Women were always the brewers. Beer was a foodstuff and, like all foodstuffs, it was made by women. This changed as beer moved from the home into the commercial realm in the Middle Ages; it changed rapidly during the Industrial Revolution when breweries became big and employed men as their brewers.
But beer is an equal opportunity thing and is enjoyed (and brewed) by both genders these days. To celebrate that fact—and to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8—female brewers all over the world got together to brew.
Here in Michigan, women brewed at Arbor Brewing Company (ABC) and at Short’s Brewing Company. I was lucky enough to get to visit the brewers at ABC and learn about how they got involved in this event.
Angie Williams, former Cellar Master and Assistant Brewer at the Corner Brewery, heard about the event from the Pink Boots Society. (Pink Boots is an organization “created to empower women beer professionals to advance their careers in the Beer Industry through education.”) When Angie realized that no one in the southeast Michigan area was participating, she decided to jump into it. (The women at Short’s Brewing Company were already involved).
Angie got in touch with Stacey Roth, brewer at Griffin Claw Brewing Company. Around the same time, the head brewer of ABC, Mike Moroney, approached Angie and Stacey to ask if they had heard about this event and if they would consider doing it at ABC. According to Stacey, not only did owners Rene and Matt Greff support the idea, they were extremely enthusiastic about it. Angie adds, “Given the long history Arbor has with female ownership and employing female brewers and women in other top management positions, it was a natural fit for this event.” The beer brewing was on!
The beer is called Unite Pale Ale and is a pale session beer made with a late addition of Cascade hops. While the basic recipe is the same world-wide, each brewery can put its own spin on the beer. The women at ABC used additional hops to increase the IBU somewhat; as well, a Belgian yeast was used. The estimated release date is sometime in mid-April.
Both Angie and Stacey agree that this event is extremely important for women. Events like this, Angie says, “help raise awareness of how many of us do this for a living across the globe…it shows (women) in a role other than as models for beer commercials.” Stacey says that it’s not only about showing women that they can be brewers but also “empowering women about what they can do in life” on a world-wide scale. (The global nature of this event cannot be understated. There will be women brewing in Japan, Australia, Canada, Israel, New Zealand and in the United States. Some of the proceeds from the sale of the beers will be donated to various charities, including the Pink Boots Society which has a special program to help brewers who are burn victims.)
Angie and Stacey are Poodies!
Both women have noticed a shift in the industry since they began brewing professionally. Stacey has been in the industry for about ten years and notes that in years past, the syrupy raspberry beers were the ones that were targeted to women; now, women are asking for double and triple IPAs and imperial stouts. The industry has realized that women are a market and we don’t want the “stereotypical pink swag bags and fruit beers.”
Additionally, women who enjoy craft beer but are not necessarily in the industry are organizing themselves into groups. Two such groups are the PussyCat Beer Guild in Grand Rapids and the Detroit Draft Divas in southeast Michigan. Angie joined the latter group several years ago and has enjoyed the camaraderie ever since. “It’s a wonderful, knowledgeable and supportive group of women at all levels of beer knowledge who either want to learn more about craft beer or just want to hang out with other women who love craft beer,” she says.
The Cute! It burns!!!
Collaboration and teaching have long been cornerstones of the brewing industry and this event is no different. Angie and Stacey worked with Mike Moroney who learned from former Arbor brewer Bill Gerds who learned from Bill Wamby (now at Rochester Mills). This tradition is carried on with events like International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day; it carries on every time a woman (or man) tries a craft beer for the first time and realizes that they have found what they may not have known they were looking for. This unites us all—women and men, Americans and Israelis, Japanese and Canadians—in the pursuit of good, craft beer. May that spirit never perish from this good earth.