Women belonging to an organization called the Pink Boots Society came together around the world to brew beers March 8 – International Women’s Day. And for the first time, Durango was represented by its own chapter.
The mission of the Pink Boots Society is to assist, inspire and encourage women beer industry professionals to advance their careers through education. The brew day, which locally took place at Steamworks Brewing Co., was the first official event for Durango’s chapter.
“It is a society to promote women in the beer industry, whether you’re making it, selling it, growing the hops for it, the grain,” said Lauren Stock, one of the chapter co-leaders and a sales representative for alcohol distributor Republic National Distributing Co. “It’s there for networking, education. It’s a conglomerate of women supporting women in beer.”
Pink Boots assembleThe Pink Boots Society formed in 2007 when Teri Fahrendorf quit her job as brewmaster at Steelhead Brewing Co. in Eugene, Oregon, and went on a beer tour across the United States, said Laura Ulrich, the society’s national president, in a phone interview with The Durango Herald. During this trip, Fahrendorf met women at breweries who weren’t aware that other women made careers out of brewing, so she began a log.
“I had just been promoted to brewhouse right around this time,” Ulrich said. “And so brewing for me was relatively new, and I also didn’t know that women had done this for a living.”
At the end of the trip, Ulrich said, Fahrendorf concluded that there were only about 60 women in brewhouse positions throughout the entire world. She proposed starting an organization and called it the Pink Boots Society after the pink boots she wore on her trip that were gifted to her by her mother-in-law.
The society had its first meeting in 2008 at the Craft Brewers Conference in San Diego with 22 members. The women at that meeting decided that they didn’t just want to be a society for women in brewing but wanted to include anyone who made an income from beer.
Society membership is open to women who are:
actively employed and receiving 25 percent or more of their income from the beer industry or have retired after at least 15 years in the industry.in the process of opening a brewery, taproom, brewpub or other beer establishment.students enrolled in a beer industry-focused program.“We realized that there wasn’t a glass ceiling in brewing, but there was an educational component, so we wanted to start offering scholarships to women to help them advance their careers through education,” Ulrich said.
The group established its nonprofit status and started offering scholarships in 2013. Today, there are about 2,500 members at chapters around the world, she said. But the society isn’t resting – only about 10 percent of the beer industry workforce is women.
“Anything we can do to help make that number higher we’re all about,” she said.
Local bootsSteamworks Sales and Event Coordinator Susan Hupp, co-leader of the Durango chapter, was largely responsible for its formation.
“There are already four chapters in Colorado, but they’re all on the Front Range, so we saw an opportunity for the mountain regions and the Western Slope to be kind of included in that,” she said.
The Durango chapter is not just limited to women from Durango, said Ashley Trusler, society member and manager and bartender at Carver Brewing Co. “We have some from Pagosa, we have some from Bayfield. It’s a really good opportunity for all of us to get together and showcase our talents and our love for beer.”
Hupp estimated that there were about 15 Durango-area members after the brew day.
“We’d like to have kind of the whole region – to be able to do some of our educational meetings at Telluride Brewing Co. if people wanted to do the trip,” she said. “At the very least, just try to create a little bit more interest and understanding that this is out there for other chapters – like Grand Junction would be a great place to start another one.”
What’s it for?“The beer industry is kind of a men’s industry,” Hupp said. “So (the society is) just a way for women to be able to have a forum where they can sort of not be intimidated and be able to ask the questions and learn more about the beer industry and brewmaking.”
Members’ $45 annual dues go toward educational scholarships, taking members to beer conferences – the society has two annual national meetings – and seminars to advance their careers. Educational opportunities include sensory tastings, learning chemistry that goes into brewing, learning about the industry and marketing, tours of breweries and even picking hops, she said.
The Durango chapter’s first field trip will probably be to Pagosa Springs’ Riff Raff Brewing Co., Hupp said. The brewery is unique in the region because it uses geothermal heat from the town’s hot springs to heat its operations.