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FERMENTING FRIENDSHIP

Amid foam and flavors, Northern Nevada's beer clubs brew up learning and connections.

WRITTEN BY ANNIE FLANZRAICH
PHOTOS BY LOU MANNA

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Some of the members of Yelp’s UYE Beer Club toast at a recent gathering at Beer NV in Reno. From left, Louis Mednick, Connie Mednick, Michelle Schwegler, Paul Schwegler, Chris Mikulich, and Erica Tawzer
(left to right) Louis Mednick with a Brooklyn Brewery's Bel Air Sour, Connie Mednick with AleSmith Brewing Company's Speedway Stout (Vietnamese Coffee), Michelle Schwegler with a Tieton Cider Works' Cranberry Cider, Paul Schwegler with AleSmith Brewing Company's Speedway Stout (Vietnamese Coffee), Chris Mikulich with Founders Brewing Co.'s Curmudgeon's Better Half, and Erica Tawzer with Oskar Blues Brewery's IPA

Something’s brewing in the beer clubs in Northern Nevada, and it’s more than hops, grain, or yeast — it’s community.

Between sips of golden, or chocolate brown, elixir, the members of these organizations are building relationships.

And though their membership dynamics, club activities, and meeting schedules vary widely, all have one ingredient in common — the opportunity to meet and discuss flavors among friends old and new.

Barley’s Angels of Northern Nevada

Laura Tucker and Melissa Flatley started the Northern Nevada chapter of Barley’s Angels with two goals in mind: to drink beer with other women and to make new friends.

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A Brooklyn Brewery's Bel Air Sour in the foreground, an AleSmith Brewing Company's Speedway Stout (Vietnamese Coffee) in the middle, and an Oskar Blues Brewery's IPA in the background at Beer NV

As the only two women in their home brew club, Tucker and Flatley wanted to find more women who enjoyed beer. Then Tucker learned of the national organization, Barley’s Angels, which is a network of chapters around the world created by and for women who want a more comfortable space in which to explore new flavors.

“Everyone’s had this story where someone or some guy or bartender would assume that just because we’re women, we’d like fruit beers or lagers,” Tucker says. “They seem to think that just because we’re women, we wouldn’t like the same kinds of beers men would like.”

The club meets about every quarter for different tastings, exclusive brewery tours, and other themed events, such as growler-painting parties, Girl-Scout-cookie-and-beer tastings, yoga and beer, and chocolate-and-beer pairings. Membership is open to anyone older than 21 who is female or identifies as female.

Through each event, the organization’s members learn more about the flavor profiles of beers and expand their palates.

“We have a lot of women who start off by saying, ‘Oh, I don’t drink beer, I don’t know what I like,’” Flatley says. “After a couple of events, they’re jumping into pretty complex, or not mainstream, beers. When my mom started, all she would drink was Canadian beer, but now she drinks Belgians.”

Unofficial Yelp Events Beer Club

A breakfast club inspired Paul Schwegler to create Reno’s Unofficial Yelp Events Beer Club.

“We’d go out for breakfast every month, and I was like, ‘Hey, I like that idea,’” Schwegler says. “I wanted to do something to contribute to the Yelp community. And I thought, ‘I love beer, let’s do something with beer.’”

Now the Unofficial Yelp Events Beer Club meets at least once a month, and sometimes more often, to explore Northern Nevada’s beer scene. An unofficial Yelp event, or UYE, is an event planned by a member of the Yelp community for other Yelpers.

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Brooklyn Brewery's Bel Air Sour, enjoyed at Beer NV in Reno by the Unofficial Yelp Events Beer Club

The UYE Beer Club’s events range from get-togethers at beer bars to brewery tours and tastings. Since starting in 2014, Schwegler has organized 57 events.

Many of the event’s attendees are “Yelpers,” as Schwegler calls them, or friends of Yelpers.

“Some of them are just looking to socialize,” he says. “Some are actually looking for different types of beers that they’ve never experienced. Some are looking for the tours.”

The group also has changed as the number of breweries in the region has grown.

“You’ve got your regulars, and you’ve got some people who try to come maybe once every other month or every three months,” Schwegler says. “We’re gaining new members, especially when somebody knows about a new brewery coming up and they find out that we’re going to go there, so they get involved that way.”

Anyone can attend a UYE Beer Club tour, tasting, or other event.

“You get to meet good, friendly people who are curious about beer and seeking it out,” Schwegler says.

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A local IPA being poured from one of the 60 taps at Beer NV which are dedicated to local and imported craft beer

Washoe Zephyr Zymurgists

The literal granddaddy of beer clubs in Northern Nevada is the Washoe Zephyr Zymurgists, the Original Homebrewing Club of Northern Nevada — literally, because the club began in 1985, so some of its original members now have grandchildren.

“We are very old,” says Rob Bates laughingly.

Bates, along with his daughter, Karen, owns the Reno Homebrewer, a home brewing store in Reno, which is the official sponsor of the club.

Washoe Zephyr Zymurgists, or WZZ for short, actually is older than the Reno Homebrewer, which has been open since 1986.

“(WZZ) was originally formed just to spread information about how to make beer,” Karen says. “Obviously, this was pre-Internet and pre-beer magazines. It was tough even to get good ingredients.”

The club’s main event each month is an all-ages potluck where members share their latest home brew creations.

“The main goal is education about how to make your beer better, and to make it taste like you want it to taste,” Rob says.

WZZ also is where many of Reno’s professional brewers started, as home brewers Rob and Karen say, including Jeremy Warren, founder and brewmaster of Revision Brewing Co. in Sparks; Jason Green and Matt Johnson, co-founders of IMBĪB Custom Brews in Reno; Brandon Wright, brewmaster/distiller of The Depot in Reno; and others.

Now, WZZ is educating the next era of home and professional brewers, Karen says.

“There’s a whole other generation of members who are making beer,” she adds.

Annie Flanzraich is a Reno-based writer and editor who enjoys Belgian, Saison-style beers.

 

Resources

Barley’s Angels of Northern Nevada
Find Barley’s Angels of Northern Nevada on Facebook

 

Unofficial Yelp Events Beer Club
Yelp.com/events/reno

 

Washoe Zephyr Zymurgists
Washoezz.net

 

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