When it comes to the craft beer scene, one of the things I first noticed was the male domination by sheer numbers. Whether it’s working in the industry or attending a brew fest, women are outnumbered. While there surely are women who enjoy craft beer and attend brew fests on their own accord, I have witnessed women who are there to accompany their male friends and ask for the lightest or sweetest selection available. In certain markets, promotional models or “beer girls” are hired to serve the masses. Easy on the eyes but light on the beer knowledge, the presence of these women can be disappointing to those festivalgoers who want to speak with someone about a brewery’s selection and talk beer. I speak from experience – as a former promotional model, my only requirements were to look pretty in a logo-laden outfit and offer free key chains and t-shirts to customers who bought the beer I was hawking. As a brewery representative and brand ambassador, I have had to go through extensive training and testing of my beer knowledge in order to represent the company I work for. As a female in the brewing industry, I must walk the walk and talk the talk as well as any of my male counterparts.
As March is National Women’s History Month and March 8th is International Women’s Day, I thought it fitting to explore the increasing interest of women in craft beer today. I’ve previously examined the history of women’s role in brewing, which is fascinating to see how what was once considered women’s work has transformed to a male-dominated industry, one that is growing at a rapid pace. According to a recent story by a Richmond, Virginia television station, “only 20 percent of women drink beer, but at the same time, women make up 37 percent of the craft beer community.” As quickly as new breweries pop up throughout the nation, women’s beer interest groups and community events are also on the rise. This is very evident in socially connected networks online such as LinkedIn and Meetup. As a member of several beer groups on LinkedIn, I read a request from a fellow member from a Scottish beer magazine who wanted to interview women in the beer industry. The response was impressive – from female brewmasters (also known as “brewsters”) to brewery owners and beer writers, these women were eager to speak about women in the brewing industry. As one of those women, I was interviewed and asked about the perception towards women in the beer industry and if change is needed. I think for some women the world of craft beer can be intimidating for a number of reasons. First, there are a plethora of beer styles in existence and to know them is truly a study. Also, the industry is male dominated which for some can be a deterrent.
In light of the history, trends and optimistic projections of craft beer in the U.S., many women are taking it upon themselves to learn about craft beer and get involved – some volunteer at brewfests, which is a great way to absorb information about regional and national microbreweries and the industry in general. Others work directly in the brewing industry as brand ambassadors, salespeople and brewers. Outside the workplace, women who work in the industry can join the Pink Boots Society, a professional association “dedicated to the advancement and support of women in the beer industry by women in the beer industry.” With over 900 members, its goal is to teach each other through seminar programs, and help each other advance their beer careers by raising money for educational scholarships. Out of Pink Boots came Barley’s Angels, an international organization of individual chapters hosting tastings and events for female craft beer enthusiasts and seekers alike. Founded in 2011, Barley’s Angels operates in six countries with 62 chapters and serves as a testament to the fact that women are certainly a significant part of the craft beer renaissance. In my city, the Syracuse Women of Craft Beeris a newly formed group with similar goals. The monthly meetings are a social and educational experience for the group, whose beer knowledge varies, and whose affinity for and interest in craft beer is apparent.
Man or woman, there are so many ways to be a part of the craft beer movement, the most obvious being a consumer! To support the local beer scene in particular is to support the local economy, which benefits all. Women, if you want to get more involved beyond consuming, reading about beer is a great start. Besides that, consider volunteering at local events and join the new beer group, you never know what interesting people you’ll meet and new beers you’ll enjoy. Cheers! Adapted from Table Hopping