So a Girl Scouts coordinator, a Spanish professor, and a policy intern walk into a bar.
No? How about an ICU nurse, a stay-at-home mom, and an ad agency production manager? An entrepreneur, a medical malpractice paralegal, and a JoAnn Fabrics store team leader?
It’s a typical gathering of the Tucson chapter of Girls Pint Out (GPO). As a national organization, GPO aims to create community among women who love craft beer; in Tucson, the group has garnered nearly 700 “Likes” on Facebook and runs at least two events each month.
On this particular Saturday morning in December, the Girl Scouts coordinator, et al., and I are standing around Barrio Brewing Company at 8 a.m. in rubber rainboots, jeans, and hoodies, drinking coffee and eating doughnuts with pink frosting. We’re here to brew an Imperial Stout, so it seems fitting that the Catalina Mountains are draped in dark blue cloud. Within an hour, rain begins to fill potholes in the parking lot, pouring off the brewpub gutters. By then, we’re up on a catwalk scooping oats into the mash; by then, we’re sipping cold beers.
Why are we here, at 8 a.m. on a Saturday? Because in most stories about craft beer, including those told in Tucson, there tend to be a whole lot of bearded men with black-rimmed glasses—and not many women. And GPO is out to change that.
Founders Sarah Ritchie and Victoria Parridgen met on Untappd, an app that allows beer lovers to check into bars, rate brews, and meet each other. One night in early September 2013, after Ritchie had just “been dumped for the first time,” she and Parridgen got together for a “breakup beer” at 1702. The friendship was immediate; their shared passion for building community around beer, clear. They started Tucson’s GPO in late October 2013, with a vision of creating a space where women who love beer could come together without their male counterparts to learn about and enjoy craft brews.
Since then, GPO has toured all but a few breweries in town. This fall, GPO journeyed to Willcox to pick local apples—then baked apple pies and threw them into the mash at Ten Fifty-Five Brewing for an Apple Pie Saison. (Never fear—they saved a pie to eat together, too.) When the beer arrived at Tap & Bottle, GPO celebrated with a release party.
“There’s no significant others to worry you’ll ask a stupid question around,” says Ritchie. “We want everyone to come and feel comfortable.”
There’s no one better to run a women’s craft beer group than Sarah Ritchie. After working as a mattress salesperson for almost 14 years, Ritchie left security for passion. She now works a host of beer-related jobs: She’s the events director at Borderlands and the people coordinator at Tap & Bottle (until owner Rebecca Safford returns from maternity leave), and she formerly worked as the Tucson account manager for Pitcher of Nectar Distributing. Known locally as “Craft Beer Betty,” Ritchie also volunteers as a board member of Craft Tucson, and was the previous chair and board member of the Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce. In short, she knows everyone, which makes coordinating GPO events a breeze.
Today’s brewing date is an important one for GPO regular Jennifer O’Connor. She’s the aforementioned production manager, but she’s also on the board of a nonprofit called Wings for Women, which will receive the proceeds from the Girls Pint Stout that we’re brewing today. “A lot of women out there don’t fit into the parameters of women-oriented charities—they’re not addicts, they’re not victims of domestic violence,” O’Connor says.
Wings for Women helps catch those who slip through the cracks, who are often homeless women and their children, who are referred by agencies like the Salvation Army. “The program is not government subsidized,” O’Connor says, “so we’re not limited in the way we can help.” Wings For Women has helped buy students’ uniforms, pay the electric bill, adopt wish-lists for Christmas, and provide an apartment deposit. Today, the friendships women have made at GPO will be building community in a more literal way.
Just before lunch, I ask the women their favorite local beers. Their answers are diverse: Barrio’s Mocha Java Stout. Ten Fifty-Five’s XOXO Stout. Dragoon’s IPA. Borderlands’ Noche Dulce. They roll their eyes at the idea that men drink beer and women drink wine. “This is why people need to understand that there is no beer gender,” Ritchie says. “There is no girly beer.”
O’Connor laughs. “I was a Coors Light and Corona girl,” she says. But her boyfriend used to be the head brewer at Nimbus, and when she tried new beers with him, everything changed. “I wonder if he thinks he created a monster. My Coors Light and Corona has been replaced by a Blonde,” O’Connor says.
Then there’s a silence as we eat. “Daydrinking is my favorite,” someone else says, mouth full of breadbowl, and everyone at the table laughs as the rain comes down outside. ✜
Barrio Brewing donated $925 in Girls Pint Stout proceeds to Wings for Women in January.
Updated: Barrio Brewing donated a total of $3,725 to Wings for Women.