This Sunday is International Women’s Day, a day to recognise how far we’ve come towards gender equality, and also how far we have left to go. When it comes to women and beer, challenges persist: the continuing need to increase the participation of women in beer as well as combating sexist marketing and sexist attitudes towards women.
The gender pay gap is another issue affecting women across all walks of life, one around which the Sparkke Change Beverage Company, founded and led by women, is looking to “sparkke” discussion this weekend; on Sunday, their Adelaide venue Sparkke at the Whitmore will discount drinks for women by 9.2 percent, a figure that “illustrates the gender pay gap between South Australian men and women in the workforce during the last financial year.”
While we shouldn't lose sight of these issues, the work that remains ahead to resolve them, or ongoing efforts to make the beer world more inclusive and increase the numbers of women in the industry and drinking and enjoying beer, International Women’s Day also provides an opportunity to reflect on women's contributions and to celebrate the awesome women who know, love, drink and make beer.
As Australia’s first female-owned brewery, IWD holds a special place in the hearts of Two Birds Brewing.
“International Women’s Day is like my Christmas. I’m often more excited for it than any other day of the year,” co-founder and head brewer Jayne Lewis says, adding: “I think celebrating the positivity and the contribution of women is the definitely the way to push forward.”
For Two Birds, their IWD beer, Warrior Woman – this year an XPA featuring Jayne's homegrown peaches that's hitting taps and fridges widely across Australia, is designed to recognise how the beer industry has the capacity to lead the way for equality. Originally conceived during a team workshop, Warrior Woman was first released in 2019 and was a hit with customers.
“Obviously, we loved it, and we had such great community buy-in and engagement with it last year that we decided to make it an annual thing,” Jayne says.
In Sydney, Young Henrys distiller Carla Daunton and brewer Michelle Hanrahan were keen to brew together and decided to make the occasion a beer for IWD. They brought the women of Young Henrys on board for every step of the process from development to design, sales and marketing of the beer, and held a brew day with everyone involved in the brewing process.
“We were pretty much given carte blanche to drive this and we were very keen to get women across Young Henrys involved. It all culminated in this amazing brew day where we all got our hands dirty which was great,” Carla says.
Their beer, Free the NEIPA, is a hazy IPA with bergamot. The name is a purposeful nod to the "Free the Nipple" movement, with Carla saying: “We’re really big supporters. We’re fully aware of the homage we’re paying and we are genuine in that.
"It’s not just tongue in cheek fun to make people giggle, it’s also to make them think.”
Canberra brewery BentSpoke have also created a beer for the day. Their IWD beer – Marion, an as yet unrevealed style that, like Warrior Woman, features the Pink Boots Hop Blend – pays respect to trailblazing women like Marion Mahony Griffin, the beer’s namesake: an architect responsible for helping shape much of the Australian capital.
Co-owner and brewer Tracy Margrain says: “International Women’s Day is a chance to celebrate all women who are out there forging ahead to create their own paths in their chosen careers, hopefully inspiring the next generation of women to do the same."
She says the beer "celebrates the lesser known contributions of women", adding: “We have a team of passionate women at BentSpoke and it was a chance for us all to get together and create something that celebrates our involvement in the industry.”
As Tracy alludes, the history of women in beer and their contributions to the brewing industry is both fascinating and complex. From once being the primary brewers to being virtually shut out of beer and brewing in favour of men, today we’re seeing a move back towards the middle – to a place with more equality in opportunities for women in beer.
“Representation of females across the board in the industry is so much healthier than I think we were five years ago, even two years ago,” Jayne says. “From our side of things [at Two Birds], we’ve been trying to make people aware that, yeah, women can make beer, and run the business, and do all that stuff and that it’s okay [for women] to drink beer as well.”
Tracy adds: “The tough part of being a woman in beer is dealing with people who still hold an outdated view that women don’t belong. I think there’s an assumption that beer and brewing is a male industry, but the reality is far from that now.
"If you look at any brewery's social posts or visit their breweries, there is a great representation of women in the industry.”
For Carla and Michelle, who’ve both been in the industry for around two years, their experiences of being women working in the beer industry and at Young Henrys in particular have been very positive.
“My first brewing gig was at Malt Shovel and that team and now the team at Young Henrys have just been so supportive and encouraging, and keen to get me as trained up and comfortable as possible,” Michelle says.
Carla adds: “I haven’t experienced negativity in this industry. I’ve experienced it in other male-dominated industries, but across those that I’ve witnessed it’s the most inclusive by far.”
The positive changes the beer industry towards gender equality and inclusivity are the result of concerted efforts over many years to welcome, encourage and support women in all roles within beer. The work may be far from done, but the future does look brighter for women in beer. So get your hands on an IWD beer and say cheers to all the amazing women out there.
Other IWD Releases
In addition to the beers and campaigns mentioned above, you can look out for:
- Jetty Road are tapping the Siduri Brut IPA at their Dromana venue this weekend. It was brewed by women from across the business: from sales, events, marketing, design, front of house and accounts (pictured at top of article). The beer was named "in honour of the wise female divinity associated with fermentation, Siduri."
- Hawkers last night launched St Hildegard V2.0 , a launch that included sale boss Mik Halse "performing" with Circus Oz (see below). The beer features the 2020 Yakima Chief Hops Pink Boots Society hop blend and is a 3.5 percent ABV session ale. A portion of the profits from sales will be donated to Circus Oz’s Strong Women Giving Circle.
- Gage Roads' IWD 2020 beer, Mandarin and Grapefruit Fresh Ale, was conceived by brewer Simone Clements. The beer celebrates the women of Gage Roads and highlights their contributions, drawing expertise from quality manager Clare Clouting, brand manager Bec Lauchlan and designer Sophie Osborn to bring the beer from conception through to market; the beer will be made available at ten select venues managed by women or hosting an IWD event.
- On March 13, Made With Moxie are hosting women from Modus Operandi, Sparkke and Hawkers for a free beer and cheese masterclass, Women In Beer, at WeWork in Melbourne's CBD.
You can read Marie Claire Jarratt's Big Issue feature on sexism in the beer world from May 2018 here, an article that contributed to her AIBA Beer Media win last year.