Being a Woman in a Male Dominated Industry

First, let me be clear, there is a good amount of support by many male brewer brothers in the industry. The industry is changing and becoming much more diverse—being a woman in beer isn’t super rare anymore. The Pink Boots Society, an international non-profit supporting women in the brewing profession, has 93 chapters all over the world assisting and inspiring women in beer! Women like Julia Herz (Brewer’s Association Craft Beer Director), Teri Fahrendorf (founded the Pink Boots Society), Nicole Erny (1st Woman Master Cicerone), and Gwen Conley (Leading Industry Microbiologist) have paved the way for it to be more acceptable for women to come back into beer. Yes…I said COME BACK. Long time tradition had the Ale-Wives brewing beer daily. It wouldn’t be called beer in the modern sense, but nonetheless it was beer. Women had the responsibility of creating the household’s, and sometimes the town’s, daily dose of beer. So, it’s only natural that women would come back into the industry to add the “woman’s touch.” 

When I first started brewing professionally, I was taken aback by how supportive my OG brewery Outer Light Brewing Co was, along with the professional sphere I had surrounded myself with. My Head Brewer pushed me just as he would any other person, and it shows. I was crafted into a better brewer because I had to figure out a way around some natural hurdles, such as lifting a 55lb bag of grain above shoulder height into the mill, moving double stacks of kegs around, and carrying as much of the event stuff and kegs as possible because I’m a one-trip kind of person. Coming straight from college, I was definitely not used to this much intense labor, but I LOVED it. Moving through my career, I’ve met even more supportive people in the industry who help me to navigate the challenges everyone faces in brewing regardless of his or her gender.

But, of course, there are still those men who would rather talk to my fiancé or dad about beer when going to a bar or brewery…

Now I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get some joy in seeing their look of surprise as I interject into the conversation with all the brewer’s jargon they recognize and find impressive. I call this moment the “Brewster Dazzle.” This interaction usually goes one of two ways. Typically, the scenario involves the look of surprise followed by the side smile and a pleasant back and forth of beer talk. Then there are the guys who try to one-up, patronize, or degrade my experience as a brewer. I generally choose not to continue the conversation with these men, but I do aim to prove their ideas wrong through my actions and demonstrating my ability. I believe the craft beer world as a whole tries very hard to be inclusive and provide experiences for a broad group of people…however, just like everything else in the world, there are the naysayers. This can be clearly seen in very sexist, and sometimes quite offensive beer names, advertising campaigns, and simply how hard it is to break into the craft beer world as a woman. 

I still remember the first couple of times I entered meetings for the Brewer’s Guild, and one in particular stands out. As anyone in the world knows, if you wear the same thing every day and then you have a chance to not wear sweaty, dirty, workout/work clothes…you don’t! So, I had put on a simple, comfortable-as-hell dress, and my hair wasn’t in a messy bun—just down. Nothing fancy. Nothing floral or over-girly. Nothing that screamed “I just had a manicure.” And it was like one of those movie scenes when someone unexpected walks through the bar door. People paused, looked confused, and stood speechless for a moment. Then one gentleman very politely said “Ma’am, the bar is closed today for a private event.” To which I politely responded, “Of course! It’s the brewer’s guild, I was invited!” Cue the Brewster Dazzle. 

This interaction was far from a bad one, and it honestly made me chuckle. And as I’ve come to realize this as being the standard intro when meeting almost anyone in the industry, I make an effort to throw in little facts about my experience nonchalantly. It helps to avert the verbal tennis match of beer knowledge so we can simply have a nice, regular conversation about beer. 

I relish the idea that one day, it may not be so rare to have women in this fabulously awesome industry. It is cool to have local newspapers write articles about “women in beer” and highlight the local women that pushed a boundary or broke the stereotype of what a woman in beer looks like. But sometimes, I’d really enjoy the conversation to be about what kind of beer women are creating, or what styles they passionate about, or where we see the industry going. Either way, I’ll take it. 

I entered this industry not really knowing what to expect…just a recent grad with no job who saw an ad for an internship and hoped for the possibility to enjoy every day at work. Who would pass that up? Now I’ve been running around the cellar and checking temps and pHs of the brewhouse for over 4 years. I have so much more to learn from this amazing industry and the phenomenal people who have made it a haven for beer geeks and lab nerds—whether they are women or men.  

Check out the Women In Beer website for statistics, conversations, and profiles of some badass women in the industry! 

Particularly this really handy-dandy infographic from Women in Craft Beer! 

Or, look into the Pink Boots Society. Made for all women that make a living off of beer; whether that is in a brewery, taproom, bar, etc! 

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