Pink Boots Society Wants Its Brewing Circle to Be Even More Inclusive
How the women-focused beer organization is thinking bigger after 2020.
For nearly 15 years, the Pink Boots Society has made it its mission to educate and encourage more women to work in the craft beer world. But this past year was one full of reckoning, and the group realized that its intentions weren’t inclusive enough.
“There used to be this tendency to point fingers at individual people or businesses as racist,” says Jen Jordan, president on behalf of the Pink Boots Society board of directors and a brewer at San Francisco’s Laughing Monk Brewing. “That still happens, but I think people are getting educated and understanding that looking internally is the way to go if you really want to make change.”
In the wake of the surging Black Lives Matter movement and AAPI community support, in tandem with continued revelations around the #MeToo movement, industries across the globe are tackling their own systemic inequities. Craft beer is no exception. Race- and gender-based discrimination accusations have erupted at prominent outposts like Founders, Boulevard, and Angry Orchard, prompting the Brewers Association to adopt its first ever Code of Conduct in August 2020.
Pink Boots Society, too, has taken a big picture approach by bringing on Crafted for All, an anti-racist consulting group that helps groups “develop inclusive, equitable, and just practices that drive organizational success, build communities, and empower individuals.” The partnership resulted in a multifaceted survey aimed at gaining a deeper understanding of the many complicated identities their base holds apart from simply being women in beer.
“We’ve been doing this work for 15 years focused on women but not the complete person, all the intersecting identities.”
“We’ve been doing this work for 15 years focused on women but not the complete person, all the intersecting identities,” says Jordan. “We never before asked about ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability status, age—anything like that. We only asked if they identified as a woman and where they worked or intended to work. It was almost as if it didn't matter, but we know now that it does. For example, I’m a queer woman, but I’m also white, and that grants me privilege in this industry that doesn't exist for others.”
The project also tackles the relationship between a member’s identity and their sense of belonging within the organization with questions addressing access to benefits, leadership aspirations, and whether they felt their contributions were being adequately recognized. The response rate was positive and the findings spotlighted some areas they hadn’t even realized needed specific attention.
“One of the things we got out of it is about reevaluating the language around our membership requirements to be more inclusive,” Jordan notes. “We made sure that our members know that you don't have to be cisgender to join. You can be trans, you can be nonbinary—the individual decides. Pink Boots Society has always been that way as far as I know, but if you don't say it out loud, if you don’t put it out there, then people wonder."
Other action items included adding new democratically elected board members to the roster. One such recruit, Highland Park Brewery assistant general manager Blanca Quintero, jumped at the opportunity to represent her Los Angeles-based chapter while voicing her concerns from an elevated standpoint.
“I think the organization took a hard look to ensure it was being as supportive as it could be while trying to put systems in place to not marginalize or exclude anyone,” Quintero says. “I saw areas where I could be of service helping address issues of inequity and inclusion, as well.”
The refreshed board has also been highlighting members of color on its blog, expanding membership to include women working in cider and other fermented beverages, and continuing to spur conversations about social justice within the brewing community on both a national and local level via Zoom check-ins with chapters from Albuquerque to Auckland. In the end, however, Jordan and the rest of her team acknowledge that the tide is just barely cresting when it comes to leveling the sudsy playing field.
“In 2007, Pink Boot Society was about showing that female brewers exist,” concludes Jordan. “When I think about what it is now and what it will be, it’s that all women have a place in the fermented alcohol beverage industry and deserve support in making it a more equitable and safe place for women to build a career and stay.”
Of course, this year has been different for other reasons, too. The annual Collaboration Brew Day surrounding International Women’s Day encourages members all over the world to come together at a local facility to cook up an original beer using the same proprietary hop blend. A percentage of the final beer’s sales gets funneled into Pink Boots Society’s scholarship programs. Of course, this year’s Collaboration Brew Day included Zoom brewing meetings and virtual events rather than the raucous social gatherings of yore.
But Jordan has no doubt that the work of Pink Boots Society is going to continue, in whatever form that means, for many years to come.
“One of the goals is to have the overall diversity of our organization be more diverse than the rest of the beer industry,” she says. “Pink Boots Society is not trying to look like a better organization. It’s about doing the work to be a better organization, and that’s ongoing. As soon as you think, ‘We got this,’ you actually don't, because that’s how real progress happens.”
To help them keep that progress going, support the cause by raising a glass to the fierce women and nonbinary folks behind your favorite beers with one of these 11 limited edition Collaboration Brew Day releases.
Los Angeles, California
“Más Chingona means Badass Woman in Spanish,” says Quintero. “I named the beer to be inclusive of not just women, but Latinas in beer. It’s a hazy West Coast IPA brewed with the Yakima Chief Hop blend and it came out bursting with bright citrus, tropical pineapple, and coconut notes.”
Named after the German translation for “pink boots,” Wisconsin’s richly historic Potosi Brewing Company teamed up with innovative distribution platform Brew Pipeline to bring this aptly named grapefruit-spiked wheat beer to market this month. Not only does the zippy, citrusy refresher taste delicious, but you can feel good drinking it knowing that $2 from every case sold goes directly to Pink Boots Society’s scholarship fund.
San Diego, California
As evidenced by this pioneering company’s novel contribution, Collaboration Brew Day products come in all styles, forms, and ABV levels, including zero. The booze-free Trailblazer is inspired by brewer Cara Wilson and features a lush stone fruit-, floral-laced hop bouquet balanced out by a crisp biscuity lager base.
Pink Boots Society’s newly-formed Alaska chapter is responsible for this stellar hazy pale ale. The crew added a hearty dose of Hawaiian hibiscus to the signature hop blend to conjure the brew’s tantalizing good looks and enticingly juicy aroma.
West Chester, Pennsylvania
An outlier among its markedly fruit-centric cohort, this Pennsylvania-born creation is anything but common. Dainty caramel dances with sturdy malt to evoke an approachable woodiness beneath the Pink Boots hop blend, which was incorporated as a dry-hop to awaken the palette with sharp, citrusy elegance.
Chicago’s immensely-populated chapter united to whip up this crowd-pleasing hoppy American wheat ale brewed with this year’s Pink Boots hop bill plus Country Malt and Omega yeast. It’s as naturally fruit-forward as it is smooth, with a soft, velvety body and dry, invigorating finish.
Brooklyn, New York
Essentially a spin on their uber-popular Superhero Sidekicks IPA, Brooklyn’s own KCBC kicked it up a notch with this haze-ridden stunner featuring Yakima Chief’s Pink Boots hop blend. A brilliant orange body leads the way, followed closely by an onslaught of passion fruit, lemon, candied orange, and a dash of sultry coconut to round things out.
San Diego, California
Venerable San Diego stunner Saint Archer presents this tart and hazy IPA, modeled after the classic tiki tipple the Painkiller and brewed with ample amounts of ripe pineapple, orange, and coconut. A sour base imbues a brisk acidity that plays beautifully with the Pink Boots hop blend and abundant tropical fruit notes and bewitching coconut fragrance.
This show-stopping southwestern Michigan cidery has done it again with their 2021 Collaboration Brew Day special, a dry-hopped masterpiece that utilizes this year’s Pink Boots hop blend to foment a rush of Hawaiian Punch-scented vibrance. Don’t let the cider classification deter you -- this juicy contender is tailor made for serious beer-lovers.
Belgian-style Saison, 6.3%
Sam Adams proves that the big boys can hold their own with this zinger of a Saison. The spring seasonal teems with herbaceous pink peppercorn, grapefruit zest, and clementine-infused orange peel while the Pink Boots hop blend provides thirst-quenching bitterness.
This effort from Canada’s finest is as pretty on the outside as it is on the inside, cloaked in a custom can design from decorated New York artist Amber Vittoria. The liquid, of course, lives up to the hype, inhabiting a graceful middle ground between fruity and floral with hints of elderflower and grapefruit layered throughout.