West Chester Beer Ladies: Enjoying Craft Beer, Food and Socializing

When this group of ladies has a craft meeting it isn’t about jewelry or needlework. The West Chester Beer Ladies meet to learn about the complexities of craft beer, how it is made, what gives it certain flavors and how it pairs with food.

Founded late last year by Colleen Perrin, a local West Chester professional and mom, the group was intended to bring women from the suburbs together to socialize and learn about craft beer. “Over the summer, I was reading about all of the beer events in the Philadelphia, including Beer Week and Suzy Woods’ group for women: In Pursuit of Ale, and I wished I could make the hour-long ride into the city to participate. But with a full-time job and two young children, that never seemed to be an option.  But then it occurred to me, we have amazing beer destinations right here in our own back yard. Victory Brewing, one of the nation’s best, is located fewer than 10 miles away in Downingtown. And there are great craft beer-centric restaurants from Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties that would be great for meeting to sample beer and food.”

That is when Perrin sent an email to 10 local ladies to see if they would be interested in a craft beer group for women. “The response was overwhelmingly positive,” she said. The inaugural meet-up was at Victory Brewing for a tour of the brewery, a beer tasting and appetizers. “Our tour guide was excellent, very knowledgeable and engaging. We  enjoyed learning about how the beer is made and how Victory supports local farms with excess from the beer-making process, and sources food locally as well.”

Since that first meeting, more than 30 women have participated in the events, which have included a beer education event at TJs Everyday in Paoli, a beer and food pairing at the Station Taproom in Downingtown and a casual meet-up at Iron Hill Brewery. “All of the local purveyors have been extremely helpful in arranging interesting events for us,” said Perrin. Jeff Miller at TJs Everyday gave us information about each of the beers we had and organized a special tasting with a representative from Great Lakes Brewing.”

It was the TJs Everyday event that drew another local woman to the West Chester Beer Ladies. Ronna Dewey, a long-time craft beer aficionado and mom learned about the group through Facebook and came to meet other women with a shared interest. “Ronna’s knowledge and enthusiasm were hard to overlook,” said Perrin. “Ronna immediately started sharing ideas and was very interested in drumming up more participation and organizing events.”

“I have found that many women don’t think they like beer,” said Dewey. “What West Chester Beer Ladies offers is the opportunity to explore different styles of beer, from sweet to very bitter, from light to dark,” said Dewey. “I guarantee I can find a beer to please any palate.”

Dewey is now the president of the West Chester Beer Ladies, and she and Perrin collaborate to select locations for the meet-ups, publicize events and promote the group. “Ronna does a great job of working with restaurant owners to organize events that focus on beer education in a way that is fun and social,” said Perrin.

“The West Chester Beer Ladies is more than drinking beer,” said Dewey. “We’ve had such interesting women participate in the events. We’ve had people who are extremely knowledgeable about beer, to those who thought there was little they would like. We’ve tried new places, had amazing food and met restaurant and bar owners who are passionate about their work,” said Dewey. “Most of all, it’s been fun!”

The Drafting Room

On February 10, the West Chester Beer Ladies met at The Drafting Room in Exton for a beer and food pairing.  Owner Howard Weintraub, created a menu that featured signature dishes paired with appropriate beers to enhance the flavor. The meal began with a Radeberger Pilsner from Germany. Light, crisp and refreshing, it was the perfect start to the meal.

With appetites whetted, the Beer Ladies were anticipating the first course, which was crab and spinach gratinee & smoked chicken quesadillas. Both were paired with Bell’s Pale Ale. The hoppiness of the pale ale cut through the spice in the appetizers and cleansed the palate. It was a nice interlude before the richness of the main course and a   nice teaser for an event The Drafting Room was hosting that Saturday… The Bell’s Brewery Tapping.

Spinach and crab are always delicious, and this appetizer did not disappoint, but the chicken quesadillas were out of this world. Spicy and cheesy, they paired well with the hoppy beer and were a great backdrop to interesting conversation as we waited for the entree.

Howard introduced each course with an explanation of why he chose the beer, and what he expected it would do for the flavor of the meal. For the main entree, he explained that the Rosemary Stuffed Pork had a rich and sweet flavor. It should…it was stuffed with spinach, fontina cheese and brandied dried apricots. He chose to pair this with a Franziskaner Dunkel Weiss, a full bodied beer with a sweet taste that helped to cleanse the palate and enhance the flavor of the pork. The sour cream mashed potatoes and asparagus also offered a nice rich flavor and a perfect accompaniment for a cold wintry day.

Nothing else would have ended the evening as perfectly as the flourless chocolate tort. Nothing except the two beer pairings: Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout and Raspberry Framboise Lambic. The cappuccino stout was a dessert itself, but paired with the tort, it made it even more decadent. The Raspberry Lambic was effervescent and flavorful and paired extremely well with the chocolate.

What was interesting about this particular event was that we each were able to try a wide array of beers – from a light and refreshing pilsner to a dark stout, and even a beer that tasted like a fruity drink. Many of us were surprised to find that, paired with the right food, certain styles that may not have interested us previously presented new flavors and appeal in a different context.

As we sat in the comfortable tavern-like atmosphere of The Drafting Room on this cold winter night, we agreed that having a night out to taste craft beers and great food as well as meet new women was what West Chester Beer Ladies was all about.

How to Participate

The group meets roughly every 6-8 weeks at breweries, bars or restaurants. The plans for meet-ups in 2011 include fun and interesting craft-beer centric locations in Chester and Delaware counties.

The West Chester Beer Ladies is open to all local women who are interested in learning more about craft beer and socializing. Events are posted on their Facebook site, their website: http://www.wix.com/beerlady/wcbeerladies or via Twitter: (follow Colleen Perrin @wcbeerlady). You can reach Colleen Perrin, Founder via email at [email protected]. You can Reach Ronna Dewey, President at [email protected].

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