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PULSEBREW: APRIL 2022

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SHANNON JUTRAS

Two young brewers examining glass of fresh beer after preparation and discussing its characterstics while man writing them down in workshop

Dear Drinkers,

We have had the opportunity to become better acquainted through this long winter, and I would like to extend my gratitude to you. Thank you for taking the time to read my musings about beer, whether celebrating an award-winning sour, delighting in cozy stouts, or honoring the glory of a shower brewskies. 

Today I want to talk to you about something that means even more to me. Something that motivates me each day I rise at dawn, pull on my waterproof boots and climb the steps to the brewhouse: Leveling the playing field for every person who loves beer. 

Craft beer has a diversity problem. According to the Brewer’s Association, 93% of breweries are white-owned. Barely 3% are entirely woman-owned. Percentages are even lower for black and indigenous ownership. Meanwhile, the craft beer consumer represents increasingly diverse demographics and a socially aware customer base. There are many innovative, courageous people trying to make a difference in this landscape. Fortunately for us, one approach includes making really good beer.

Global collaboration beers are an increasingly popular way to galvanize around an issue. Two or more breweries join forces to develop a beer shared worldwide. Some provide a recipe template for breweries to follow, others, a special ingredient like the Pink Boots hop blend. Proceeds are donated to support the cause. 

Recent collaborations include “All Together” IPA, an initiative by Other Half to show solidarity with the hospitality industry in the early days of COVID lockdowns. “Black is Beautiful”, a stout recipe by Weathered Souls Brewing, raised funds and awareness for racial injustice. The global collabration, “Brave Noise” Pale Ale, emerged right here in Massachusetts to address discrimination and encourage breweries to commit to inclusivity and transparency in their workplaces.  

Before all of these, there were Pink Boots collaboration brews, which you can find popping up all over Massachusetts right now, on the heels of International Women’s Day. The Pink Boots Society focuses on education to assist, inspire, and encourage women and non-binary people working in the fermented beverage industry.

Local releases include River Styx’s Chardonnay barrel-aged “Athena”, a 5% sour ale featuring strawberry and champagne available in Fitchburg. Thirsty Robot (also in Fitchburg) and Timberyard Brewing (my stomping grounds) in East Brookfield are slated to release Pink Boots brews this spring. Currently on tap in Worcester is Redemption Rock’s “Spare Us”, a Rye Pale Ale challenging industry professionals to move past empty gestures and address the institutional issues that reinforce patriarchal values in craft beer. Keep an eye out for more Pink Boots releases as the days get warmer.

Finally, even though brewery social media feeds may be temporarily filled with images of women and underrepresented people, please take heed of this solemn reminder. Even when we work in a positive environment with people who champion and support them (and I do), we are never completely insulated from harassment or discrimination, never promised credit for our labor. No matter how experienced, educated, powerful, or renowned an underrepresented person is, there will always be someone – a vendor, customer, associate – questioning our experience, education, power, or worth. Even when we pour our energy and talent into something, even when our contributions are undeniable, someone might deny them. 

The real work of dismantling prejudice and harassment is ongoing. It requires all of our support. Fighting for recognition for underrepresented people’s efforts and worth isn’t a thing we get to do once. For me personally, it can feel like just another day as a woman in beer. These challenges can be relentless.

But. So. Are. We.

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