Working in the beer industry has been a dream of mine for a long time and I’m happy that I’ve managed, in the last 5 years, to make that a reality. I’ve been drinking beer for an awful lot longer than that and I’ve seen some great leaps forward in how women are represented as well as some unfortunate steps backwards.
We all know women are still underrepresented both in the industry and as drinkers but things are getting better. Many people have written far more eloquently than I could about the issues women and other minorities face in the beer world so when I was asked to write a blog for International Women’s Day I decided to not focus on that but on some of the amazing stuff that is going on.
We all need some good news sometimes right?
I’ve been a friend of Jules Gray, founder of Hop Hideout, for a few years now. To say she’s an inspiration would be an understatement! As well as running an independent bottle shop in Sheffield for over 9 years she organises Indie Beer Feast each March along with Sheffield Beer Week. And it’s Hop Hideout’s 9th birthday I want to talk about.
Myself and my friend Lizi travelled up to Sheffield in November to help Jules celebrate not just the birthday but also some other amazing beery women. As part of the celebration Jules had been down to London some weeks before to brew a collaboration beer with Jaega Wise and Crafty Beer Girls.
In the world of beer I have to say Jaega is a legend. One of the first female brewers in the UK, owner of her own brewery, Wildcard, and taproom in London. She champions all things beer at events as well as on TV, radio and in print. She’s also an amazingly nice person and a friend.
Crafty Beer Girls are one of the original ladies’ beer groups in the UK. They support and encourage women to learn about and enjoy beer in pubs across London. They are certainly an inspiration for my group Brum Beer Babs (editors note; Catherine is too humble to talk about how great this group is, but if you're a woman in Birmingham that wants to learn more about beer, or just meet a group of like-minded drinkers, it's really worth checking out).
The event was sold out and when we got there it was great to see a really good mix of people wanting to try the beers. Jaega had organised a tasting for us including the birthday beer ‘I am the Queen’ (a 6.9%, chocolate, maple, pecan & Brazil nut stout) as well as some of her other beers. Along with Jaega, Tasha Wolf and Natalya Watson (founders of Crafty Beer Girls) had battled the trains to join the fun. Tasha has worked for many years in the beer industry in a variety of roles and has always advocated for women in the industry. Natalya is an Advanced Cicerone, a published writer as well as the founder of Virtual Beer School where everyone is welcome to study for the Cicerone exams.
Jules, Jaega and Tasha talked about their experiences and also about the birthday beer. Jaega gave us a lesson on beer tasting, everyone had the chance to contribute, conversation as well as beer flowed freely.
This event summed up so much to me how far we’ve come. Celebrating a female owned business with a beer brewed by women. Everyone welcome, everyone enjoying the beers. Of course not every event needs to be run by women but having a place at the table is all that’s being asked for. The opportunity to take part and be considered in the same way as a business owned/run by men.
We’ve come a long way and the journey (and fight) isn’t over yet but being able to be part of such a great community of women inspires me every day. We all need to keep talking, calling out unacceptable behaviour and championing women and businesses who push the boundaries. Beer is for everyone!