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When women are out-numbered, as we are in the beer industry, it’s pretty awesome how we build each other up rather than tear each other down & long may that continue. Today in the beer world, on International Women’s Day, we also celebrate International Women’s Collaborative Brew Day which is all about women getting together in the industry & brewing, learning from each other & supporting one another. The beer industry is lovely like that.
In my plan I’d hoped that by the time that March the 8th rolled around that I would be able to invite some beery ladies to my awesome new brewery, however we’re still in my garage. And it’s cramped. So it’s just me. Rookie error.
But as this is the first year I’ve ever even heard about this awesome event as I’m new to the industry, it will certainly not be the last event I will take place in, host or jump on the bandwagon of. Thank god for social media as it’d be a pretty lonely day otherwise haha!
Here I am, the less documented female half of our business & not so beardy brewer, Luci.
My background is marketing & business. This means that naturally in our business, I take on these roles, whilst my husband & brewer husband Mike takes on the brewing.
But not on International Women’s Day!
I’ll be brewing a kumquat Berliner Weisse. For those of you that don’t know a Berliner Weisse is a traditional German sour beer, which we will add a specific yeast culture, lactobacillus, to the brew, to increase the acidity to emphasise the sour notes on your palate.
I love sour beers & have been reading Michael Tonsmier’s American Sour Beers for a few months now (chemistry isn’t much of strong point so for me it has been a slow read!!!).
I wanted to use kumquats as they sound pretty fascinating and they felt like they fit the “Unite Exotic” theme. They are the only citrus fruit that you eat the skin of as the juice is sour & it’s actually the skin that brings the sweetness, so I’ll be using both post fermentation (in 2-3 weeks time). It’s been hard to gauge the amount of kumquats to put in to the get right balance of acidity and sweetness out of the beer & I’ve realised that developing recipes for beer isn’t quite as easy as Mike makes it look.
Personally, I love sours that turn your mouth inside out, which is what I want this to be.
We plan to release this batch, but the beauty of brewing on a 100L kit in your garage is that we can learn & develop without killing the bank balance. It won’t be released if it doesn’t taste how we want, for duty reasons, it will be destroyed (argh!). I think it may need a complementary ingredient, but until I brew it & taste it, I won’t know so I’ll have to wait and see (well this is how I’m dealing with it anyway as an inexperienced brewer).
It’s such a catchy name. #sarcasm
There are a lot of meanings to this name for me really. I wanted something that combined some hint to the provenance of kumquats and the International Women’s Day sentiment.
Kumquats originated from southern China – and the name “kumquat” derived from Cantonese, where it means golden orange. The kumquats I’m using are actually sourced from farms from the south of Sicily and, the influence of a Berliner Weisse style of beer is of course German & I’m using Munich wheat beer yeast. So it’s a mixture of Asian (APAC) and European (EMEA) influences. It’s the beauty of an international world – inspiration from everywhere.
The VP element is a reference to the lack of women within executive roles within companies, which as we are brewing on International Women’s Day felt important to talk about (as it should every day of the year in all honesty!). The proportion of women that hold boardroom roles is currently 22.8%, with certain FTSE 100 companies not even having a single woman on their executive committees. Elements like that are never going to help encourage more women to seek these roles, or result in forward-thinking decisions that help support women in the workplace. It is utterly ridiculous when you think about it. Female VPs shouldn’t be the exception, they should be the norm, however the number of boards with equal numbers of men and women are less than 4% in the UK currently.
Finally, it’s bit of a joke- to “pre-beer me”. Having left the corporate world with companies that had job roles of “VP of EMEA & APAC” (Vice President of Europe, the Middle East & Africa and Asia Pacific), there I was, trying to make sure my shellac polish was perfect and my stilettos were on. It was one big competition. It didn’t really suit me, but I was determined to make it work and smash some glass ceilings along the way.
Now, I am so happy to be outside of the corporate world and delighting to be in the friendly beer world instead, with comfy shoes & often unpainted nails. I just wish I was surrounded by more women. I really hate it when people assume because I’m a woman I can’t lift a 25kg bag of malt or a keg of beer. Or that I don’t play darts or computer games.. okay I won’t get started on the things I hate now.
Don’t get me wrong, of course I will still indulge in my polish, fake tan & my false eyelashes, but now it’s for me, not anyone else.
My life has changed, my goals have changed & I’ve probably changed. And I’m okay with that.
I love the idea of a collaborative female brew day. It’s pretty telling that I know plenty of male brewers and no female ones brewing on a commercial scale. I know “of them” of course from lots of social media stalking but none personally, & that’s a bit odd surely?
Also, it’s important to me, because the amount of sexism in the beer industry is staggeringly ridiculous! The previous 3 industries I’ve worked in have been completely different, I’ve had female bosses pretty much the whole of my career and worked for female managing directors. I’ve always been surrounded by strong women. Coming in to the beer industry I was astounded that we were still in the 1950s in so many respects.
With amount of abuse in the hospitality & bar industry as a whole, and with the #metoo movement happening in tandem, it really feels like things are gaining momentum, and the more we do to shout about women, strong women, working women, fed up women in every industry, the more chance we have of making a permanent difference.
On a separate & less impassioned note, I wanted to brew because I want to increase my knowledge of this area of our business, which as co-founder, I feel is important. Previously I’ve helped Mike as a brewer’s assistant, cleaning, weighing etc. but this pushed me to decide to lead my own brew.
I like the fact that I will see this beer through to the end, from writing the recipe, brewing it, packaging it, writing about it, recording it on our accounts & eventually delivering it. You don’t often get to do that in a business, so for me, that’s pretty cool.
I will never have the all devoting passion that he has for it though & we have to divide & conquer on our skill sets as business owners. It just makes sense sadly, although I have loved brewing & still love cleaning out the mash tun. It’s certainly more interesting than doing the accounts anyway.
I hope so. I certainly don’t want to be stuck as the only woman in my own company, and have zero intention of that happening!
I really want there to be, but I worry, especially in Reading, we’d be in a situation where our pool to recruit from would be limited. I really want to try and get involved at an earlier stage with younger people to educate them about brewing & beer as a career path & to engage a diverse range of people into STEM subjects overall. I’m not sure how I’m going to do it yet, but it’s something on my mind for the future.
Realistically, there are huge problems with gender stereotyping that stem from birth to the boardroom. There are antiquated views on gender left, right and centre. The issues within the beer industry are part of a much wider problem. This stupid shit is rife everywhere, in every industry. The fight is huge.
But that does not mean we should let it slide, every small change we make will help along the way & educate, often naïve people, about why it’s seen as a problem. We are doing this for future generations, so they can look back and laugh & look agog at our archaic ways.
Any industry without diversity, be that through gender, religion, age, race, family backgrounds or sexual preference, will be less creative, less balanced & more narrow minded.
So here’s to proactively creating change, for those who identify as women & for everyone.
More details on the release of “VP of EMEA & APAC” can be found here.
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