Depending on where you’re from, the phrase “women and beer” may conjure up some less than empowering images of women in ads (ahem, Budweiser). You won’t see Eugene’s Barley’s Angels in a centerfold, however, because the group of women is shifting that image by advocating for women to actively engage in beer culture.
Barley’s Angels, an organization with 550 chapters in six countries, aims to bring women and beer together in an educational setting. “It’s not a drinking club; we do get together and drink, but that’s not the purpose of it,” says Kiley Gwynn, president of the Eugene chapter, Emerald City Barley’s Angels. “We get together and learn about craft beer and pairings. We want to give women a better foothold in the industry.”
Gwynn, a digital marketing strategist with Northwest Community Credit Union in Eugene, is an Oregon native and no stranger to the beer scene. She says the first thing she did when she turned 21 was fill up her growler with craft beer at a local pub. Since 2007, Gwynn and her husband have been making their own beer and are currently working on perfecting a saison and crafting a summer lager.
The nice thing about Barley’s Angels, Gwynn says, is that it accommodates “ridiculous beer geeks” like her, as well as the less experienced, “all the way down to people who have just moved to Oregon and they don’t know a lot about craft beer. They just know that they like it and that they want to learn more.”
The Eugene chapter meets quarterly for activities like pairings, which include a food and beer tasting. The group goes to local breweries such as Oakshire and Plank Town and pairs with local food carts like Sammitch and Delacata. Then a brew master tells the group about the beer they’re sipping and how it was made. Along with a basic beer education, Barley’s Angels provides an environment supportive to women interested in the industry.
“They’re also learning that that establishment is supportive of women coming in and exploring beer,” says Christine Jump, director of Barley’s Angels. “They’re not going to be chagrined and the bartender isn’t going to tell them, ‘Oh, you don’t want a beer; here, have this sweet, fruity drink.’”
Jump, who enjoys drinking beer more than brewing it, says that women and beer education groups are a win-win situation for the sake of education and increased clientele.
Although she sees few gendered examples of beer in her town of Portland, Jump does say she’s frequently asked if brewers should make beers tailored to women.
“The answer is no. Some women might like a nice cherry hefewiezen or a deep, dark coffee stout,” Jump says. “Give me a beer that pairs well with the dinner I’m making tonight. Give me a beer that I can taste the character of. Just make good beer, flavorful beer.”
Emerald City Barley’s Angels is currently working on making its meetings monthly. This September will be the second “Women and Beer” conference hosted by Barley’s Angels, in Portland this year, with women speakers, beer and food pairings and a banquet. For more information or to sign up for the newsletters, email firstname.lastname@example.org.