Since 2013, the international organization Pink Boots Society has been advocating for a stronger female presence in the field of craft beer by providing encouragement, education and scholarships to women in the brewing industry. One of the first members of the Central Coast Chapter was Laurie Matthews, general manager of Island Brewing Company (IBC). For the last three years, IBC has created a collaboration Pink Boots Brew. Society members create a signature blend of hops at the Great American Beer Festival and a portion of sales of that hops benefits the society. This year the hops generated $117,807.
IBC’s 2020 Pink Boots Brew is “Worlds Gone Wild,” a hoppy pale ale clocking in at 5.6 percent abv and 25 IBUs. IBC cellarman Jamie Perkins helped with this year’s collaboration brew. Perkins started home brewing in 2017 and fell in love with the process. She joined IBC as a bartender in 2018, but within a year she transitioned into a position assisting with brews before being promoted to fulltime cellarman.
“I like how creative it can be,” said Perkins. “It’s hard work and lots and lots of learning. People always want to talk about brewing because it sounds exciting but getting in and doing it is a lot of work, but there’s a creative part and that’s where it gets fun.”
Perkins hopes to one day have her own brewery, but she says that will take time. “It depends how quickly you learn and the opportunities you have,” she said, “It takes money, time and a solid staff is also really important.” While Perkins acknowledged that it’s a predominantly male centered career, she noted that the number of women in brewing is going up and that she hasn’t experienced any obstacles based on her gender. “I don’t know how it is in other breweries but for me working at IBC, it’s been like any other job as long as you put in the work,” she said. “Beer and the drinking atmosphere bring people together, there’s no fear or judgement.”
“My daughter Laurie was one of the very first women brewers to join the Pink Boots Society,” said Paul Wright, owner of IBC. “We’ve always tried to support the society because its important: we need good people in brewing. After Laurie, Jamie is the first woman we’ve had brewing at IBC. We’ll have people a day or two, but Jamie really wanted to do it and talked it up a lot. That’s what you’re looking for. It’s competitive work sometimes and everybody brings their own perspective.”
Brewing beer is physically demanding work that can be a hurdle for all people, not just women, said IBC head brewer Ryan Morrill. “I have had several male applicants and or employees who have decided to leave due to the physically demanding nature of brewing,” he said. “It takes the right personality to want to make beer. Our industry is very male dominated. At any brewing conference I have attended, especially when I started out 10 years ago, the majority of the participants have been male. This has somewhat changed over the years, but it is definitely not 50/50.”
But Morill also noted women brewers are gaining presence in the industry with female brewers at Enegren Brewing, Casa Agria, M. Special and Inglewood’s female founded Three Weavers.