True Life: I’m a Female Homebrewer

by Katie Sloan | Updated: April 19, 2016

Cheers!

Cheers!

You don’t find a ton of women involved in homebrewing. And most of the ones you do find tend to be assistants in the home-brewery — not full on partners in crime.

I mean no offense by this. It’s simply an observation. I, on the other hand, as a woman, am very, VERY into the craft of brewing.

(Ask just about anyone who has had more than a five minute conversation with me).

Where did I get my start?

It all started about four years ago when I read an article in a free NYC street paper in which the first female Master Cicerone® was quoted. To this day she is still one of just two female Master Cicerones®.

The article was about what beers to drink that fall. I found the article interesting and inspiring. Drink and talk about beer for a living? I already do all of that for free!

I have always been a person who is interested in the offbeat (you should have seen some of my outfits in middle school!). I like to go against the grain, and being a female beer “expert” is definitely that.  My new career path, discovered!

So how does homebrewing work its way in? While beginning my studies (seriously studying versus all the casual “studying” via consumption I had been doing) I realized I had to learn how to make this wonderful beverage myself.

What better way to understand beer than by learning to make it? Homebrewing, here I come!

Enjoying a homebrew

Enjoying a homebrew

I will not sit here and claim to go it alone, my boyfriend Jon is my partner in crime, but I would like to think I am the driving force behind the operation. I think I am a brave soul, doing what few women do, but it does help having him around when I need to lift a 8G pot full of hot wort from my kitchen floor to my stove top. I admire the ladies out there that brew independently — I do know a few–but I have a partner in my home-brewery, my boyfriend Jon. We brew together usually a couple times a month.

To the ladies out there who haven’t made the leap from beer lover to beer brewer — that’s ok. It’s not for everyone.

I am sure you are great at and passionate about many other things. And your liver is probably in much better shape than mine!

Yet, I still find myself asking, why aren’t more women into it? I have been thinking about it recently and here is what I think:

Reasons ladies may not be into homebrewing:

  • Reason: Heavy lifting
  • My Response: Don’t I know it…
  • Reason: Looks like a boys’ club
  • My Response: It is, but fuck that —  it shouldn’t be. Women were the original brewers while the men were out “hunting” or whatever…
  • Reason: You don’t know enough about beer or what kind of beer you like
  • My Response: You get to learn while you brew! That’s half the fun!
  • Reason: It can be hard to find a friend to do it with. Let’s face it women like to do things together… Bathroom runs, coffee runs, long runs.
  • My Response: Make new friends! Read my advice below. Or, bribe your current friends with free booze, make something strong and (I hate to say it) maybe a little bit fruity, at least for the first batch.

Once you get past all that and become a female homebrewer, there are still some challenges. Here are the ones I have found and some solutions.

I am not always heard or noticed

When Jon and I go to events or meetings he is the one asked questions about our brews, over my head. (Literally over my head; he is tall, I am not)

I will be honest about our “working” relationship:Jon is the details guy, and I am more big picture. So, yes, he usually has the answers people are looking for. If I want to be part of the conversation I have to come in to meetings prepared with details of our brew, alpha acids, mash temps etc.

I can’t be shy. I have to speak up. And sometimes I have to “gently” remind Jon to (shut up and) let me get a word in

Men are there for boys’ night

They are! Not their fault. It’s how they are.

But sometimes I feel like an invader at meetings and events. All these men with their wedding bands, just looking to have a break from their wives and kids for one night… and here I am at their boys’ club meeting. (Yes, I am generalizing).

I don’t think any of them are actually bothered by me being there. IN fact, it’s interesting the number of times I talk to men about what they brew for their wives to placate them so they can own  a corner in the garage for brewing.

I am gonna be real: I am a girly girl. Yes, I dig beer and can passably discuss some types of sports, but beyond that, I have no interest in being a part of boys’ night

Homebrew club meetings are not the place to get on a soap box. I don’t go off spouting disappointment in their wives for not being involved (except sometimes “privately” to Jon when I have had a few).

You have to know what you’re going into, know your audience, and know the right places to push issues.

But at the same time advocate for yourself, don’t be shy, don’t let them treat you like some silly little girl, you are not! You are bold, brave and brilliant!

You are the maid/waitress

I have watched the same women pass out plastic cups for samples throughout my homebrew club years. These women have gone from regular members to essential roles in offices for the club. Yet they continue to pass out cups…

I am not saying they should not pass out the cups. All I am saying is I don’t see the guys in office positions jumping to pass out cups.

Same goes for setup and cleanup at events. No one is saying who should and shouldn’t help. All I am saying is who does this work does not go unnoticed by me. (Women, usually. Duh this is the subject)

Maybe we are just the neater sex. (In my household this is 100% not true). But that does not mean all these tasks should fall on us. My solution is to just ask Ask the guy next to you to help clean this table. To help pick up these cups. I think we might tend to be more assertive in these situations and a friendly reminder instead of internal irritation might be the way to make real change.

Despite these grievances, I still have a ton of fun homebrewing and I want to share this fun with other female friends.

So how do we get more women into homebrewing?

It’s not a conversion often overheard at local homebrew clubs and shops. I think we, as women, have to be a bit creative and promote it ourselves.

Mid boil selfie

Mid boil selfie

Here are a few of my ideas:

Tips for women starting in brewing:

  • Brew smaller batches to get a feel for it: 1-3 gallon batches are a great way to start
  • Use pumps: Less lifting and worry about spilling hot wort all over yourself
  • Strategic placement of equipment: Use gravity to your advantage, get appropriate length tubing, and don’t underestimate the power of siphoning
  • Brew in a bag – Another simple way to get started & minimize gear

Ideas on how to get more women involved in homebrewing:

  • Are you a woman brewer? Teach your friends!
  • Host a homebrew dinner: Women love food pairings. Also, most women don’t know what kind of beer they like because they are scared to ask, show them!
  • Promote the hobby to women centric events where and whenever possible, be it weekend brunch or office happy hour.

At the end of the day, the biggest lesson I have learned is that we as women need to work together to help promote greater participation in this crazy, male-dominated homebrew world. And if you’re still not into it, we can still run to the bathroom togethers long as you hold my pint while I pee!

Ladies, what are your ideas to bring more women into homebrewing?

Katie has a passion for all things beer. She worked at The Bronx Brewery as the Tasting Room supervisor and helped develop homebrew classes to be taught there. She came to homebrewing through the Cicerone® program. She is a Certified Cicerone® but does not plan on stopping there. She also has taken the BJCP exam. She teaches children’s dance classes in her spare time and used to be a professional dancer herself. Katie resides in NYC where she makes it work in her small apartment with plenty of help from her boyfriend Jon and the homebrewery cat Merlin.