By James Bentley
In an industry often associated with long beards and masculinity, women in the craft beer industry have spent time trying to establish ways to educate and support each other as well as create their own niche. Industry trade associations are noticing and looking for ways to improve diversity.
One way women in the industry have tried to help each other out is through the Pink Boots Society. The Pink Boots Society is a nonprofit advocacy group/ trade association for women working in the craft beer industry. The Boston chapter is one of 86 globally.
On July 2, dozens of women, some from more than two and half hours away, joined together at Craft Roots Brewing Company in Milford, Mass. for a meeting of the Boston chapter of Pink Boots Society.
The meeting highlighted several scholarship opportunities for women to receive more industry education. Boston Chapter Pink Boots Society Leader Brienne Allen said the national chapter has focused most of its scholarships on brewing itself. Although there is a large number of brewers and brewery owners in Pink Boots Society, Allen said half of the representatives in the chapter work in other parts of the industry.
“The other 50 percent is servers, bartenders, sales people, and HR (human resources) representatives,” Allen said. “These scholarships don’t really pertain to them. So, we’re going to do our own specific scholarship for Boston.”
Allen gave a presentation on this Boston-specific scholarship designed to provide master cicerone training for all the Boston chapter’s members. According to the Cicerone Certification Program, a master cicerone is a certificate that recognizes exceptional knowledge in brewing, beer, and what foods to pair the beers with.
She said the plan is to have everyone be able to get their level one cicerone. The group wants to run the program every year until everyone is a certified master cicerone.
Allen explained that a cicerone education includes not only an understanding of brewing, but deep knowledge of the flavors and ingredients (hops, malts, etc.) and beer pairings with different types of foods.
The Scholarship Experience
Andrea Ludlam, a buyer for Kingston, Mass.-based distributor Sheehan Family Companies received scholarship from Pink Boots Society two years ago. She first became involved with the group in 2015 before Massachusetts even had a chapter. The scholarship included classes at the Yakima Chief Hops Hop and Brew School in Yakima, Washington state.
The classes covered new trends in hop breeding, hop chemistry, and different ways of brewing. Ludlam said she’d like to own her own business someday. Specifically, she dreams of owning a hop farm. Ludlam said she was one of five chosen nationally for this scholarship because the education was specific to what she wants to do.
Ludlam said she loved the entire two-day experience. “We got a tour of the farm, toured production facilities, we had a Q and A (question-and-answer session) with the farmers, and a day of presentations from industry leaders,” Ludlam explained.
Since the Boston Chapter of Pink Boots Society started, Ludlam said former scholarship winners are asked to give a presentation about their educational experience at a chapter meeting. The purpose of this, she said, allows the women to give back with the entire group benefiting from it.
Outside Pink Boots
Besides the Pink Boots Society, the craft beer industry includes statewide and national trade associations. The two largest are the Massachusetts Brewers Guild and the National Brewers Association. Representatives from the Massachusetts Brewers Guild said both organizations are looking for ways to improve awareness and inclusiveness for women in the industry.
Craft Roots Brewery Owner and Massachusetts Brewers Guild Board Member Maureen Fabry said women’s visible involvement in the Massachusetts Brewer’s Guild has been on a positive upswing since Katie Stinchon became the guild’s executive director. “I would say since Katie’s come on board, it’s been an incredible amount of forward momentum with festivals and participation,” Fabry said.
“She has done so much to improve the quality of the events they host,” added Bone Up Brewing Cofounder Liz Kuraly. “She has made a lot of effort to bring in speakers that are nationally known and to organize beer festivals.”
Stinchon said making these improvements at the state guild level requires communication and teamwork. “The women that I talk to that are really involved in the industry, their businesses are growing and thriving,” she said. “They talk to me often about what can we do to really elevate the female presence.”
Massachusetts Brewers Guild President and founder of Night Shift Brewery Rob Burns said he is optimistic of progress for women as the national level as well. On April 24, the National Brewers Association announced the hiring of its first diversity ambassador, J. Nikol Jackson-Beckham. Burns recently had the opportunity to meet Jackson-Beckham.
“Her whole task is to figure out how we can get more women and more color into the craft beer industry,” Burns said.
Burns said he sees more opportunities for diversity in the craft beer industry in the near future.