Beer’s Growing Popularity Among Women

The beer industry has been historically dominated by men. However, the Brewers Association, a non-profit organization of American brewers, revealed a growing popularity of beer among women.  According to their 2014 report, “women consume almost 32 percent of craft beer by volume.”

Another research project demonstrated that women are not only increasingly drinking beer, but are also brewing it. A 2014 study conducted by Auburn University found that women account for 29% of brewery workers in the United States and are beginning to play a much larger role in the craft brewing industry. However, women are still underrepresented as head brewers. In 2014, a study by Stanford University found that out of 1,700 active breweries surveyed, only 4% had a female head brewer or brewmaster.

Men in the craft brewing industry, like Brian Roth, the co-owner of Southern Brewing Company (SBC) in Athens, Ga., are recognizing women’s growing interest in the industry and showing support. Roth co-owns the brewery with his buddy Rick Goddard, but his wife Jen Roth is also involved. In the early stages of SBC, she helped her husband with anything from mopping the floors to running the register to budgeting for the brewery. Today you can find her working behind the scenes to make sure everything runs smoothly.

“We wouldn’t be open if it wasn’t for 5 women – Jen included,” Roth said.

Brian Roth

Brian Roth at Southern Brewing in Athens, Ga., on Saturday, April 8, 2017. (Photo/Kaitlin Kent)

 

Women as the Cornerstone of Brewing

Although SBC employs women on their tour staff, like many breweries, they do not employ a female brewer.

“A brewster is a female brewer, so females have brewed for 4,000 years or more before the guys,” said Sara Gayle McConnell, co-owner of Tradesman Brewing in Charleston, S.C.

She and her husband Scott opened Tradesman Brewing in April 2014, offering intriguing flavor profiles like a bright pink beer brewed with beets and ginger.

According to an article in The Atlantic, historically, women brewed and served beer to their communities. The article states that over 4,000 years ago in ancient Egypt, beer was produced and sold by women. When the United States was first colonized in the late 1400s, women took on the role of brewers in society.

The article further describes that when the Industrial Revolution struck in the 1800s, men began to realize the business opportunities that came along with the beer industry and slowly took over women’s roles in brewing. As soon as brewing became a business, it turned into a boy’s club.

Sara Gayle McConnell at Tradesman Brewing in Charleston, Sc., on February 16, 2017.

Sara Gayle McConnell at Tradesman Brewing in Charleston, Sc., on February 16, 2017. (Photo/Kaitlin Kent)

“Men handled business and women stayed home with kids,” McConnell said. “And that sounds simplistic, but I really think it’s that simplistic.”

Today, women’s role in brewing might be changing. Brian Roth thinks that there are women in the craft beer scene who are making great strides.

“I could point out many women in the industry that [are] doing incredible things and changing the industry in really incredible ways, but you don’t see it as much in the South.”

Roth explained that when women are exposed to brewing craft beer, that’s when they become interested in the industry.

One women in Roth’s network is Julia Rosenthal, co-owner of Pair O’ Dice Brewing Company in Clearwater, Fla.

Rosenthal and her husband opened the Pair-O-Dice Brewing Company in October 2013. The brewery is currently a 15 barrel brewhouse with 30 barrel fermenters, a canning line, and a taproom.

“If you talk to my husband, he says I’m the owner and he’s just the brewer,” Rosenthal said. “I run the business.”

Rosenthal oversees sales, marketing distribution, the tasting room, and all other facets of the brewery.

Of the seven employees that work at Pair O’ Dice, five of the employees are women. Rosenthal attributes the lack of women in brewer roles to personal preference.

“It’s hot, sweaty, dirty work and it’s just the question of who wants to do that,” Rosenthal said. “Some men don’t want to do that either.”

Rosenthal doesn’t think that being a woman is the most important part about owning a business.

“I like to stand on my own two feet. I would rather be known as a good business owner and a good brewery owner than being a female brewery owner,” she said. “The fact that I’m a female, I don’t think should play into it. I’d rather be recognized for being good at my job than being a female in my industry.”

 

Women Who Brew

Jess Hurd is the only female brewer at Terrapin Brewing Company in Athens, Ga, where she has been employed for the last nine months. Hurd thinks women are easing back into the industry but are still intimidated by the rough culture and masculine stereotypes that surround brewing.

She also thinks they could possibly be deterred from brewing because of the heavy lifting that’s involved.

“People don’t think that they could get used to that type of intensive physical labor. That was a big thing I was worried about when I started applying,” Hurd said. “I think a lot of people are stronger than they think they are.”

Hurd has been brewing professionally for two years and finds that the industry, although it’s a lot of work, is rewarding. Once other women understand that Hurd thinks they will become more prominent in the industry.

“I think women's presence is going to increase over time as more people dip their toes into the waters and figure out oh hey this is a really cool industry is really rewarding, you’re making something that people love.”

Shortly after she began working at Terrapin, she visited a local bar and asked the server to suggest a beer.

“She recommended a Terrapin beer,” Hurd said. “It was the coolest thing to experience! Like oh I could have made that. That sort of feeling can be kind of addicting.”

Jess Hurd discusses the process of brewing beer at Terrapin Beer Co. in Athens, Georgia. (Video/Kaitlin Kent)