The beer industry is going through some much-needed changes to become less sexist, and these changes are being facilitated by hard-working women in the field. Due to a long history of promoting items to men and male demographics that need not be explained here, women have been pushed out of many industries, like that of beer, yet these same industries capitalize on images of women and slogans that belittle them.
Women like Jaega Wise, the head brewer at London’s Wild Card Brewery, are leading the fight against this type of sexism in the industry by calling for bans on many brands that utilize risqué names and offensive images. She believes that a way to aid this fight is by regulating the branding allowed to enter brewing competitions and banning those that do not comply with certain standards.
“This would quite quickly stop brewers deciding to have branding with boobs, if they were actively banned from competitions,” says Wise.
Beer writer Melissa Cole says she has experienced a different kind of sexism in the industry. She claims that in her 20s, when she first began her career as a freelance writer, she attended a brewing event where she was groped by a male attendee. The shame she felt has stuck with her for years.
“We were in conversation and he just reached out and grabbed my boob. When I said ‘what are you doing?’ he went ‘Oh, I’m a silly old man’ and ran off,” said Cole.
Most women in the industry say that they regularly have to defend themselves against sexist behavior, and some brewers refuse to join social media to avoid sexist comments and other abuse. Carla Prats Bernabeu, who works at a craft beer bar in London, says that she is often mocked at her own job by people who cannot comprehend her knowledge of beer. This is sadly the case for many other female brewers.
Due to the backlash, some beer conferences and festivals have passed motions that ensure no one will be offended by any of the proceedings at the event, including beer labels, names, and conduct. Rachel Auty has taken this idea a step further, creating the festival Women on Tap, which originally began as a singular festival to focus on women in the industry.
“I was coming across more breweries with beer brewed by a woman or where there was a strong female influence. Not only were more women drinking beer but there were a lot of women behind the scenes and I wondered how many people actually realized that,” says Auty.
Due to its immediate success, Women on Tap is now an organization that hosts social events, pop-up events, and collaborations with industry personnel who share the same vision and values.
“I wanted to create something in a town I believe punches above its weight in term of great beer and bars that highlights the valuable contribution women are making to beer today. It’s about changing the perception that the beer industry is a man’s world,” say the founders of Women on Tap.
According to alcohol historian Jane Peyton, women were the first producers of beer, since beer was considered food and food preparation was the domain of females. However, by the mid-20th century, beer was assigned a different gender. It’s time women take back beer, and thanks to people like Rachel Auty and Jaega Wise, the balance is slowly being restored.
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