State Fair: Panel Highlights Women in the Craft Beer Industry

Women in Beer panel at the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild exhibit at the Minnesota State Fair. Photo: KSTP/Ben Rodgers
Women in Beer panel at the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild exhibit at the Minnesota State Fair.

August 30, 2017 07:11 PM

The Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild exhibit at the State Fair helps promote the industry's growing presence within the state.

On Tuesday, a panel discussion at the guild's exhibit highlighted women in the industry, and the next steps needed to keep that momentum going.

Dangerous Man Brewing Co. Taproom Manager Maggie Pears said when she first entered the craft brewery scene in Minneapolis, a majority of women working at breweries were volunteers.

"As I've been here for over six years now, I have seen breweries incorporate more women into their staffs and hire amazing women, whom I've become amazing friends with," Pears said.

Sarah Meyer, the Twin Cities sales representative for Bent Paddle Brewing Co., said she feels female ownership of brewing companies — like Bent Paddle, which is owned 50 percent by women — has helped pave the way for women in what is sometimes seen as a male-dominated field.

"I'm lucky to have a lot of strong, supportive women," she said. "The dudes that work in this industry are also supportive of us as well."

Pears said one area of the industry lacking female involvement is brewing and production.

"That's where I think we are lacking some mentors and role models, though there are some fantastic ones," she said.

Meyers agreed with Pears' insight, saying there are plenty of jobs in the production portion of the business, but that women aren't applying.

"Any women that are interested in doing something like that, just apply," she said. "Do what you can because there is a lot of opportunity that isn't being taken advantage of."

She added: "As long as you know what you're talking about, and you're talented and capable of doing your job, that's all that matters."

Abby Ferri, who trains brewers and breweries in safety, said continuing to push STEM careers could help encourage women into more production roles in breweries.

"It's a STEM career just like any other production, manufacturing or industrial environment," Ferri said. "But it's kind of the best one, because how cool is it to say you work at a brewery?"

The panel also discussed how craft beer is moving away from packaging and marketing products specifically for women. Meyer's said by producing beverages that focus towards a certain gender, many companies are alienating certain markets, such as women who drink craft beer and men.

"It's a niche market that is never going to sustain," she said.

Some women on the panel argued such conversations aren't needed due to an even playing field in the industry and that it may mislead people to believe there is a divide in the industry.

Amanda Buhman, with the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild, said she agrees. However, such a panel can continue to encourage women towards the craft beer industry.

"There are so many opportunities, and it's such a growing industry," she said. "There are so many roles available and I do think that is important to message."

The Minensota Craft Brewers Guild exhibit is in the agriculture building. The guild hosts two educational sessions per day during the fair.
 

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Ben Rodgers

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