Pink Books Society
You may be hearing a lot of talk these days about diversity in craft beer -- especially as it pertains to women. While the bearded-guy-as-brewer stereotype remains, the truth is that according to the most recent estimates, women make up about 25% of weekly craft drinkers in the U.S., and around 20% of people holding top positions in the breweries themselves. We still have a very long way to go before we women reach parity -- which is why about seven years ago, I joined an organization called the Pink Boots Society.
Pink Boots (or “PBS” for short) is the only group in the world that dedicates itself to advancing women in the beer industry. I’ve stepped in to help the volunteer-run, non-profit organization as historian (a role I still fill), meeting chair, and co-founder of the Philadelphia chapter. PBS founder Teri Fahrendorf -- who often speaks to the press about the role of women in the brewhouse -- has become one of my most valuable mentors, and many members (including a few in Europe!) have become very, very close friends.
Despite all of the amazing work the organization has already done, I find that a few common questions often pop up when I mention it in conversation. With Pink Boots celebrating its tenth anniversary with its first conference and beer fest this month, I thought it would be a good time to break the group down to the basics.
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Why do we need Pink Boots?
Though we do have naysayers -- typically guys who wonder why we women need our own group, and industry gals who don’t want to self-segregate (for fear of being judged as a questionably competent “female brewer”) -- I strongly believe that we give one another a boost when we come together to ask advice, post job openings, oppose sexist beer labels, supply and fund educational opportunities, and sometimes, just bond over beers.
Where is Pink Boots based?
Officially launched at the 2008 Craft Brewers Conference in San Diego, Pink Boots boasts 48 chapters across almost three dozen states and six foreign countries, including Hong Kong, New Zealand and Chile.
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Who is Pink Boots?
Though Pink Boots is unofficially comprised of more than one thousand women making money in any facet of the global beer industry, and is run by scores of volunteers, a few women should be recognized for lending more of their bad-assedness than most:
Teri Fahrendorf was a master brewer from 1989 until she began working in the malt industry a few years ago. In 2008, she became the leading voice for women in beer after she founded the Pink Boots Society, following a “road brewing” tour during which she met female brewers working in isolation and obscurity.
Feisty Laura Ulrich, Stone Brewing’s original and remaining female brewer, met Teri on her tour and urged her to unite beer women like herself. She helped organize the first PBS meeting and took over as president when Teri decided to step down in 2016.
Enduringly patient mom and former beer writer Emily Engdahl squeezes far more hours into her part-time executive director job than her donation-supported salary would indicate. Even when a volunteer is running some program or another, you can bet Emily’s getting cc’ed on all those emails.
Without Sibyl Perkins, we’d probably still be using a bulletin board to communicate our brand online, as Sibyl has donated immeasurable hours to updating and maintaining our website.
And without Anita Lum, who built our first website and single-handedly oversaw membership and merchandise for an untold number of years, we’d still probably have a backlog of hundreds of online membership applications from women (each of whom need to prove that they’re either a student, planning to open a brewery on a specified date, or earn at least 25% of their income from beer before becoming a member).
When and How Has Pink Boots Grown?
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2007: Teri Fahrendorf, the second female master brewer in modern American history, embarks on a cross-country collaborative brewing tour. During her travels, she meets and brews with Laura Ulrich at Stone Brewing and Whitney Thompson at Tröegs Brewing. When she discovers that these women believe themselves to be the only female brewers in the nation, Teri decides to compile a directory of women working in the industry.
2008: Teri and Laura organize a meeting at CBC, attended by 16 female brewers and beer writers. They establish their mission and choose a name. They meet again in October at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver. PBS has followed this biannual meeting schedule ever since.
2011: Portland, OR, beer journalist and retailer Lisa Morrison co-chairs the first meeting of Barley’s Angels, an umbrella organization under the purview of PBS created to educate female beer consumers. Though Barley’s Angels eventually splits from Pink Boots, it thrives with approximately 100 chapters in 28 states and seven countries.
2012: As a means of introducing more women to craft beer, PBS’s national Bring Mom Out for a Beer campaign encourages and promotes Mother’s Day beer events around the country. Though PBS no longer actively supports this initiative, many participating venues still continue the tradition.
2012/13: With the help of her mother-in-law, Tina Graber, Teri completes a 98-page application to earn 501(c)3 non-profit status for Pink Boots, allowing the group to accept donations and award scholarships.
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2013: Jessica Heidrich, Sweden’s sole female brewer, wins the first PBS scholarship -- to take the Siebel Institute for Brewing Technology’s web-based Concise Course in Brewing Technology. Since then, about 50 women from 15 states and six countries have won scholarships for educational travel opportunities, as well as online and in-person beer and brewing courses.
2013/14: PBS reaches 1,000 members, a number that grows exponentially until the group starts charging annual dues in 2016. Currently, membership stands at over 1,200 members.
2014: With the help of former PBS social media guru Denise Ratfield, British brewery owner Sophie de Ronde establishes International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day, which brings women to breweries around the world every International Women’s Day (March 8) to brew the same recipe simultaneously. PBS has since launched a second, similar endeavor, called Big Boots Brew Day.
2014: Oregon beer writer Emily Engdahl joins PBS as executive director, becoming the first and only paid employee and taking over daily duties from Teri.
2016: In a “closing of the circle,” so to speak, Teri steps down as president and Stone’s Laura Ulrich takes over.
2017: On June 3-4, PBS officially celebrates its tenth anniversary with its first educational conference and beer fest, held in San Diego and principally sponsored by Stone Brewing Company, with additional support from Ballast Point Brewing, Four Peaks Brewing, Whitelabs, and Portland State University, among others.
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Note: Four Peaks Brewing is a member of The High End, owned by Anheuser-Busch.