first, i want to start with this article a friend posted on facebook about the history of women and beer brewing, because i found it fascinating:
“Up until the 1500s, brewing was primarily women’s work – that is, until a smear campaign accused women brewers of being witches. Much of the iconography we associate with witches today, from the pointy hat to the broom, emerged from their connection to female brewers.”
knowing this herstory really helps challenge the association of beer with men and masculinity which has become the norm in modern times. of course women were the first brewers! i’m not surprised by any of this information – fuck the patriarchy for ruining everything – but it makes me even more committed to writing about and diving deeper into the NA beer world as a woman.
it’s interesting to note that the stanford university study referenced in the article, though it is many years old (2014) and focused on the larger alcoholic craft beer industry, found “20 percent (399) had at least one female founder, of which 40 (2 percent) had an exclusively female founder(s).” it also cites “17 percent (349) had at least one female CEO — only 67 of those (3 percent) had an exclusively female CEO, the rest were co-CEOs with at least one male (typically wife/husband team).”
however, in 2019, the brewer’s association website craftbeer.com did a survey and found “only about 7.5 percent of brewers are women. The number of female staff jumps to 37 percent for women in “non-production, non-service” roles (like sales and marketing). the only area where women reach a majority is as brewery “service” staff — though at just 53 percent, it’s pretty balanced. furthermore, of the 54 percent of breweries that only had a single owner, 96 percent of those owners were male.”
these stats are pretty sad, and only get sadder when you start looking for ethnic/racial diversity as well. so i want to do what i can to lift up the women brewers, owners and other players i learn about.
in a previous post i mentioned rightside brewing, whose beer is en route to me this week, so it seems appropriate to mention it again here. it’s founder, emree woods, is not a brewer, but rather an entrepreneuer who had the idea when she was pregnant with her first child three and a half years ago. it took a while – another child and a pandemic might have slowed her down a bit – but her “third baby,” as she refers to it, is finally out in the world and i’m really looking forward to trying it!
when i posted a question wondering about other women-owned/founded NA craft breweries in the NABAS (non-alcoholic beer appreciation society) facebook group, i learned that several were co-founded by women, often with their husbands/partners or other family members: wellbeing brewery was co-founded by genevieve barlow; surreal brewing was co-founded by donna hockey; bravus brewing was co-founded by heather brandes; and gruvi brewing, co-founded by anika sawni, who also hosts a podcast about recovery called a sober girl’s guide.
i’m sure there are probably more that i don’t know about (if you know of any, tell me, cuz i’m new to this world and still learning about the players and history of the industry), but just knowing this much makes me feel like there’s maybe a slightly higher ratio of women involved in the NA craft beer world than the alcoholic one. this may be due to the fact that the NA craft beer world is smaller at the moment, but i hope it continues to be an inviting realm for more women to get involved in.
the pink boots society is one group that hopes to help more women get involved in the larger industry (not NA-specific). it was created “to assist, inspire and encourage women fermented/alcoholic beverage industry professionals to advance their careers through education,” with one specific goal to “teach women beer professionals the judging skills necessary to become beer judges at the GABF and other competitions.” their site has a lot of info on it, including some history of women and beer, a podcast, and offers scholarships to upcoming seminars on technical aspects of the industry. they even have a collaborative brew they are doing across chapters, with an exclusive hops blend. there appears to be a PBS chapter here in new orleans, so perhaps i need to check them out! i wonder if they have any NA stuff going on?
well that’s all i got for today, but i’ll keep sharing info as i learn it. happy international women’s day and women’s history month!
**edited to add: shortly after i posted this, i got the email from athletic brewing announcing their collab for international women’s day – trailblazer, a hoppy lager using the PBS 2021 hops blend, brewed by athletic brewer cara wilson, with 100% of the proceeds going to the pink boots society. i of course just ordered some.