When Deborah Cameron, chapter director of Barley’s Angels Colorado, started exploring beer in college, she was always drawn to brews that were different from your standard American lager. Few options existed at the time, but Sam Adams gave Cameron a glimpse into what beer could be, and those brews piqued her interest.
Eventually, Cameron moved to Colorado where the craft beer scene instantly impressed her and inspired her to get involved, she says. Cameron started talking to local brewers and found there was a need for a craft beer group focused on women. By the end of 2013, Cameron discovered Barley’s Angels after emailing Teri Fahrendorf, founder of the Pink Boots Society, a professional network for women in the brewing industry. Barley’s Angels wasn’t in Colorado at the time, and with a background in communications and event planning, starting a women’s craft beer group felt natural to Cameron.
“I wanted to start it off in two of the hubs for craft beer in Colorado, Denver and Boulder,” Cameron says. “In doing that, it really got me meeting the brewers and the staff of breweries and planning events and tasting different kinds of beers, I cannon balled into the craft beer pool and I’ve never regretted it.”
To get started, Cameron came up with ideas for tastings, contacted some of the new breweries in town, and explained Barley’s Angels’ education-focused mission. The response was overwhelmingly supportive, Cameron says, and local breweries were eager to help. Cameron spread the word through craft beer-centric publications and local newspapers and formed a group on Meetup.
Once Cameron was ready to launch Barley’s Angels in January 2014, she hosted an initial member meeting at Wynkoop Brewing Company in Denver. Unfortunately, a snow storm hit the area that night and left the roads in wintry conditions. Cameron almost canceled the meeting, but when she arrived, about 25 women were eagerly waiting for her, including four female brewers. A few days later, Barley’s Angels hosted its first event–a beer and cheese pairing–at Boulder, Colorado-based Sanitas Brewing, which had just opened its doors.
When planning events, Cameron always brings in an element of education through food and beer pairings. Barley’s Angels and participating local breweries have paired beer with everything from chicken wings to ice cream and Girl Scout Cookies, but one of Cameron’s favorite pairing was with locally made tomatillo, red, smoky jalapeno, and habenero salsas at Epic Brewing Co.
“Beer is fascinating, and I love helping women experience beer and understand the different ways that it can taste and pair with food,” Cameron says. “That happens through education. It’s not about book learning but about experiencing beer in a fun yet structured way.”
Since launching Barley’s Angels, the group has been so successful that Cameron has also organized a couples club as well as out-of-town trips. The next trip will be to Casey Brewing and Blending in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Owner Troy Casey brews some of the best and most sought-after sours in the country, and the brewery is only open once a month when it releases a selection of rare bottles. During the upcoming trip, the group will spend the day with Casey, tour the brewery and receive a special bottle.
For women who are interested in starting their own craft beer group, Cameron welcomes any questions. You can contact Cameron at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with Barley’s Angels Colorado on Facebook or Twitter.