MISSOULA - When beer was first being brewed, it was women who led the industry. But over the past generations, they’ve slowly been pushed out of the industry.
Pink Boots Society is an international non-profit organization that is working to bring women back to the front lines of the brewing industry.
They offer memberships to women and non-binary people in the alcohol fermenting business.
“So in the craft beer industry, fermented alcoholic industry, men are still 70% of the workforce, and I think it's really easy for women to feel overwhelmed or not heard,” Jessie Mazur, commercial photographer and chair for the Montana chapter of Pink Boots Society, says.
Founded in 2007, the Pink Boots Society has dozens of chapters in the United States and others in different countries.
Members are required to be a part of the professional alcohol fermentation industry, including cider, beer and even kombucha, but they accept volunteers and co-op participants in the field as well.
Members have access to a myriad of seminars and educational resources, plus a global network of support from women and non-binary fermenting professionals.
“To have a support community, to educate and inspire each other, support each other, is really huge for women in this industry,” Mazur says.
They also offer scholarships to members to receive further education, including obtaining a cicerone license– the equivalent of a sommelier for beer.
Secretary for the Montana Pink Boots chapter, Sara Killeen, owns the Montana Craft Beer Connection magazine, which tells the stories of local breweries, shares science and new ideas and provides education on everything beer.
She sees firsthand the effect women have on the brewing industry.
“Women in this industry, specifically in Montana, have been a huge inspiration to me. We are a smaller group compared to our cis-male counterparts. But we're very strong and we're very independent,” she says. “Having an organization like Pink Boots gives me that space to connect with others that share my story, you know– share the story of being a female in the alcohol industry… has been really great.”
In Montana, Pink Boots Society hosts ‘tap takeover’ events, where they feature several beers that are either brewed by women or donate some of the proceeds to Pink Boots Society.
Most recently, they held an event at The Dram Shop and crafted a ‘Pink Boots Society flight’ for folks to try.
They also host several regional events each year. In March, for example, they had a weekend-long seminar in Butte, where they toured old distilleries and learned the history of Montana brewing.
The women also listened to several guest speakers on personal development and self-confidence.
From her three years as a Pink Boots member and now her work as chair, Mazur says she has seen positive change for women in the industry.
“I think the changes that I've noticed since I've been a member of Pink Boots is that women are getting a lot more confident in speaking their mind,” she says. “Women are more able to bring their intelligence and their expertise to the table and not have to apologize for it. You know, we're out here saying like ‘hey, I am an expert in this field. I am an expert in my craft, in my art, and I know what I'm doing’.”
The aim of the organization is to overall improve the entire alcohol fermentation industry by introducing different perspectives and ideas.
“ I think, you know, allowing more voices always gives more options, you know, it helps us branch out, try new things, see different ways,” Killeen says. “I think the more we can include that, the more this industry is just going to grow and become bigger and better. It's an art form. So, you know, when we can veer off the beaten path. I think that's really neat."
People can support Pink Boots in Montana by donating on their national website and by looking to try Pink Boots beers when they come to local taprooms. Those who would like to join the organization can find membership information at the same place.
Information on upcoming events in Montana can be found on their Facebook page.