Assist, inspire, and encourage are the three words used to describe the goals of the Pink Boots Society (PBS). Based in Warrenton, Ore., this major beer organization has one paid employee. All of its 1,800 members in 76 chapters across eight countries are women or women-identifying beer professionals.
The Pink Boots Society connects female members of the industry through online forums, chapter meetings, fundraisers, and brew days. But its main focus is education, according to Laura Ulrich, Pink Boots Society president.
“We want women to be able to advance their careers through education,” she says. Ulrich is also small batch brewer at Stone Brewing in San Diego, where she has worked in a variety of roles over the last 14 years.
And Pink Boots is succeeding — the number of scholarships awarded to members is increasing each year. In the last few months, these have included an Oregon State University Beer Quality & Analysis Scholarship, awarded in March to Jocelyn Havel of San Leandro, Calif.’s 21st Amendment Brewery; the Cicerone BeerSavvy® scholarship, awarded in February to Brooke Franus of Stewards of Beer in Pittsburgh, Pa.; and the Siebel World Brewing Academy Concise Course in Brewing Technology scholarship, awarded in January to Jennifer (Jenna) Munoz of the Brew Lab in Kansas City, Kan.
All PBS members are eligible to apply, and winners are selected by the PBS Scholarship Selection Committee on a monthly or more frequent basis.
To become a Pink Boots Society member, applicants must hold an income-earning role in the beer industry, which isn’t exclusive to brewers, Ulrich says. At the Society’s first-ever meeting at the Craft Brewers Conference in San Diego in 2008, “the vote was unanimous that we wanted to be inclusive and have anybody that had an income from beer be a part of the Pink Boots Society,” Ulrich says. This means brewers, marketers, taproom servers, and yes, even writers like this author, are welcome.
From the Bootstraps
PBS was founded in 2007 by Teri Fahrendorf, one of the country’s first female brewmasters. At the time, Fahrendorf had most recently served as brewmaster at Steelhead Brewing Co. in Eugene, Ore.
“Teri decided she was going to quit her job and go on this epic beer tour and visit breweries across the country,” Ulrich says. On her journey, she met Ulrich at Stone. “I had no idea that there were female brewers out there,” Ulrich says. “It kind of solidified that women did this as a career.” It also signified the need for a community.
With a list of 60 female brewers whom she’d met along her five-month journey to 71 breweries, Fahrendorf started the Pink Boots Society. The name was inspired by another women’s group, the Red Hat Society.
At the time of the Pink Boots Society’s first meeting in 2008, 22 women were in attendance. At this year’s Craft Brewers Conference, held April 30 to May 3 in Nashville, 130 PBS members signed up — a sixfold increase in 10 years.
Raising the Bar
Another major facet of the Pink Boots Society is its fundraising events. The biggest is the International Women’s Brew Day, held on or around March 8, to commemorate International Women’s Day. Chapters around the world brew a Pink Boots Brew based on a certain theme. For 2018, the recipe had to include a special Pink Boots hop blend, created in partnership with YCH Hops. The blend included Mosaic, Palisades, Laurel, Citra, and Simcoe hops.
“It’s been such a huge hit, everybody’s been raving about it. We’re doing it again at [the Great American Beer Festival] in 2018,” Ulrich says.
The brew wasn’t only tasty — it also generated the largest donation Pink Boots has ever received. For every pound of the hop blend purchased by brewers, $3 was donated to the Pink Boots Society, totaling $38,000.
“The rate that Pink Boots is growing, the leaps and bounds that we’re making, is pretty impressive and rather incredible,” Ulrich says. “I’ve got a strong group of women that … put in a lot of volunteer hours, and they do it all because they care about the Society, they care about helping women. That’s all what it comes down to, is having another woman’s back and supporting each other.”
Photo: Alyssa Powers, Jenn Savage, Ellie Keneman, Kayla Garcia, Caitlin Cobb, Allie Hardy, Kiersten Winant, Jessica Jennett, Emma Dowling, Amanda Finkelstein, Molly Brooks, Nikki Camacho, Lexi Russell; Kelly Lohrmeyer, YCH Hops; and Trishia Gasseling, Gasseling Ranches Inc. pose at International Women’s Brew Day 2018 at Karl Strauss Brewing in San Diego.