Women comprise 30 percent of beer-company employees.
  • Women comprise 30 percent of beer-company employees.
  • Mike Johnson/festpics.com
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San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer has designated June 3rd Pink Boots Society Day in San Diego, marking the tenth anniversary of the nonprofit's mission to encourage the professional advancement of women within the brewing industry.

Pink Boots Society came about when Teri Fahrendorf left her brewmaster position with Oregon-based Steelhead Brewery in 2007 and embarked on a gypsy brewing tour of the U.S. While visiting breweries around the country — donning a pair of pink work boots — she encountered many female brewers who were inspired by her nearly two decades making award-winning beer; one of those women was Laura Ulrich, at Stone Brewing.

Stone Brewing Liberty Station

2816 Historic Decatur Road #116, Liberty Station

"We started talking, and I said, 'I didn't know there were other women who did this!'" Ulrich recalls. At the time, Ulrich had just been promoted, having worked her way up from the bottling line to become Stone's first female brewer. She says Fahrendorf accrued a list of 60 working female brewers in the nation and brought three dozen together for Pink Boots' first meeting.

Ten years later, Ulrich serves as small-batch brewer for Stone and as the current president of Pink Boots Society. She says the organization now counts more than 1200 members, representing 49 chapters across the U.S. and in a growing list of countries including Spain, Japan, and Australia. Along with female brewers, membership includes women in brewery roles ranging from ownership to management, public relations, distribution, and service. San Diego represents the largest chapter, with 159 members.

Through fundraising and sponsor support, Pink Boots promotes beer education among its members, to improve opportunities for growth within the industry. "That's kind of what we're known for," explains Ulrich. "We're dedicated to helping women advance their careers." The group awards scholarships for cicerone courses, the business of beer program at SDSU, a hops school in Yakima, Washington, and advanced-brewer training at Chicago's vaunted Siebel Institute. "You need to have a strong educational background to get to the next level."

A June 2nd conference at the Lafayette Hotel adds another educational component, bringing together 250 female beer professionals to attend speeches and panels presented by women who have acquired expertise in every aspect of the beer business.

Ulrich says adding the proliferation of breweries across the U.S. has given women a greater stake in what has for decades been a male-dominated field.

Stone Brewing Liberty Station

2816 Historic Decatur Road #116, Liberty Station

A June 3rd beer festival to be held at Liberty Station's Ingram Plaza features three dozen breweries, many of which employ female brewers. While the growing representation of women is worthy of celebration, Ulrich looks forward to a time when the nonprofit no longer serves a purpose. "There's still a need for Pink Boots,," she says, "even though our goal is that someday there won't be."

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