Identity

Meet Five Women Shaking Up the Male-Dominated Beer Industry

Meg Gill, host of BEERLAND, shares her list of women breaking barriers in brewing.
Photos courtesy VICELAND. 

Meg Gill is the host of BEERLAND. You can watch full episodes now on VICELAND.

Although there are more women leading in the craft beer world than I’m able to name, it’s undeniable that the industry is dominated by men. According to surveys conducted by the Brewers’ Association, only four percent of the country’s head brewers are women, and even fewer breweries, nationwide, are women-owned.

As a woman in this industry for over 10 years, I've faced tougher expectations than my male counterparts due to my gender as well as for holding a leadership position at a young age. When older men treat me like a daughter or take my opinion lightly, I laugh to myself and then work that much harder to accomplish whatever goal needs to be met. On the upside, I’ve found encountering resistance often leads to a breakthrough. When I get frustrated, I dig in deep and look for a better way of overcoming the challenge. For me, this leads to new business ventures, new partners, and new chapters in life. I remind myself that even though I may be discouraged, if I can just turn the corner, the next big thing is on the horizon.

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Photo of Jessica Fierro, winner of Season 2 of BEERLAND.

My advice to ambitious young women in the beer industry is simple: go for it. Being competitive should be a reflection of your relationship with yourself: a drive to get better, to achieve more. Don’t compare yourself to other women, and don’t compare yourself to men, either. Focus on your own ambitions and you may find yourself breaking barriers in the industry by just doing what you love. That’s what these women have done: They’ve paved their own unique roads to entrepreneurship through their creative thinking, beer savvy, and hard work.

Jenn Litz-Kirk, Journalist

Jenn Litz-Kirk is the executive editor of Beer Business Daily and Craft Business Daily, and one of the first beer writers I met back in my Oskar Blues days. She and I go back: She was living in Texas when we were opening Golden Road, and she flew out to LA to be there. If Litz-Kirk thought LA needed a great craft brewery, I felt like we must be on the right track. I’m a fan of her writing, but more than that, a fan of her commitment to digging deep; just try using PR-firm talking points with her—she’ll see through the fluff. In her position as executive editor she oversees content for the source I trust most for insight into the beer industry. I admire her integrity and her fierce commitment to doing her job as well as she possibly can.

Crystal and Tara Luxmore, The Beer Sisters

I met Crystal and Tara Luxmore through BEERLAND; they’re brewers, sisters, moms, and storytellers with an infectious love of beer —in no small part because they eschew technical “flavor notes” in favor of pure passion. With their popular woman-led tasting events, the Beer Sisters are showing people that home-brewing is not a men-only pursuit—in fact it’s far from it. They’re also not afraid to be vocal about real issues affecting women in the industry. On their blog, they’re tackling conversations about issues like sexism and mindful drinking. And unfettered honesty about the craft beer industry aside, as subject matter experts on all things beer, they dismantle the tired idea that only men care about beer.

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Their work fights the perception that men get all the hobbies, the leisure time, and the garage, while women have to work around the clock if they want to have both families and home-brewing jobs.

"Dating back to the birth of beer, in cultures around the world, women were the original brewers."

"Dating back to the birth of beer, in cultures around the world, women were the original brewers. That's because it was ‘women's work,’ and it was only when the craft was industrialized that men took over the occupation” Crystal explains. “So we're really passionate about sparking a love for making and tasting beer among more women—especially in light of the complexity of flavors and styles that craft brewers are creating.”

Beerland host Meg Gil meets with the Beer Sisters.

Kate Greiner, Shot Caller

Katy Greiner is the national beer coordinator at Kroger. She delivers over $1.9 billion in sales and oversees over 2,000 retail stores. Greiner’s main objective has been making Kroger a beer destination— to give people the variety and quality they're looking for. While it was a Bells Two Hearted Ale that started her on her craft beer journey, these days Greiner has a more inclusive view stating that her favorite beer is “the one in my hand.” A tough buyer, Greiner is always pushing brewers to innovate with purpose—and to support their brands in creative ways that will reach her customer base. On top of everything else, I believe she has one of the best palettes in the industry. “Being underestimated can be advantageous,” Greiner notes. “When you’ve got a seat at the table, it’s easier to be heard. Even if you have to make a point or two to get them to listen.”

Rebecca Sandidge, Co-Founder Queers Makin' Beers

Rebecca Sandidge, co-founder of Queers Makin’ Beers, is a leader in Kolsch-style homebrewing. Sandidge’s Kolsch will make you think you’re in Cologne, Germany – so fresh and crisp, but brewed right in the heart of Berkeley, California. Queers Makin’ Beers is the kind of project the beer industry has long needed. Part activism, part community building, QMB offers free brewing education and equipment to the Oakland queer community to “address the need for greater diversity of culture and perspective within the brewing industry.” I’ve been impressed by how seamlessly they tackle so many misconceptions about what brewing is “supposed” to be. One of QMB’s goals is to bring newcomers into brewing. Therefore, when they stage brewing competitions, a beginner must be a part of each team – encouraging brewers to recruit new, thirsty talent to their group. “Exposure destroys ignorance. Queer or not, we all have the same love for a great beer,” explains Sandidge. “If that great beer was made by a knowledgeable, talented queer, that’s a fabulous starting point for important conversations that lead to the understanding and camaraderie society needs. But we already knew beer brings people together.”

This list includes only a few of the many women leading the beer industry at large— and it’s clear to me that many more are soon to come. It’s important that we continue lifting up these voices, encouraging young women, and having a really tasty time along the way.