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With the founding of a local chapter of Barley’s Angels, Sacramento females interested in craft beer have a new opportunity to explore and learn about craft beer.

The local chapter was founded by Courtney Higgins and Kassandra Sutherland, who recently spoke with Beers In Sacramento.

Kassandra, aka Ladie Ellamie, is a passionate beer geek who tailors vacations around breweries and campgrounds / live music events. She is a home brewer and has a hard time NOT talking about craft beer. She’s a lot of people’s “phone a friend” when they have questions about what beer they might like or where to go when traveling.

Courtney has been a fan of craft beer since 2001, when she was enlisted to be a volunteer for the Great American Beer Festival in Denver. Thought she already liked beer, the exposure to so many beers from all over the country helped her appreciate the diversity of styles and the possibility of flavors within a style. Courtney seeks out the local brewery scenes when traveling because they often are the best taste of a city. She’s also a runner who loves discussing beer and sharing favorite styles or recommendations on group runs.

The women-only group will gather at Jackrabbit Brewing Company March 3 for their first meeting – a meet and greet and beer tasting with John Prather, assistant brewer. For more details, find them on Facebook or read on.

What is Barley's Angels?

Courtney: “Barley’s Angels is a growing collection of individual chapters around the world that work with craft beer focused breweries, brewpubs, restaurants, alehouses and other public beer establishments to advance the female consumer craft beer enthusiast, resulting in increased patronage and revenue from women, while encouraging education and interest in beer among this often under-recognized demographic group. Our chapter will have quarterly meetings that will be held at breweries, taprooms, and other craft beer venues throughout Sacramento. Each meeting will have an educational component relating to the beers we are sampling that meeting.”

Lady Ellamie: “Barley’s Angels is an international organization promoting education for women about craft beer and brewing. The intent is to provide comfortable, educational environments free of intimidation, supporting local breweries and tap houses, while enabling women to develop their craft beer palate and knowledge base.”

What's been your involvement in the beer scene prior?

Lady Ellamie helped kick start Sacramento Beer Week by creating the Scavenger Hunt contest which has folks searching high and low for mysterious items at all the event locations and working with local establishments in the early years to help promote and create beer events. She also co-founded the Underground Brew Squad, the local home brew club responsible for hosting one of 12 preliminary judging sites for the American Homebrew Association’s National Homebrew Competition – the site will judge 750 entries in mid-April. This passionate group of people promote education and fun in an inclusive atmosphere where everyone is welcome and all levels of experience are encouraged. You don’t have to know a thing about beer to feel comfortable in this club.

Courtney: “I do not work in the craft beer industry, so my involvement is as a supporter and consumer. I like to volunteer at beer festivals, share my favorite local brews with visiting friends, and occasionally make a home brew.”

What inspired you to start a local chapter in Sacramento?

Courtney: “I was an active member in the Las Vegas Chapter of the Barley's Angels and wanted to share the positive experiences I had in the club here in Sacramento. While I was already a beer lover, the group taught me a lot about craft beer, how the industry works, women brewers, and refining my own palate through tasting a lot of different styles of beer. Additionally, the chapter I was involved in had several charity events throughout the year, so not only were we supporting the local craft beer businesses, but we also gave back to our community. Upon moving here, I found that Sacramento has a diverse beer scene that would be engaging to a Barley’s Angels chapter.”

Lady Ellamie: “The name alone is fabulous! Knowing the Sac beer scene’s explosive growth and cooperative spirit makes it a perfect incubator for the proliferation of women in the craft beer scene. After all, Sacramento is a Beer Town! I really want to see more women attending events and speaking confidently and knowledgeably about the beers they like and want to drink.”

What is your vision and goals for Barley's Angels in Sacramento?

Courtney: “I hope this chapter can provide a place for women to learn about beer and refine their palates, so they know not only what types of beers they like, but why they like them. I hope that our meetings provide a place where a woman who doesn't typically like beer finds her beer preference and then can feel confident in ordering a beer that she knows she'll enjoy. But this group isn't for just new beer lovers, we plan to explore topics that veteran beer lovers can appreciate, such as unique beer and food pairings or how beer styles are judged at competitions. “

Lady Ellamie: “I would love to see a diverse group of women gathering to discuss craft beer, all the subtle nuances involved, and appreciating the art that is craft brewing. This is not ‘just beer.’ Every single element of a beer, the water chemistry and minerality, the vast array of malt profiles, the lineage and terroir of hops, the living culture of yeast - all of this influences its character. As if that wasn’t complicated enough, then you add the human element, the artistry of combining ingredients. From the manipulation of pH, to changing a few ounces of a malt or few degrees during the mash, even adding an extra 10 minutes to the boil. Deciding when and how much and which kinds of aroma hops; varying fermentation temperatures. All these things change this living, magical, liquid poem that we call beer. It is a divine art form, and I want it to be recognized as such.”

You mentioned that you’re interested in giving back to the community through Barley's Angels. Can you elaborate?

Courtney: “First and foremost, we want to support our local craft beer venues from taprooms to restaurants. Then whenever possible, we would like to use our activities to give back to organizations that support women. For example, our first event will be donating a portion of the cover fee to the Pink Boots Society.”

Lady Ellamie: “Sacramento is such a diverse and welcoming town. There is a strong sense of community here, and one thing I have always loved about it is the support we show for our local community. For this event, we chose to donate a part of the proceeds to the Scholarship Fund of the Pink Boots Society (an organization for women in the beer industry promoting education and collaboration). The scholarship money stays in the region, providing tuition for women at the UCD Brew Program. In the future we will partner with other local charities which support skill development and employment opportunities to women who have suffered from domestic abuse or are on the path to recovery.”

So, you gals have a Sacramento Beer Week event in the works. Can you tell us about the event?

Courtney: “Our first meeting will be hosted by Jackrabbit Brewing Company. We will meet the beer and other ladies in the community interested in beer appreciation. John Prather, Assistant Brewer, will be our guest speaker for the tasting. Ladies of legal age only. Nominal fee for tasters ($10, cash only, with a portion being donated to the Pink Boots Society). Beer lovers are welcome as well as those who have not found their beer love yet.”

Lady Ellamie: “We have partnered with Jackrabbit Brewing in West Sacramento to host a guided tasting, led by the assistant brewer. A four-sample flight of a diverse range of beers will be tasted, while the ingredients in that beer, the blend of malts and the hops used, will be passed around for touching, smelling and tasting. We will discuss the basic vocabulary of craft beer. This will allow participants to identify the characteristics they enjoy in beer, so in the future when they approach a beer flight, they know what range of IBUs they enjoy, what types of hops they have an affinity for and which malts and body style she wants to experience, even if she is not familiar with all the varying styles of beer on the menu. The $10 (cash only) fee covers a reduced price flight, tip and a donation to the scholarship fund.”

If someone wants to join as a member, or get more information, where should they go?

Courtney: “They can visit the website (http://barleysangels.org/barleys-angels-sacramento/) or our Facebook page (Barley's Angels Sacramento) for information about the group and upcoming events. To become a member, they just need to come to a meeting.”

Lastly, we have to ask, what was the one beer that got you into craft beer?

Lady Ellamie: “The first beer I ever actually craved, while in college, in the (then) beer desert of central Florida, was J.W. Dundee’s Honey Brown. After that I started trying everything I could get my hands on! I started a beer diary, peeling off labels and taking notes so I would know what to hunt for and what to leave on the shelf. I keep a brewery diary to this day, noting all the breweries I have visited and keep the photo journaling on Instagram: @ladieellamie

Courtney: “I fell in love with beer when I lived in Denver, so it is tough to remember which brewery had the honor of making “the one.”  I know I started with fruit-flavored craft beers, but I think I realized that I really liked craft beer when I had Flying Dog In Heat Wheat. At the time Flying Dog was based in Denver, now they have since moved to Frederick, Maryland (one town over from where I grew up).”