Beer celebrates women in the brewing industry

Tapoa Nelson has always been interested in science. But she never imagined she could apply her interest in biology and chemistry to a career brewing beer.But that’s just what she’s doing. Nelson, 22, of Iowa City, has spent the last four months working as a brewer at Big Grover Brewery in Solon.She’s one of just a handful of women working in Iowa’s craft beer industry despite the field seeing explosive growth over the last few years.Eight women in the industry gathered March 8 at Court Avenue Brewing in Des Moines to create a collaboration brew organized by the Pink Boots Society, an international association of women in the beer industry.They’ll untap their “United Red Ale” April 18 at different breweries around the state, including Millstream Brewing Company in Amana. A portion of the money from sale of the ale will go toward scholarships for women to advance in the beer industry.The women at the brewing session included three brewery owners, two brewers, three women who working in marketing for the beer industry and one home-brewing enthusiast.Eight women isn’t many, but it’s a bigger cohort than Millstream Brewing Company owner Teresa Albert had when she took over as owner of the Amana brewery 15 years ago.At the time, she was aware of just one other woman working as a brewery owner and no professional female brewers. Of course, at the time there were less than 10 total breweries in the state. Now there are over 50 breweries in Iowa with more opening all the time. Still, men vastly outnumber women in Iowa’s beer industry.That’s where the Pink Boots Society comes in. With more than than 1,800 members worldwide, this is the second year the society has organized a collaboration brew day. Participants at 80 chapters in 11 countries brewed their own version of the red ale.”The society is encouraging women in the brewing industry, connecting them to role models in a non-traditional field for women,” says Albert. “We just want to support and raise awareness for women in more non-traditional roles.”Nelson is glad the organization exists.”Not to be harsh, but the majority of brewers are men. There’s that man-to-man camaraderie,” she says. “There are lots of barriers as far as access and respect.” She says she has never felt disrespected, but she often encounters disbelief when she tells people what she does.”A lot of people have the idea of the brewer being a bearded man. I’m an African American woman. That bearded man is not me,” she says. “I think just knowing there are women in the industry is a huge thing.”She says she got involved almost by accident.After visiting Big Grove, she commented she’d like to come out some time and see them brewing. She was intrigued by the process and soon was coming out weekly to help brew. That led to an offer of a full-time job.”It is the perfect time for me to start this career, and that’s what I’m doing,” she says. “I love the idea of making something with my hands and having a finished product I can be proud of. I am very confident this is a field women belong in.”Albert agrees.”It’s just a great field,” she says. “I’m just as well received as the next guy. I’ve never seen a woman being shunned in the industry because she’s female. We do it because we want to. And it’s exciting to think that’s possible.”WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOWThe Pink Book Society’s 2015 Collaboration Brew is United Red Ale. A medium bodied, easy drinking beer with a rich malt flavor, this hoppy red ale has a light, earthy, floral aroma.United Red Ale will be on tap while supplies last at Millstream Brewing Company, 835 48th Ave., Amana, beginning Saturday.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *