Last month I attended a”Women in Beer” event hosted by ZX.YCN. Speakers included Sara Barton, founder of Brewster’s Brewery, renowned beer sommelier Melissa Cole, Pippa Morris, senior strategist at Mother and Lauren Pearson Goose Island Beer Company’s Director of Operations.
The event was held in JuJu’s bar in Shoreditch and was packed out – mostly with women but there was a fair number of men also attending. As usual, there was networking beforehand and freebies – primarily the Goose Island range which has just come over to the UK.
For those of you who don’t know, Goose Island was recently bought out by mega-beer conglomerate AB Inbev, which now owns about a third of the world’s beer. That means that one in three beers IN THE WORLD is made by the same company. I tried this beer for the first time back in June when I was visiting the States and was very disappointed to learn that something I thought was American craft was actually being produced by Big Beer. AB Inbev is now aggressively pushing Goose Island in the UK – you can find it at cut-throat prices in your local supermarket for as little as £1.77 a bottle.
It’s safe to say that I was quite wary of the talk by Lauren Pearson from Goose Island, which didn’t actually cover much in the way of “Women in Beer” and predominantly focused on how great AB Inbev was to help small and mid-size brewers expand internationally. It all sounds great and altruistic on the tin, but I for one would prefer to know where the beer I’m drinking comes from and not be tricked by clever marketing.
So when are we getting to the “Women in Beer” part of the discussion? Well, Melissa Cole and Sara Barton certainly did not disappoint!
Sara Barton is the founder of Brewster’s Brewery and also of Project Venus, a network which brings together female brewers to collaborate and share ideas. She spoke about Brewster’s labeling which has been called sexist before because it pictures a woman holding up a glass of beer:
Sara explained that the name “Brewsters” is a nod to the fact that women have been active in brewing since ancient times, and that brewing itself was predominantly a women’s role throughout the world. Up until the last 150 years, it was the brewsters, not the brewers, who made all of the beer – and Brewster’s logo is a celebration of women’s role throughout that time. I thought she was very inspirational and a fantastic role model for any woman looking to get into the world of brewing.
Melissa Cole spoke about her experience as a women in beer today, with anecdotes about discrimination that she has faced as a beer sommelier – such as being offered a third size pint glasses rather than a full by men who don’t think a woman should be drinking that much. I myself have been told that I “emasculated” a man when I ordered a full pint after he ordered a half a work event, so I feel her pain.
There is a long way to go when it comes to female equality in the world of beer, but I thought that Melissa and Sara’s presentations did a great job of coming full circle in showing that a woman’s place throughout time has very firmly been in brewing, not outside of it. Beer might be considered a male-dominated industry, but from the number of women at this event and enjoying great beers, it looks like times may be changing.
Are there any other women working in beer out there who’d like to form a network? If so, get in touch – we’d love to speak to you!