Women and Craft Beer - It's Not Just a Guy Thing

A side effect of the continuous development of more choices and different flavors in craft beer has led more women to become interested in what has been a male-dominated industry — both as consumers and industry professionals. It's a trend that has not passed Houston by. 

Sour, fruit-flavored and herbal/spiced beers are preferred more by women than men. In addition, women ages 21-34 consume craft beer above the national average and represent 15 percent of total consumption, according to a Nielsen survey from May 2016. Local breweries are able to produce small batches of beer in flavors and styles that were not previously available on a large scale.

"Women, particularly young women, are being brought into the craft for a variety of reasons. First and foremost is flavor. The variety of flavors offered by craft breweries means that there are lots of choices, no matter your preference," says Bart Watson, chief economist for the Brewers Association, an industry group for craft brewers. 

According to the Brewers Association, Texas ranks seventh in the nation with more than 200 craft breweries. The Houston area alone has close to 20 breweries, with new ones opening at a rapid rate. 

In Houston, organizations such as the Pink Boots Society and Girls Pint Out encourage women to take active roles in the beer industry. Girls Pint Out — with chapters in Houston and Spring/Woodlands — works to build a community of women who love craft beer and are an active part of the greater craft beer community. Jennifer Keon, head of the Spring/Woodlands chapter, says beer has always been a part of her life. She started the chapter "with the hope of bringing women who like craft beer together to sample and enjoy what the greater Houston-area beer community is producing."

Women are also home brewers, brewmasters and CEOs of their own companies. The Stanford University research team of Dr. Sarah Soule and Dr. Shelley Correll found that out of 2,536 breweries surveyed, 21 percent (543) had at least one female founder, CEO or head brewer. In Houston and surrounding areas, several craft breweries have women in various roles, from co-owner to brewer.
Fetching Lab is located on a four-acre plot of land in Alvin. Owners Brett Bray and Theresa Hutchings have been brewing there since February 2015. Hutchings acquired her love of brewing from Bray and has been home brewing for the past nine to ten years. As co-owner, Hutchings is involved in all aspects of the business, from heavy lifting to making mash to creating her own recipes. Her current favorite beer is the Bound and Determined Stout, which features chocolate, vanilla and chile peppers from her home state of New Mexico. This beer was the hands-down favorite in a brew-off between her and co-owner Bray.

Hutchings feels the only challenge for women in the industry is the hard work. "You must be willing to put in the physical labor. It's hard work lifting 50-pound bags of grain and sweating in 130 degree temps. It's not that women can't do it, but many might not want to." As for the craft beer community, Hutchings says she has felt welcomed and supported.

According to Hutchings, "Women are the consumers to watch out for. They are flocking to craft beer in a way they really didn't flock to big beer."
B-52 Brewing is a family-owned business in Conroe. Co-owner Jessica Daniel has had various roles in the company during the two years that B-52 has been open. She is currently in charge of sales, marketing and off-site events. Daniel was recently featured at the Brewmasters Craft Beer Festival as one of the event's "Brew Brains." She has also worked with the Houston chapter of Girls Pint Out to host a bottle share. She says that adding a female perspective can help the beer industry excel even further.

Daniel acknowledges that when it comes to craft beer, it's still very much a male-dominated industry and at times she does think she has to prove her knowledge about beer. However, concerning the craft community as a whole, Daniel says, "The craft beer community is extremely tight and very supportive. I definitely feel lucky to be involved in such an awesome industry."

Daniel, like most brewery owners, started out as a home brewer. She recently brewed a beer for Breast Cancer Awareness on B-52's 15-gallon pilot system. Pink cotton candy and raspberries were added to the mix to make a special pink blend. As for her favorite beer, she says it depends on the season. Right now she's pretty excited about the sour beer program and bourbon barreled beers currently available at B-52.
Husband and wife duo John and Kathryn Holler plan to open Holler Brewing later this fall in Houston's First Ward. Both home brewers since 2011, they made the decision to take a risk on something they were both passionate about and open a brewery. Holler says that it's a true partnership between her and her husband when it comes to the business. She lugs around grain, makes orders and conducts testing. They collaborate on all aspects of the business, including the recipes, half of which are ones she has developed.

Holler says the brewery scene has been very supportive, especially among other women in the industry. She does report a sense of casual sexism during public events. "Men will gravitate toward my husband at events when they have questions." As for the increase in women craft beer drinkers, Holler says, "Data trends show women as an emerging market. It's great that women are starting to enjoy beer more, and it's not just a manly drink." 

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Jamie Alvear is a local blogger and freelance writer for the Houston Press. She enjoys writing about the vibrant food and beverage scene that the city has to offer. Jamie is a native Houstonian, avid traveler, and wine aficionado. You can typically find her around town sipping on everything from cocktails to craft beer.