LINCOLN SQUARE — Imagine Lin-Manuel Miranda having to enter the digital lottery for "Hamilton" tickets or Lollapalooza founder Perry Farrell having to pay through the nose for a sold-out four-day Lolla pass on StubHub.
Now you know what it's like to be Shannan and Kylie Bunting.
The sisters-in-law head up the Chicago chapter of Barley's Angels, a global organization devoted to educating women about craft beer, and they got shut out of their hottest event, which wraps up Thursday night.
Tickets for all six sessions of Barley's Angels third annual Girl Scout Cookie and Beer Pairing dinner, held in Fountainhead's barrel room, were snapped up in less than a minute.
"People were saying they had tickets in their cart and by the time they clicked 'purchase,' they were gone," said Shannan Bunting.
"Kylie and I will not actually have seats at our own event because we wanted to make sure that as many people as possible had a chance to experience it," she said.
The Buntings keep growing the number of sessions, now spread over two evenings, and they still can't meet demand.
"It is remarkable even to us. People keep emailing us for tickets — there aren't any," said Shannan.
The Buntings, who took over the chapter's leadership three years ago, dreamed up the Girl Scout Cookie-beer pairing event in 2015, originally conceiving it as "Here's a cookie, here's a beer that goes with it," said Shannan.
Fountainhead's then-chef Cleetus Friedman elevated the complexity of their concept, incorporating the cookies into dishes in unexpected ways, including a mole sauce made with Rah Rah Raisin. The restaurant's kitchen and bar staff continue to rise to the standard set by Friedman: Tagalong chicken satay and Samoa German chocolate cake are on this year's menu.
The beer pairings are given as much thought as the food, said Kylie Bunting, who recalled a lemon meringue pie teamed with a sour beer.
"That's a style of beer I struggle with. On its own, eh. But together with the pie, I was blown away," she said. "It made me want to try more sours."
And that, after all, is the point of Barley's Angels.
The Buntings began attending events, then organized by the chapter's founder Lorna Juett, five or so years ago. The two work in public relations and among their clients are several bars with serious beer programs.
"I was drinking Bud Light Lime," said Kylie. "Shannan said, 'You've got to step up your game.'"
Through Barley's Angels, Kylie said her palate expanded to the point that this woman who once drank something "that tasted like water" now prefers beers that are "burn your tongue hoppy."
When the Barley's events petered out, the Buntings took up the torch from Juett and held their first "reboot" event at Longman & Eagle in 2014. The huge turnout convinced them there was significant interest in maintaining the chapter and they've been hosting tastings, dinners, brewery tours and field trips on a monthly basis every since.
"I wanted to do for others what [Barley's] did for me," said Kylie.
Though they wouldn't turn a man away from an event, the Buntings said Barley's Angels' mission remains centered on women for a number of reasons.
One is to provide an environment where women feel free to explore beer without the pressures of a typical bar setting and the other is to create community.
"We often have women who come by themselves, don't know a soul and leave with a group of friends," said Shannan.
The age range of attendees is all over the map, from women in their 50s and 60s to early 20s "and everywhere in between," Kylie said.
The level of experience with beer is similarly wide ranging, from women who know nothing at all to brewing professionals.
"I still find that I learn something new every time," said Kylie. "It's constantly evolving."
The ultimate aim is to help women grow their appreciation of beer and find their style. And yes, perhaps get a little tipsy.
"Most of our events we do four to six tastings of four- or five-ounce pours. So that's only a beer and a half to two beers," said Shannan.
"It really is about exploration and education and not about tying one on," she said.
At Barley's Angels next event, set for April 18, an expert from Dogfish Head will walk women through the Delaware-based brewery's beers.