When imagining a craft brewer, a bearded man sporting flannel and a beer belly might come to mind. The female brewers at Goose Island Beer Co. want to change that perception by highlighting the work of women in the brewing industry.
That’s why 15 women gathered together Thursday to brew a beer in honor of International Women’s Day — dancing, drinking and blasting music from a female empowerment playlist as they went through the brewing process at Goose Island’s Fulton Street Brewery & Taproom.
“For me, being in the industry, there are so many incredible women that I know are in all facets of that, whether it’s brewing, sales or management — and there’s a lot more out there; it just doesn’t seem to be the perception of people who are not necessarily in the industry,” said Diana Rodriguez, a Goose Island brewer.
The beer is named “Women of the House” in honor of the record-breaking number of women elected to office in 2018 and will be released on tap at Goose Island’s West Town taproom March 8.
In August, it will be released to the market in cans — just in time for the centennial celebration of the 19th Amendment’s passage.
This is the third year Goose Island has brewed a beer in honor of International Women’s Day.
When the idea of brewing a women-inspired beer first came up, women from several local breweries were invited to work on the beer’s recipe; “Women of the House” was the first recipe they came up with together.
“I thought it’d be a great opportunity for us to do something as a group, just to get together and brew beer like we do every day,” Alison Christen, a brewer who’s been involved from the start.
The women who showed up to brew Feb. 13 were primarily from Goose Island, though women from Buffalo Wild Wings and Rhine Hall Distillery lent a hand as well.
The beer is a Guava Wheat pale ale, Rodriguez said, and will leave drinkers with a creamy mouthfeel. It has three hops — Belma, Meridian and Southern Passion — which bring various fruity flavors to the drink.
The beer’s sales will go to Women Unite!, a women-led nonprofit that provides services for under resourced women’s charities.
“All the money will go to women,” said Liz Jansen, executive director of Women Unite. “Just sort of standing in solidarity with them and these amazing women who are these trailblazers in their field — we’re really excited to be a part of that.”
The “boys club” facade of the brewing industry might make it challenging for women to break through.
“I can’t tell you how many events I’ve poured beer at and people just assume that you don’t know anything or that you’re just there to pour beer,” said Liz Kimbrell, a production manager at Goose Island who participated in the brewing event.
“...The automatic assumption is that if someone turns to somebody else that is a gentleman, that clearly they’re going to explain the beer more than you,” she added.
Industry experts suggest the number of women in brewing has nothing to do with disinterest in the craft.
At the Chicago’s Siebel Institute, the oldest brewing school in the Americas, roughly 15 percent of students are women, said Christian Von der Heide, the institute’s CEO. Female involvement has been steadily rising for the past four years, he said.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily hard to get [women] involved; I think there are perceptual barriers,” Von der Heide said. “Depending on the type of craft brewery, many are physically engaging and someone might perceive it’s too hard to lift.”
The manual labor aspect of brewing is a concern Christen considered before entering the industry — and one that almost stopped her from trying.
“Before I started, I was like, ‘I don’t know if I can do this job,’” she said. “At times, you’re lifting a hundred pounds over your head. I created that as a personal barrier.”
Brewing requires long hours, heavy lifting and deals with dangerous chemicals, Christen said. Over time, she discovered that the job is tough — but that’s true regardless of gender.
To her, celebrating women in brewing is about creating more visibility in their field.
“When you see a 5-foot-2 woman doing the job, you recognize that probably anybody could do it, you know — anybody could get the job done if they’re determined as well.”