CHICAGO — Birds and Beers members like to say they're a group of beer drinkers with a birding problem.
Since the club's founding in January 2013, members have met once a month at local bars to discuss Chicago's birds, places to spot rare birds in the city, epic birding trips and other general birding topics. The next meeting is Saturday at Lagunitas Brewery, 2607 W. 17th St., in North Lawndale.
"There are no official goals or tasks, this is about fun and a few beers and storytelling, which birders love to do, and are very good at, too," said club co-founder Jeff Skrentny, of Albany Park.
Skrentny created the club with fellow birders Steve Huggins, of Lincoln Park, and Larry Krutulis, of Lakeview, because they wanted to build relationships within the birding community. It's worked as the group has gathered 28 times, averaging about 20 folks per meeting, ranging from teenagers to those in their 60s.
Occupations include doctors, lawyers, chefs, biologists, teachers, ecologists, musicians, zoologists, prosecutors, ornithologists, architects, college students, judges, entrepreneurs, and retired and active police officers, Skrentny said.
The meetings are separate from actual birding ventures, Skrentny said.
"I mean, it'd be great if you could bird and have a few beers," Skrentny said. "But the truth is, you don't want your senses dulled when you are birding."
Justin Breen says anyone interested in birds (or beer) can attend:
Establishments previously visited by the club include The Rail, O'Shaughnessy's, Galway Arms, Atlas Brewing Co., the Candelite and BreakRoom Brewery. Skrentny said Lagunitas was selected for the November meeting because it has one of the city's best taprooms.
"We will take up a long table, have a few beers, share stories and laughs with one another, and a few of us will be bringing our SOBs [Spouses of Birders], too," Skrentny said. "Plus, birders often have knowledge that they don't necessarily publish or share widely, stuff they might only share with those they know and trust."
The club is free to join and there are no dues, Skrentny said. He's most pleased that Birds and Beers, working with Chicago Ornithological Society, helped raise $1,750 to buy native shrubs to plant at LaBagh Woods.
"I never would have never guessed Birds and Beers would become a thing," Skrentny said. "We are fostering a community that looks forward to our gatherings."
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