As the line was starting to form outside Jackie O's for their calendar page bottle release, I stopped in the pub to grab an early lunch. The place was busy and starting to fill up, no doubt with folks that were eager to get back outside and into the line themselves.
A few minutes after I was seated, the four-top next to me turned over. The first thing I noticed about the new quartet was the woman's hat, catty-corner to me: a vibrant pink cap with a large, bedazzled flamingo pinned to the front. The second thing I noticed was how picky she was about her beer.
Filling out a flight card, she thought out loud as she moved down the draft list. Most choices were eliminated with a curt, "Had that!" or, "Nah!" the latter meaning it didn't fit in with the flavors she was curating. To be clear, every beer on the list that day was rare, and fairly phenomenal. When she finally penciled in the last slot, she held the card afar as if to admire her work.
After the server walked away, I leaned over and asked with a wink, "Are you hanging around for the calendar pages?" Patti didn't skip a beat and replied, "Fuck yeah."
Patti is 67 years old. Her best friend, and partner in crime, Cindy, is 60. They both love beer, probably even more than I do. Patti and Cindy don't really give a shit about social norms. They're feminists. They marched on Washington in the 60s. They're proud of their age and their gender and they make no bones about it.
Back home in Dayton, Ohio, Patti is known as "The Fairy Godmother... of Beer... in Dayton, Ohio." (The ellipses are hers.) She and Cindy have lived in Dayton all their lives, and first met nearly 60 years ago, when Cindy's family moved in next door to Patti's.
Their paths to beer appreciation have been long, but they can both trace the origins to their fathers.
"When we were kids, our dads would have us go and fetch beers for them," Patti began.
"And I come from a big family," Cindy continued, "so if you were the one that actually brought the beer, you'd get a slug out of it."
"That's where it all started," Patti said.
"I loved getting my dad beer," Cindy concluded.
When I finally sat down at the table with them, we were all a few beers deep and they were in the midst of trying to figure out what to order next. They were both wearing brewery work shirts: Patti, an oversized Warped Wing, black, open in the front; Cindy, a Fat Head's, blue with white pin stripes, buttoned as a brewer would.
What really struck me, though, is they were both wearing Jackie O's earrings. But before I could ask where they came from, each had plucked one from their ear and tossed it on the table.
"She made these," Patti exclaimed.
"I made these," Cindy agreed.
And sure enough, I looked closer and each earring turned out to be a flattened Jackie O's bottle cap, adorned with tiny rhinestones and backed with a brightly colored polymer. I looked at both women—a bit slack-jawed, if I'm being honest—and they just laughed.
In many ways, Patti is Cindy's beer Sherpa, helping to guide her through the ever-expanding and always-shifting landscape of style and flavor. And she's very good at it. On several occasions she described in astounding detail the color, primary flavors, more nuanced notes to pay attention to and, last but certainly not least, the alcohol content. She'd stopped looking at the printed list and was instead running down the names on the board, describing them ad hoc.
She noticed me noticing and pre-empted my question by explaining that she had been a BJCP-certified homebrew judge for nearly a decade. She's also attended the last 19 Great American Beer Festivals with her husband, Larry, in tow. When I asked her where Larry was, her response was halfway disappointed, halfway exuberant:
"He's fucking old and doesn't like to do anything any more."
Enter Cindy, the second half of this beery Thelma and Louise.
What Cindy may lack in Patti's hands-on experience and technical knowledge, she more than makes up for in enthusiasm. She was grinning from ear to ear when she walked through the Jackie O's door that morning.
Where Patti is a large personality (a bit loud, a bit crude), Cindy is a little more quiet, a little more reserved. I say "a little" because she still curses a fair amount, just at a lower decibel. If Patti were to say something like, "This beer makes my nipples hard," (which she did while we were hanging out), Cindy would say, "Damn, that's good."
They're very much a dynamic duo. Sisters from different misters. In fact, they refer to each other as family. They've maintained a productive relationship with each other longer than some blood relatives I know.
Shortly before we parted ways for the evening (only to reconvene the next morning for the actual bottle release), they told me about a handful of breweries they'd been to while visiting Cindy's siblings in Cleveland the weekend prior.
It was a strong list including some of Cleveland's best.
"We'd have liked to have gone to more," Patti lamented, "but you can't just do beer all weekend."
"Yeah," Cindy agreed. "We had to squeeze in time for the other family."