Introducing Barley’s Angels – A New Beer Group for Women

Exciting news was spread last week when it was announced that Mirella Amato (of Beerology) was starting a Toronto-chapter of Barley’s Angels, a beer group for women. Mirella is one of the most knowledgeable people in the Ontario beer industry and the perfect person to lead the group. She was kind enough to answer some questions via e-mail.

A Year of Beer: What is the purpose of Barley’s Angels?

Mirella Amato: The purpose of Barley’s Angels is to “help women worldwide chart their own course in exploring great beer”. I think anyone who’s ever been to a beer event will agree that it would be lovely to see a higher percentage of women in attendance! Barley’s Angels is a fun, social way for women to get together and explore beer, zeroing in on personal preferences, confidently start exploring food pairing etc… and meet other women who loooove beer! It is a way for those of us who are in the industry to share our passion with these women and, hopefully, get them excited about exploring beer. The end goal is to draw more women into the beer industry, but the meetings are really about having fun and learning a bit about beer while you’re at it.

AYofB: How did Barley’s Angels come about?

MA: Barley’s Angels was founded by the Pink Boots Society (PBS), which unites all of the women working in the beer industry worldwide. The PBS founder, Teri Fahrendorf, was looking for ways to draw more women to beer, get them excited about beer, and have them start thinking about beer as a possible career option. She mentioned this to Lisa Morrison, who is running the Oregon Chapter and together they hatched this plan…. last September, at the PBS meeting in Denver, Lisa shared the idea with the rest of us and we’ve been working together towards the launch since!

AYofB: Why is a women-only beer group needed?

MA: That’s an interesting question. I, myself, have always felt comfortable attending various beer events and being one of two or three women present. Having said this, when I attended the first PBS meeting in San Diego in 2008, it opened my eyes to the fact that a lot of women in the beer realm really feel like outsiders. The energy and excitement in that room, where all of us were meeting a large group of women in the beer industry for the first time,  was incredible. I think that Lisa and Teri wanted to create that same energy and excitement by making these events women-only. There’s no denying that when you get a bunch of women together, it’s a completely different atmosphere. Also, I’m pretty confident that if these events weren’t women-only, the majority of the attendees would be male (as is the case with most beer events) and this wouldn’t at all drive the Pink Boots Society mandate… these would just be other beer events.

AYofB: What’s your response to women who say they just don’t like beer?

MA: It is the same response that I give anyone who feels they don’t like beer: how many different kinds have you tried? What we will be doing with the Brewster Series tastings, is the same thing that I do in all my guided tastings: introduce people to a wide range of styles and flavours. Most people have just been exposed to two or three different styles of beer – even though they might have tried 20-30 different brands (I usually gauge this by asking, “how many different colours of beer have you tried?”). There is such a wide range of flavours out there from the sweet, sherry-like notes in a barley wine, to the chocolate and coffee flavours of stouts and porters, the lively citrus notes in pale ales, the caramel flavours in amber beers. I encourage people to try a few different ones and, quite often, they will find at least one that they enjoy. It’s all about finding the right beer.

AYofB: What events are planned so far?

MA: We’re starting with the brewster series. Brewster is the historical term for a woman who brews and we just so happen to have four of them right here in Toronto! When I told Lundy Dale (the Vancouver Chapter organizer) about the talks she was shocked. She’s not even sure that there are four women brewing in all of B.C.! We will start each meeting with a brief talk by the featured brewster (this month it’s Jennifer Robitaille, from Magnotta Brewery) talking about what drew them to the industry and sharing their experience. I will then join the brewster to guide a tasting of four contrasting beers. Beer tastings are my job, so I will be explaining how to taste beer and leading an exploration of the flavours, perhaps share some historical tidbits about the styles and the brewster will be sharing their experience brewing the beer and answering technical questions…. should be tons of fun. Tickets are available online and space is limited!

Moving forward, I’d love to do some beer & food events. I’ll also be collecting ideas from the women at the talks about what kinds of events they’d like to see. Also, many people in the industry are looking for ways to support this initiative and I’m working on a series of perks that will be available to Barley’s Angels members at different breweries and beer events. I’m really excited about the support that I’m getting from members of the industry. They’re all very excited at the idea of an organization that encourages more women to explore beer!


Here is wishing Mirella and everyone else involved with Barley’s Angels all the best as they change the beer landscape!

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