If we believe the reality created by typical beer commercials, then women are not beer drinkers; they are just the alluring, bikini top busting, eye candy that make buffoon-like, caricatures of men trip over themselves and then cool their hormones down with a nice, cold beer. Such sad and pathetic stereotypes for both men and women. But even in the more, high brow ads that focus on the art and craft of beer making, we can’t think of a single commercial that features a female brewmaster proudly showing off the deep amber color of her brand’s latest batch of artisanal beer, while describing its delightful hoppiness. The microbrew TV spokesperson always seems to be some guy with a lumberjack beard sporting waders.
Despite the “truth” that typical and tired beer industry advertising wants us to swallow, there are actually lots of women who truly enjoy drinking beer… we are some of them. There are also a growing number of women who are brewing and fermenting it with stellar skills at the highest possible quality. So today, we raise our beer glasses and toast two groups that are on a mission to make women a more robust, recognized and respected force in the beer industry – the Pink Boots Society and Barley’s Angels.
When you really get into the topic of women and beer, there is quite a rich history. Slate.com recently published an article on women in today’s craft beer making world and it showed that women have long had a substantial connection to beer. “Brewing is currently seen as a male field, but it wasn’t always this way. What’s believed to be the world’s oldest written recipe is for beer, and it celebrates a female brewmaster. Four-thousand-year-old Mesopotamian clay tablets describe the brewing process in a hymn to Ninkasi, the Sumerian goddess of beer. From ancient Sumeria through medieval Europe, women ruled the kettles. Beer can be described as liquid bread, so there was nothing unusual about women using their baking ingredients to brew in home kitchens. It wasn’t until entrepreneurial women began to sell their beer that men really moved in, restricting the creation and sale of beer to powerful male-only guilds.” Interesting and really sort of frustrating to hear, but not surprising, right?
In more modern times, Elise Miller John headed Miller Brewing from 1938 to 1946, making her the first woman to run a major U.S. brewing company. Unfortunately, she’s still the ONLY woman to have done that. Allow us to do the math for you… her reign ended 66 years ago! And just to be crystal clear, that means there has not been a woman at the top of the U.S. hops heap in over six decades. We’re starting to think that the beer industry has even more of an outdated attitude than we previously thought based on those silly commercials. But, there is a ray of feminine light according to the Slate.com piece thanks to the craft brewing movement, “Brewers, managers, and ad-men for the big breweries were, and still are, members of the old boys’ network. But the craft-brewing movement has changed that. Women have become increasingly visible in the industry over the last decade, both mashing and managing.”
That brings us to Woman You Should Know and veteran brewer, Teri Fahrendorf. In 1989, Teri became the second woman brewmaster at a craft brewery in the U.S. She was the first woman brewmaster at a California craft brewery, and the first at an Oregon craft brewery.
2007 marked the year that Teri ventured out on a 5 month road trip across the U.S. and back, visiting 70 breweries and three distilleries along the way. Many times during her journey she was asked, “How many women brewers are there?” Not knowing the answer, Teri felt compelled to try to collect the names and contact information for all women brewers worldwide. She was also determined to get more women involved in the beer industry. With that, she founded a pioneering group called the Pink Boots Society in 2008.
Today, according to their site, the Pink Boots Society is an international charitable trade organization created to inspire, encourage, and empower women to become professionals or advance their careers in the beer industry through networking and education. They are 700 members strong and describe themselves as “the female movers and shakers in the beer industry”. They get the beer brewed and fermented with the highest possible quality; they also own breweries, package the beer, design beers, serve beers, write about beer, and cover just about any aspect of beer, and THEY ARE ALL WOMEN.
Barley’s Angels, a global network of women’s beer education clubs, is the consumer arm of the Pink Boots Society. Their goal is to get more women, a powerful demographic consumer group largely ignored by the beer industry, educated about and interested in craft beer. The idea is that the more women beer enthusiasts there are in the world, the more women may choose to get involved in beer and brewery related careers, which circles back to Teri’s original goal of increasing the presence and number of women in the beer industry.
The Barley’s Angels clubs work with craft-beer focused breweries, restaurants and alehouses to offer women an unintimidating environment in which they can learn beer appreciation through information and lots of tasting (we hope). But, make no mistake about it; this is not just a social, beer-drinking club for women. The clubs respect beer and brewing, have a thirst for education, enjoy beer responsibly and act appropriately at all times.
Thirsty yet? Well, we are, so we’re going to grab some beers. Cheers!