Author not attributed. Written for thedailyherald.com
A brew and a bro â€” itâ€™s the classic pairing, right? Not necessarily.
From the rise of female brew masters to the growth of womenâ€™s tasting groups, women are becoming much more than a pint-size part of the brewing world.
The emergence of women as both beer-lovers and brewers happened as the craft beer scene grew overall by leaps and bounds, and thatâ€™s no coincidence, says Lisa Morrison, Oregon-based writer, blogger and author of â€œCraft Beers of the Pacific Northwest.â€
â€œI think that women are finally discovering, thanks to craft beer, that beer has flavor,â€ she says.
â€œWhen we start getting into the artisan stuff you start realizing that thereâ€™s an entire rainbow of flavors that you can enjoy. And because of that you can pair that with all kinds of different food flavors,â€ Morrison says. â€œWomen love food. We love cooking. We love tasting food. We love sampling different things. So when you put all that together, the cooking with beer, the pairing food with beer, the whole wide-ranging genre of beer styles and beer flavors â€” itâ€™s something that women can get really excited about.â€
The marketing message is also different, says Julia Herz, home brewer and craft beer program director at the Boulder, Colo.-based Brewers Association.
â€œHistorically, the mass-produced lagers have been marketed as a beverage targeting males in their mid to high 20s, and it seems to me in advertising that I see for craft beer that itâ€™s really not marketed as a gender-specific beverage.â€
Itâ€™s hard to put a number on the trend, but Morrison and others say theyâ€™ve personally seen more women take an interest in beer.
â€œIt used to be at beer festivals, I was pretty much the only gal. Now itâ€™s definitely venturing more toward 60-40â€ with women being the 40 percent, says Morrison, who has been involved in the craft beer scene for nearly 15 years.
On the business side, beer management remains predominantly male, though there have been changes there, too, says Irene Firmat, founder and CEO of Full Sail Brewing Co. in Hood River, Ore.
To support female brewers, a support network called the Pink Boots Society was formed. It includes a consumer tasting group organization, Barleyâ€™s Angels, that has chapters in the U.S., Canada, Australia and South America.
Being a female beer producer means standing out, says Rosemarie Certo, cofounder and owner of Dock Street Brewing Co. in West Philadelphia.
Certoâ€™s interest in beer started when she began making beer at home because she wasnâ€™t happy with what was available domestically at the time. She started Dock Street in 1985 and remembers in the early days going to make a sales pitch to a distributor and being the only woman in a room of more than 50. â€œI remember not being bothered by it,â€ she recalls.
She sees the craft segment as generally having a different approach to business. â€œI think itâ€™s easier for women to enter the craft industry only because the craft industry is different to begin with,â€ she says, pointing out that most people donâ€™t go into the labor-intensive craft beer business with dreams of piling up a fortune. â€œItâ€™s an industry that is born from a lot of love.â€
Firmat also started in beer about 25 years ago, a time when there were about 20 craft breweries nationwide compared to todayâ€™s 2,000. Back then, it was considered more outlandish to be challenging the big domestic producers than to be a woman in the beer business, she says.
As far as operating in a manâ€™s world, she says, â€œthe thing that I always focused on, and itâ€™s what I always tell women in our company, is really focus on being competent. Focus on being good and doing your job and donâ€™t go in expecting to get a reaction.â€
And, of course, thereâ€™s always a silver lining. â€œYou can always tell when youâ€™re at a beer conference because thereâ€™s a line in the menâ€™s room and thereâ€™s none in the womenâ€™s room,â€ she says with a laugh.
One of the things that Firmat sees as a challenge is keeping craft beer accessible to women, which means guarding against the snobbery that can creep in when consumers become very enthusiastic about a product â€” think wine.
â€œOur responsibility is making sure that the way we communicate is very respectful to men and women,â€ she says.