Alcohol manufacturing was once run mostly by men, but females are making a splash from roles in company leadership, to production, marketing, and sales of craft beer and other craft beverages.
To say that women are making inroads into craft beer, brewing and distilling is misleading. Women are merely starting to reclaim their once-dominate place in the enterprise of brews, bourbon, and beaujolais. Since the creation of alcohol (or discovery if you like to think it as God’s gift to mankind), women have played significant roles in the histories of brewing, distilling, and winemaking processes. A 3,900-year-old Sumerian poem honors Ninkasi, the patron goddess of fermentation, and provides the oldest-surviving written beer recipe. Despite a few hiccups, when it was decided that women and alcohol were an unacceptable combination, for centuries, women have been the ones responsible for getting distilled and brewed beverages to the table. It was this way until the industrial revolution, when alcohol manufacturing became mechanized and profitable. Big Business leaders of the day were mostly men, so women became marginalized. But women are well on their way back to becoming major players, particularly in the brewing industry.
Direct involvement of women in the business side of alcohol has waxed and waned depending on the level of sexism present in society at the time. The current environment has seen more women than ever before, not only taking on behind-the-scenes roles, but spearheading new directions in flavor and complexity, and succeeding wildly in the roles of Owner, Master Distiller, Brewmaster, Vintner, CEO, CFO, Marketing Director, various other admin roles, and every job in between. The reason that more women aren’t currently involved in these industries may be partly because of gender-bias hurdles, but also because the brewing/distilling career path might not be very visible to the female demographic. According to an article published by the Associated Press in February of this year (“More Women Making their Mark in Craft Beer Industry,” by Laurel White), women are actively seeking to become more educated in the science and business of beer. The article states that the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago, which houses the World Brewing Academy, has seen a substantial increase in women enrolling in its courses. Its professional-level brewing class is now 20% female. This may not seem like much, but this number is up significantly from just 15 years ago, when hardly any women enrolled in the class.
The Pink Boots Society’s sole purpose is to help women beer professionals advance their careers in the industry through education and scholarship, and to create a collaborative environment wherein women can teach each other valuable skills they’ve learned. At its inception in 2007, Pink Boots had 60 members. Currently, it boasts more close to 2,000 world-wide members, with more than 150 women joining the society each month. The group is obviously filling a need, and providing women with the means to get involved in the dynamic brewing scene.
The explosion of the craft beer industry has introduced many new styles and flavors of beers to the marketplace, and as quality and variety increase, so does the demographic of the drinker. More women than ever before are now enjoying great beer. In fact, according to the Brewer’s Association (a trade association dedicated to small and independent brewers), in 2014 women consumed almost 32% of craft beer by volume. Since more women are enjoying beer, it only makes sense that they would want to be involved in its creation. The craft beer industry is particularly alluring because it is, by-in-large, a grassroots effort that doesn’t have the handicapped history of a “good old boys” network. Sure, females still have some hurdles to overcome, particularly when it comes to proving themselves as physically capable of the demanding work on the brewery floor or in the wine cellar. But, hard workers come in both male and female varieties, and anyone who can prove themselves is generally welcome to come aboard.
Women still have a way to go until their numbers match up with the number of male workers in the brewing, distilling, and winemaking industries. But the trend shows that the number of women working in (and enjoying the fruits of) the industry will continue to increase. In 10 years, there may not even be a discussion about the disparity between women and men in the brewing industry. Good brewers will be too busy making good beer, cider, spirits, and wine.