Sweet Lady Collaborations: One Gal’s Thoughts

Lady collaboration brew number three is in the fermentor. It’s set to release mid-September.

As I write this, I’m sitting alone with my thoughts in an apartment in Los Angeles.  I have spent the past few days getting to know the people of the LA craft beer scene.  As I’m from Denver, these folks are eager to talk with me about the changing market as well as listen to my stories of brewing in one of the greatest beer towns in the country.  As is expected, the whole “being a lady” thing comes up, which naturally leads to the female collaboration project.  As I recount these projects to more and more people outside of the Denver scene, I am realizing that they aren’t all roses and puppy dogs. The stories, that is. Not the people. They’re swell.

I am realizing that I have issues with these collaborations. Not the brew itself, but the way it is interpreted by the media and the powers that be in larger breweries.  These issues are something I have to get off my chest, maybe in the hopes that people will take note and change the way they represent these projects in the media, and maybe just to let people know how it can feel being a lady brewer who just wants to make beer.

And I love to make beer!

And I love to make beer!

What is intent and purpose of doing these collaborations? How long are we going to keep up with these projects? What’s the end game? How are we going to keep up the momentum?

I wish I had the answers to these questions. Well before I was hired at Wynkoop, I was planning on doing some sort of female collaboration. But I never thought the beer would be such a hit! And I couldn’t imagine that it would be the first of many female collaborations.  Going into the first brew, my goal was to gather and showcase the incredible female brewing talent in our great state.  While the ranks are ever-growing, the percentage of female brewers is still incredibly small.

One goal was to highlight the women already brewing professionally, so that maybe somewhere out there, a homebrewin’ gal would find the inspiration to take the leap into the profession.  It was also a way to hang out for a day with a small group of other brewers who can relate to being the lone girl in a male dominated workplace.  Aside from the super douche news anchor we had to deal with that morning, it was a lovely fucking day. A lot went into that first batch, but we did it! We made a beer that was tasty AND inspirational!

Shortly (the next day) after the release of lady beer number one, the emails about lady beer number two began. Brew day number two was also a stellar day of hanging out with other ladies in beer, and this time we were joined by cellarwomen and sales reps. Ladies from all positions in the industry were there! This was both incredible and the shift.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love all of these ladies dearly and everyone was excited to be there, but this was the day I started hearing that certain companies had pushed participants to be part of the collaboration.  This left me feeling a bit uneasy.  Were breweries whoring out their female employees to get in on the publicity that has followed the lady brews?

I would love to get all of the women in the Colorado beer scene together, but not for the press. And yes, I grasp that ranting from within the beer press is cliché at best, but here I go. I want these brew days to be about meeting other ladies in our profession and networking and sharing life experiences. I appreciate the media attention, but the way some of the stories were presented was just downright insulting.  I would have rather not had that press.  The kind of press that knows nothing about the beer world and thinks we are just going to giggle and have pillow fights in the brew house while the boys do our heavy lifting. Fuck that.

image courtesy of pinkbootssociety.org

image courtesy of pinkbootssociety.org

Beyond getting together, giggling AND doing the heavy lifting, and having an incredible time, these brew days also support a great cause.  All of the brews have been a fundraiser for the Pink Boots Society.  The Pink Boots Society (PBS) is a non-profit organization that promotes the role of women in the brewing industry through education.  PBS is also a great way to network with other women beer professionals.  Last year, PBS got their 501c3, which means they can accept donations and offer scholarships.  All of the money our Colorado lady brews have raised has been turned into learning opportunities for other women. A better educated brewer makes better beer, and who doesn’t want better beer?

About Bess Dougherty


Bess Dougherty's life revolves around hooch. By day she has the pleasure of making beer. At night this dame can often be found sipping whiskey and beer around town. This bearcat is also an avid homebrewer. Yar.

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  • Kate DeShiell

    I was at the Fermentation Festival here in Denver two weekends ago and was pleasantly surprised by the number of vendors there who mentioned their interest in involving more females in the industry and the brewing community in general. Is this just a new population to target for marketing purposes? Are these people just trying to sell us more beer/product/experience? Perhaps, but I’m still glad this movement is happening and think we need to be strategic about the events that we plan within it. We do have control over how we’re perceived/we participate within all of this, but it’s up to us to exercise those choices.