On a recent visit to a new brewery, plenty of the usual suspects were present: wooden tables, exposed brick, light bulbs hanging from the rafters. Notably, it was also packed with women, who outnumbered men two to one in this particular taproom. It was a little like walking into The Twilight Zone, but it also felt just right.
Despite the fact that brewing was almost entirely dominated by women until about the 16th century—when alewives and brewsters started getting elbowed out of production by men who painted them as witches—the first few years of the craft beer boom followed in the footsteps of macro breweries by largely catering to men and their perceived tastes. More recently, we’ve seen the pendulum swing in the other direction, with more and more women not only gaining entry to the world of beer but also rising in visibility—from the women of Bow & Arrow Brewing recently gracing the cover of The New Brewer magazine to the opening of Eris Brewery & Cider House, which is owned and operated by women. Meanwhile, organizations such as the Pink Boots Society and Beer With(out) Beards festival are making sure that women’s contributions to the beer industry are not only recognized but become the norm.
Yet things are hardly equal, and prejudices forged in the past persist today. This isn’t just the opinion of a few: One recent study by behavioral researchers at Stanford University found that people undervalue and are less inclined to buy a craft beer if they believe it was brewed by a woman. Another study, highlighted this month by the New York Times, found that the mere sight of a woman drinking alcohol caused participants to believe that “she was more ‘sexually available’ and ‘less human’ than a woman drinking water or a man drinking alcohol.”
At a time when more women than ever are drinking beer, we here at October have decided to spend this week celebrating the women of beer and giving them a platform to talk about the issues that matter to them: Hopewell Brewing’s Samantha Lee discusses what it’s like to feel like an outsider as a brewery owner; Ren Navarro of Beer. Diversity. speaks with Airie Peters, the first black female brewer in the state of Alabama, about being a woman of color in beer; the owners of Lady Justice Brewing in Colorado talk about how women can make a positive social impact with brewing; and more.
We can no longer wait around for these conversations to just happen on their own. Nearly every industry has been forced to take a hard look at itself in the wake of the #MeToo movement, and beer should be no exception. Garden-variety sexism still lingers in both the macro and craft worlds, from sexualized marketing to sexism in the workplace.
It’s up to all of us to hold the industry accountable, and to signal-boost the amazing women who are changing it for the better, from grain to glass. So please join us as we raise a toast to honor the women of beer, both now and in the future.
The staff of October
Illustration by Sunny Eckerle