AUBURN — Craft beer is often seen as a boys' club. But Thursday, about 20 women gathered at an Auburn brewery in solidarity with sisters around the world to assert that it's not.
Being International Women's Day, Thursday was designated Pink Boots Collaboration Brew Day by the Pink Boots Society. The international nonprofit promotes women in the beer industry and the day did the same, coordinating women's brewing events in 46 states and 10 countries. One took place at Prison City Pub & Brewery, whose co-owner Dawn Schulz is a member of the society.
"It is for sure a white male-driven industry right now, but it originated with women," she said. "Women were traditionally the brewers. If you look back at the history, it all started with women."
The women who brewed at Prison City included members of the industry as well as the Auburn chapter of Girls Pint Out, a national women's craft beer community, which Schulz formed last year.
Pink Boots gave each brewing site a specific hop blend: Simcoe, Citra, Mosaic, Loral and Palisade. But what beer they made with those hops was up to the sites, Schulz said. The Prison City group chose a pink grapefruit IPA that the women named Beauty School Dropout. It will be on tap at Prison City in early April, Schulz said, and proceeds will support scholarships for Pink Boots members.
The day began at about 9 a.m. with mashing the malt, the first part of the brewing process. Prison City staff then led the women on a tour of the State Street facility and taught them the basics of brewing, from the steps in the process to the grains, hops and grapefruits they were using. Later, the Pink Boots group members sliced, peeled and juiced the fruit before adding it to the tank.
With a four-course beer pairing lunch and a tasting at Thirsty Pug Craft Beer Market, the Pink Boots Collaboration Brew Day also strengthened the local women's craft beer community, Schulz said. Jacki Hannon, of Baldwinsville, who works as the craft beer, wine and spirits manager for Eagle Beverage in the central New York area, values that communal aspect of the industry.
The brew day also highlights the locality of breweries like Prison City, Hannon added.
"Having a local brewery with these guys and knowing this is a global day is really connecting everything here in Auburn, New York, to the country and worldwide," she said.
Also attending the brew day was Amy Ellsworth, of Naples. A sales representative for the Hershey, Pennsylvania-based Tröegs Independent Brewing, Ellsworth also has more than 10,000 followers on her Instagram account, @thecraftbeergirl. She said the Pink Boots event educates some women about the craft beer industry as much as it promotes others' role in it.
"There's more and more people interested in the process. More and more people visiting breweries, seeing the actual equipment," Ellsworth said. "I think it goes back to the local food movement. People like knowing how it's made, where the ingredients are coming from and who their dollars are supporting."