INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – At craft breweries throughout central Indiana, a different kind of beer school is underway.
Brewers meet with small groups to talk about the complexities and differences between different styles. They describe how yeast strains and hops can give beer wild and varying tastes.
Offering samples of pale ale, porter and pilsners, they teach how to bring out the flavors of food with specific types of beer.
Educational events such as this are common as craft beer has become more popular. But at this event, all of the beer drinkers were women.
“Beer is always thought of as a boys club. Part of what we’re trying to do is make women feel more comfortable,” Amanda Wishin, an Indianapolis resident and the president of Girls Pint Out, told the Daily Journal. “When they go to a beer bar, they can ask questions. They can sample beer and understand what they’re getting. They can be part of the greater beer community.”
Craft beer may have started out as a male-dominated hobby. But as the popularity of small-batch beers have grown, so has the number of women who are making, innovating and enjoying them.
To attract more people to the movement, a group of Indianapolis beer lovers formed Girls Pint Out to introduce women to new types of beer, gather like-minded drinkers at fun social events and help spread the gospel of craft beer.
The organization has now spread to chapters throughout the country but remains strong in Indiana.
“It’s easy to discount women’s interest in craft beer. People think that women only like wine or cocktails,” said Leah Huelsebusch, director of marketing and co-owner at Taxman Brewing Co. in Bargersville. “Girls Pint Out is an awesome platform to show that that’s not the case.”
More than 2,800 craft breweries are now operating in the U.S., a continually increasing trend that has been ongoing nationally over the past 30 years.
In 2001, the typical craft beer drinker was a 39-year-old male, according to research by the Brewers Association.
Men still dominate the consumption of craft beer, but women are slowly getting more and more involved.
As of 2014, women ages 21 to 34 account for 15 percent of all craft beer consumed, according to Bart Watson, chief economist for the Brewers Association.
Part of the challenge of getting more women involved in craft beer is getting past the point of feeling intimidated ordering a wheat beer, a double India pale ale or a barrel-aged stout.
“We’re trying to incorporate women more strongly into beer, so they feel more confident to be part of the beer community,” Wishin said. “And it’s fun.”
The group regularly meets to play the provocative game Cards Against Humanity while tasting mead and hard cider at New Day Meadery.
In February, members flocked to Mashcraft Brewing in the Center Grove area to sip on a specially made raspberry shandy and pretend it was summer.
Scarlet Lane Brewing Co. hosted a movie night on Valentine’s Day to watch the film “Labyrinth,” sample beer and snack on food.
An event in April will feature an “ugly bridesmaid dress” pub crawl.
Participants are encouraged to dig out the forlorn monstrosities of past weddings from the closets and give them one last showing while visiting a trio of bars in Broad Ripple for tastings.
Afterward, the dresses will be donated to the Gifted Gown to provide free and low-cost formal wear.
“It’s fun to plan events that have some kind of feminine element to them, so that women want to come to them,” Wishin said. “It’s a beer education event where you learn about these other breweries, but you also get to wear the bridesmaid dresses that you never want to wear again.”
Wishin first became interested in craft beer after trying a pint that she’d never had before.
She really liked it and wanted to try different varieties outside of the domestic corporate brews she was used to.
She moved to Indianapolis right as the region experienced a boom of craft beer breweries, including Sun King Brewing and Flat 12 Bierwerks.
“You find yourself searching out new styles, going to beer events. I think I fell into it really quickly,” she said.
Girls Pint Out came together in 2010. It started when a group of women decided to spend a weekend afternoon checking out one of Indianapolis’ new breweries.
The timing fit with the emergence of the area’s craft brewing scene.
“They decided they were really into beer, and it became a regular thing,” Wishin said. “It was just a group of ladies who wanted to try some new beers.”
Taxman Brewing Co. in Bargersville connected with Girls Pint Out before they even opened their gastropub and taproom last September.
The group was given a sneak peek of its forthcoming menu and offered a glimpse into Belgian-style beers.
Connecting with a large group of beer enthusiasts seemed like a natural way to introduce people to Taxman, Huelsebusch said.
“I felt like it was such a cool opp to offer them something exclusive,” she said. “In my relationship with my husband, I’m the one who picks where we go out to eat, so it was so important to get women engaged right from the start.”
Since then, Taxman has been involved in Girls Pint Out events throughout the region. They helped sponsor and serve beer at the group’s fifth-anniversary event on March 21 and are reuniting with the organization for a Cinco de Mayo-themed activity in May.
What started as a half-dozen women in central Indiana has grown to include hundreds of members. Chapters are now established in 37 states, as far away as California, Alaska and Maine.
Requests have started coming in from Brazil and the Dominican Republic as well.
“Things are growing like crazy now,” Wishin said. “It’s exciting and scary, but it’s awesome to work with women all over the country.”