves home brew, and there are some that are new to beer in every way,” Jackel said. “But we all feel comfortable. It’s not that men are intimidating, but I think women feel more comfortable stating their opinions and asking questions in this environment.”
Several friendships have formed from the group as well, Jackel said. Recently, she was hanging out with a group of women and realized she’d met them all at Beauties and the Beers.
Long, a school counselor from Cheney, said that making new friends has been almost as invaluable as graduating from domestic beer.
“My beer tastes have definitely improved, and I like the camaraderie of the girls,” she said. “I’ve made some friends that I keep in touch with outside the group.”