There are a small handful of topics I speak passionately about whenever I can. Fortunately for me, the powers that be at IHB copped onto them, and assigned me a blog topic that I would happily write a full-blown thesis on, given the time: Women in the Beer Industry. This topic is actually one that is becoming quite fashionable. In my research for this blog I have come across dozens of websites, organizations, articles, and even books that talk about the enormous impact women have had throughout the history of beer, and in modern day craft brewing. While the industry has been male-dominated since the American industrial revolution, women’s primary role in the beer industry has not always been in the tasting rooms; in fact, in ancient civilizations and in the middle ages, beer production was primarily the business of women. While that is not the topic of this specific blog post, if you are interested in the tremendous impact women have had on beer throughout history, check out this awesome article from Tara Nurin, the Pink Boots Society’s resident historian.
This post is more concerned with today’s craft brewing climate. The industry is seeing a rapid growth in female brewers and an influx of women in all parts of the craft beer industry. What is bringing women back into the beer community after such a long stint of overbearing machismo culture (dating back to the American industrial revolution)? Fret not, for there are theories galore, and I am here to share (some of) them with you!
One theory suggests that women have more refined palates and are drawn to craft brewing by the strong flavors and aromas associated with stouts, IPA’s, and other craft styles. Let me be honest: I’ve listed this one first to get it out of the way. While I do not personally dwell in the land of biological sex determining a person’s strengths, weaknesses, or general abilities, many people do and this is a theory born of that mental framework. This idea is supported by some studies which have suggested that women are more likely to be “supertasters” and that they are more inclined to identify subtle flavors and aromas associated with the various malts and hops used in contemporary craft brewing.
The craft beer industry participates far less in marketing and advertisements aimed at using the objectification of women’s bodies to sell their products. It is a simple (though unfortunate) fact of western civilization that women have been valued heavily based on their aesthetic appeal, rather than their societal contributions, throughout history. While this truth doesn’t seem to faze some complacent members of our society, many of us are phenomenally irked by daily micro-aggressions. I will not turn this blog into a full-blown sociology lesson, nor will I mount my “smash the patriarchy” soapbox here; I will simply point out that the craft beer industry’s generally tactful marketing tends to be more appealing to women than the parade of Bud Light Girls you are likely to find at The Gorge this summer.
Female-oriented organizations are providing new support for women in the industry. Organizations like The Pink Boots Society and Barley’s Angels exist for the sole purpose of supporting women who want to make, sell, learn about, and enjoy beer. Chapters exist across the U.S. for both organizations and meetings are focused around beer pairing, beer education, brewing, etc. No men allowed. This environment gives women a space to cultivate enthusiasm about craft beer away from the every day challenges of being a woman in a largely male-dominated (for now) industry.
The reasons for the sudden resurgence of women in our breweries are as varied and diverse as women themselves. Whatever the reason(s), many brewsters are presently being talked about as the movers, shakers, and revolutionaries of the craft beer world.
*Feature image from porchdrinking.com