Christina L. Vair
In the not-so-distant past, all beer was craft – produced in small quantities, utilizing locally sourced ingredients, tied inextricably to the season and created to be shared in community.
From the first known written beer recipe to Colonial America, women were intimately involved in the brewing process. With the advent of beer as commodity, a cash-driven industry controlled by beer barons bent on homogenizing and producing lagers for the masses resulted in females being pushed away from a process with deep roots in “woman’s work.”
Among other forces, the corporatization of beer created a centralized hierarchy benefitting a few elite, at the cost of neglecting long-standing tradition and devaluing women’s contributions.
Novel information for impressing your beer nerd friends; however, how are women participating in beer today? As in many facets of society, women are often treated inequitably in the beer world just as they are on Wall Street, in boardrooms and in STEM-related fields.
However, with females positioned to become the majority of the nation’s workforce, and as the number of craft breweries finally surpasses pre-Prohibition Era levels, a growing number of women are participating in diverse roles within the industry.
Simply taking a look in our own backyard provides a snapshot of what’s happening across the globe. While recent survey data suggests the average home brewer is a 40-something, suburban white guy, more women are taking an interest in making their own brew.
Several local breweries employ women in the brew house, and the sales force for craft beer both locally and nationally includes many female faces. You’ll find women at the helm of breweries and brewpubs of various sizes, not to mention in brewery labs, marketing and design, and those managing innumerable other tasks behind the scenes.
Women create and sell beer, but clearly they drink it, too. The topic of the female beer consumer can be a minefield laden with sexism and gender bias, however, women in the 21 to 34 age bracket are drinking craft beer at a rate above the national average, consuming roughly 15 percent of total market share.
It’s well known that craft beer sales have exploded in recent years, with craft’s growth far surpassing that of domestics.
Groups such as the Buffalo Beer Goddesses, and other women’s beer appreciation societies across the country, are in no small way helping drive such sales.
Rather than being in a time of revolution, craft beer is experiencing a renaissance. By embracing ideals such as cooperation and equality, beer communities such as our own, which was celebrated during Buffalo Beer Week beginning at the end of September, have the opportunity to welcome any and all comers to enjoy what is ultimately a way of life, rather than simply a commodity.
Christina L. Vair, of Buffalo, is a craft beer aficionado and a founding member of the Buffalo Beer Goddesses.