How Girl Scout cookies and craft beer pairings became the next big thing

Girls Scouts have been selling cookies for 100 years and the program has come a long way since a troop in Oklahoma first baked and sold cookies as a fundraiser for their projects in 1917.

Today more than a million girls sell hundreds of millions of cookies and sometimes they do it in some of the strangest places.

Remember the troop that sold cookies to celebs at the 2016 Oscars?

Related: We tried the new S’mores Girl Scout cookies — find out if they’re worth the price

That was pretty tame compared to 13-year-old Girl Scout Danielle Lei who in 2014 set up a cookie stand outside a medical marijuana dispensary in San Francisco, Calif. She sold out in 45 minutes. This year, Girl Scouts in Oregon and New Mexico took the same approach, but the trend started to draw some controversy.

While it is pretty much up to parents where girls set up shop, local Girl Scout councils generally recommend that if the venue is not open to minors, then scouts should not have cookie booths outside.

Even when girls set up in perfectly normal places, like malls, it doesn't protect them from crazies like  the man in Oklahoma who tried to trade vodka for girl scout cookies .

In the last three years, another Girl Scout cookie trend has surfaced and while it may raise some eyebrows, it is picking up steam nationwide.

Instead of traditional cookies and milk, cookie customers are uniting their love of Girl Scout cookies and craft beers.

Breweries across the country host beer and cookie pairing events.

Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine does an annual roundup of cookie and beer pairings from brewers who offer up their favorite combinations.

"It exploded for us in 2014. That is the first year we put together a story on Girl Scout cookies and craft beer pairings. It was the first viral hit that we saw," said Jamie Bogner, co-founder and editorial direct for the Colorado based publication.

About 300K Facebook shares later, the story helped collapse their website and forced them to upgrade to new servers. They have updated Girl Scout cookie and craft beer story every year since. Each year they think the enthusiasm may be dying down, but each year it has kept going strong.

Bogner says the trend is fun and maybe slightly naughty in the sense of applying beer to something seemingly as innocent as Girl Scout cookies. But there  are also very real reasons why these pairings work well.

"One thing you have to give craft breweries credit for is the creativity in the way they imagine flavors and bring those to fruition in their beers. You have craft brewers who are doing everything from loading their tanks and conditioning their beer with donuts to one in Oregon that sealed the tank with blueberry muffins to add the flavor to the beer," Bogner said. "There is boundless creativity within the world of craft brewing itself and that is one of the primary drivers that makes this whole thing interesting."

When you look at the core flavors or core factors in the way craft beers taste, there is bitterness from hops but also malt which drives sweetness. Beers that work well with cookies and other sweets are often the ones that have some residual sweetness themselves, Bogner said. Or maybe it is the roasted coffee or chocolate flavors in a stout that make it go well with a certain cookie.

“There is a natural fit, in the last three years it has started to become more talked about,” said Julia Herz, craft beer program director at the Brewers Association  and publisher of . “It is really hard to get those home run pairings. This is a practice that takes practice. Intensity of beer matters compared to intensity of flavor in the cookie,” she said.

Herz and Gwen Conley are authors of " Beer Pairing: The Essential Guide from the Pairing Pros (Voyageur Press, $25) and they dedicate a section to matching cookies and craft beers.

"Girl Scout cookies offer a plethora of flavors and they come around every year like clockwork. The harmony potential for beer and anything with that strata of flavors is broad," Herz said.

There may be some regional differences in pairings, she said, but it mostly depends on the beers that are available in your area. In the South, for example, many craft beer makers have started experimenting with flavors of the region such as pecan.

The Girl Scout cookie and craft beer trend is big in Atlanta. In February, SweetWater Brewing company brought back its beer and cookie pairing event that served up Thin Mints, Trefoils, Samoas and the new cookie, S’mores with 420 and Georgia Brown beers as well as limited edition brews, all for the standard $12 pint glass admission.

On Saturday, Cypress Street Pint & Plate is offering cookie and beer pairings as well as cookie sales from 1 - 4 p.m., courtesy of Troop 15524. What's on the menu?

  • Thin Mints, the chocolate covered crunch cookies with Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro, a dark malty milk stout.
  • Samoas, the coconut toasted chocolate cookies, with Cherry Street O.A.S.I.S. (Old As S*** Imperial Stout), a whiskey and coco nib infused stout.
  • Lemony Savannah Smiles with Avery's Liliko’i Kepolo, a super light bodied witbier.
  • Toffee-Tastic, a gluten-free buttery confection with toffee, with Green’s Endeavor Dubbel, a gluten-free Belgian Dubbel.

While some people may think pairing Girl Scout cookies with beer tarnishes the reputation of a wholesome organization, others -- including troop leaders and parents across the country -- have viewed the trend a new avenue of marketing for a 100-year-old product.

"I don't think pairing Girl Scout cookies with beer promotes underage drinking. It is simply a way for adults to...recapture that spirit of fun and excitement," Bogner said.

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About the Author

Nedra Rhone
Nedra Rhone
Nedra Rhone has been a features reporter with the AJC for 10 years. She’s written about everything from fashion to food to news.