Fighting A Male-Dominated Industry with a Set of Pink Boots

The Pink Boots Society empowers women in the industry, from home brewers to bartenders, to thrive in the world of craft beer.

By Becky Lang


A beer recently came out called “Chick Beer,” which claims to be “America’s Beer for Women.” The beer has a spiraled font and comes in a bright pink box designed to look like a handbag. With the slogan, “Witness the chickness!” it boasts a low calorie count, containing only 97 calories. In one bottle, this beer represents the stereotypes that have developed in the liquor industry, wherein advertisers assume that men want to shotgun beers in the alley while their girlfriends sip Skinny Girl martinis and gossip.

Naturally, an organization of women is out to change that, and empower women to advance in the industry. Started by east-coast brewmaster Teri Fahrendorf, The Pink Boots Society (PBS) aims to educate women about craft beer, and create a place for them to connect as women, rather than “one of the boys” in a now male-dominated industry. The PBS was named after Fahrendorf’s iconic brewing footwear, a set of pink boots.

“Everyone always thinks of beer as the man’s drink,” explains Tara Aclure, Co-Chair of the membership committee for The Pink Boots Society, and Specialty Beer Brand manager for Chisago Lakes Distributing. Aclure believes advertising is one reason that people think of beer as a man’s drink, rather than a ladies’ drink. Or as she puts it, it’s because of things like “Miller Lite with hot chicks in bikinis.”

To her, that isn’t reality. “We like beer!” she laughs. “We like big, hearty calorie-rich malty porters and stouts and all that stuff!”

Historically, women have had a large place in the history of beer-making, up until the industrial revolution, which shifted brewing from something done at home to something done for the marketplace. Thus the term “alewife,” which means a woman who keeps an ale house. Male brewers became more the norm in the past century, but the recent rise of craft beer has inspired people to think about beer differently, and invigorated more people to get involved on all kinds of scales.

So what does The Pink Boots society do? All kinds of things, from raising public awareness of the history of women’s involvement in the beer industry to helping curious women obtain scholarships for beer-related ventures. The PBS helps educate women about not just making beer, but also judging beer, so they can get involved in craft beer competitions.

The members of the Pink Boots Society, of which there are many, are involved in the industry in all kinds of ways. Some of them are bartenders, some of them work in brewing or marketing, and some of them appreciate beer by writing about it for publications. The Pink Boots Society encourages them to share their knowledge through seminars, and gives them the chance to raise money for educational scholarships.

For women who just enjoy beer but don’t work in the industry, the PBS started Barley’s Angels, a club that gets together once a month for tastings, pairings or visits to breweries. Kind of like a book club for beer lovers.

While the Pink Boots Society is growing nation-wide, the Minneapolis chapter is still just getting started. That’s where Aclure comes in. Outside of her day job, she works to recruit people to join the PBS, hoping to get a fighting force that will allow for regular meet-ups.

Aclure herself grew up surrounded by people who work in the beer industry. Her family started Chisago Lakes Distributing in 1924, which carries beers like Avery, Great Divide, and North Coast.

“I’ve been around beer my entire life,” she explains. “My grandma was the first woman to own a beer distributor in Minnesota.” Aclure started working in the family business at age 12, helping with breakage in packaging. “I got paid minimum wage and I was excited.”

While she thought her first taste of beer, a can of Schmidt at age 7, was “gross,” she found a new passion for the beverage when she was 22. The changing factor, she remembers, was a liquor store where the clerks knew all about craft beer, and helped her realize there was more out there than just Blue Moon.
But the Pink Boots Society isn’t just for lifers like Aclure. Waitresses, journalists or even people who make art inspired by beer are welcome to join.

So what’s on Aclure’s wish list for the next phase of the local PBS? For now, she wants to build a base of women that can get together and talk about what it means to be a member, and find new ways to help people obtain apprenticeships, scholarships or just share their knowledge.

“I think it’s a perfect time to get people paying attention, knowing that there are organizations out there that women qualify to join,” she explains. “First thing—demand beer that doesn’t look designed to look pretty on a 7-year-old girl’s vanity.”

 

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