When breweries or craft beer bars celebrate a major anniversary, they tend to do it with a special release, maybe a few new beers, sometimes involving a collaboration with close friends.
But for Pink Boots Society Australia, turning ten has seen them go rather bigger, celebrating with no less than ten brew days across the country throughout the year. This Saturday (Nov 12), the last of those is taking place at Thirsty Crow in Wagga Wagga, with the Australian chapter’s president, Tiffany Waldron, in attendance.
Tif says given the work that goes into organising each brew day, which include guest speakers and gifts for the attendees, it’s been major undertaking for the not-for-profit organisation, particularly brew day coordinator Lucy Shorrock.
“Ten was pretty ambitious,” Tif says. “But I'm not really a pessimist. So, I pretty much went, ‘Of course, we could that – no problem!’.”
Beyond the milestone, the year-long celebration has felt particularly important given how rare travel and industry events were during 2020 and 2021; each collaboration has been a reminder of how many more women and non-binary people are now working within the industry since Pink Boots launched here. Tif says even in Melbourne where she lives, there were a lot of people present at the brew day she’d never met before.
“One of the things that we reflected on was at the Bodriggy brew day in Melbourne, was how we needed to go around and introduce ourselves at the beginning of the day,” she says.
“It’s a really good place to start the day when you don't know everybody and you're just meeting them.”
Those introductions speak to the size of the organisation now: nearly 200 people have attended brew days across the year, which have taken place in every state and territory except for the Northern Territory. As a society, Pink Boot has gone beyond supporting and providing educational and networking opportunities for members of the beer industry, expanding to include women and non-binary people in all fermented beverage industries. Meanwhile, the very first of the 2022 collaborations was held at Brogan’s Way Distillery in Melbourne, which made it the world's first gin creation collaboration.
The Australian chapter officially launched during Good Beer Week in 2012, although prior to that there was a Women of Beer event at the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival in March 2011 that featured Kirrily Waldhorn, Jayne Lewis, Karen Golding, Nardia McGrath, Beth Walkenhorst and Sam Fuss. After an introduction to Pink Boots Society’s founder, Teri Fahrendorf, the not-for-profit was set up here, just five years after it launched in America.
Today, it’s the largest single chapter of Pink Boots anywhere in the world and, while countries like America do break different regions into separate chapters, given there are millions more people in California than in all of Australia it’s a significant achievement. Having been involved with Pink Boots since it launched in Australia – initially as a self-described "terrible secretary" – Tif says their own growth is thanks to the commitment of members.
“We’ve been pretty good at organising ourselves and just kind of getting done what needed to get done,” she says.
“We’re here to support people's careers for education, so there are all these opportunities to help people get a step up across the board.”
Beyond providing the chance to network, the brew days are central to helping the not-for-profit succeed, with Tif saying it's their main fundraising tool. That money in turn goes to supporting education, for example through book packs members can apply for, and the opportunity to attend the likes of BrewCon, the Institute of Brewing & Distilling Convention or judging.
“All the money that we raise goes right back to members,” Tif says. “We turn that right back around and it goes into creating new scholarships and opportunities.”
So, even though this year is a milestone, there's plenty excited the team for 2023, not least the return of major conferences and plans to send members to visit hop fields.
“I'm excited to go back to providing the opportunities to go to the conferences, because it's the best way to network," she says, "and that’s leading to new jobs and opportunities at work.”
With the final brew day upon us, we thought we'd reflect on the first ten years of Pink Boots Australia by asking the three people who have run it about their time leading the chapter, their highlights, and their hopes for women and non-binary members of the beer industry.
- Jayne Lewis – Two Birds co-founder and the inaugural President of Pink Boots Society Australia from its inception until 2017.
- Alli MacDonald – head brewer at Malt Shovel Brewery and President from 2017 until 2020.
- Tif Waldron – Brand Manager at Beer Fans (which doesn't quite capture Tif's many important roles in the craft beer industry over the last decade) and President since 2020.
For you, what is the most important function Pink Boots?
Jayne: It was a support thing for me. There weren't particularly many women in the industry at the time so understanding that we could all have each other's backs and just be there for each other was just the simplest thought in my mind.
Tif: When Jayne started the Pink Boots chapter, one thing she often spoke about was how the intention of Pink Boots was for it to not need to exist anymore. As in, let's get our industry and our members to a place where there's not a need for an organisation to support the women+ who work in beer. And as our membership grew and the inclusion of other fermented beverages was added to our remit - this is still important.
But, oh man, it really does feel like a battle that's not ready to end after the past year. So there are a few functions that I believe are the most important for us. First of all, the networking aspect of meeting women+ who may face similar challenges is a great way to just find support and feel like you're not alone. And second, the scholarships and opportunities we offer to our local members have been driven by our members' needs and feedback. So being able to deliver on leadership training, technical training and mentorship are what I hope will continue to grow our industry and our members' careers.
What was your personal Pink Boots highlight during your tenure?
Jayne: I think simply having something like that exist in Australia was really important and so that’s definitely the single highlight. The second one is just really seeing it grow, the evolution of being able to give it away was huge and recognizing something other than what I could give it, that there was another generation.
There are a whole lot of people who are really excited by it and being able to go ‘OK cool; you take the baton you run with it.'
Alli: I have so many highlights that it’s hard to limit it to just one. One of my personal aims during my tenure was to connect women and build a network. So many times when I was talking to new members who had just discovered Pink Boots I would repeatedly hear the phrase ‘I thought I was the only one’. I wanted to not hear this phrase again, I wanted women to know that they had a support network willing and waiting for them to join. We actively promoted Pink Boots and grew our membership significantly along with the number of events that were held across numerous states with some states participating for the first time.
I concluded my final year by successfully negotiating a formal agreement with Pink Boots Head Quarters in America. This was huge achievement as Australia is the largest international chapter and needed a framework to be able to work within while managing different legal requirements in the two different countries. This process took well over 12 months to negotiate and finalise.
Tif: That's never an easy one to answer! I've had the chance to meet some incredible women from around the world through Pink Boots and learn from them - and I think that's always going to be one of the greatest things about being part of this international organisation. But as President, being able to create a mentorship program to support members looking to learn from others in the industry was a big one - and I'm really, really excited about what the team is doing to create visible pathways into beer judging for women+, as my experiences with this have been less than ideal and building a way to upskill members is something I've always wanted to offer.
What's something you think has changed for the positive in the beer industry over the last decade?
Jayne: The visibility and the greater pervasiveness of women in the industry. It's much more common, it's much less of a novelty and there are so many females doing such fucking awesome stuff as well. So it’s the sheer growth in numbers, the engagement and it's pretty cool to see the presence of females in our industry are punching well above their weight.
Alli: One thing that has really stuck with me was a Facebook post from a couple of years ago from a bottle shop. They had asked their followers to nominate breweries that had a female brewer as they were looking at putting together a curated six-pack for International Women’s Day. The responses seemed never ending as people nominated brewers and breweries from far and wide. It showed me that we have definitely moved on from the days when you could count the number of female brewers in Australia on a single hand
Tif: So much! But in some ways so little at the same time. I think in Australia specifically, we have had the benefit of those who've trailblazed before us - Jayne and Tina and Sam and Kirrily and Karen and Nardia - who took the brunt of the challenges being the first women brewing, working in science and working as the faces of craft beer here.
From a consumer standpoint, craft beer has certainly seen a shift. I remember a decade being constantly questioned by bar staff about what I was ordering, but I see a lot more women+ in craft beer bars now and even then, we're still looking at an overall 17 percent of beer drinkers in Australia identify as women; that leaves a crazy huge amount of the market we're not selling to. But what the last year has taught us more than anything is that there's a long way to go. There's still a massive amount of misogyny and sexism and racism, ableism and general lack of diversity in the workplaces of Pink Boots members. Not only have I dealt with these instances, but I hear from others about it happening too.
What's something you hope to see change in the beer industry in the future, whether that is a Pink Boots initiative or otherwise?
Jayne: Tif and I always said, the day Pink Boots doesn’t need to exist would be important. Or for it to reach a point where it's where it is just a support network and where there's no feeling of being part of a minority.
I would love Pink Boots to be redundant because I think that is a point where we will have reached that equality where people feel like they have an equal voice and equal say, and where there isn't a feeling of any type of inequality. The ideal thing with Pink Boots is for it to be just an awesome place to hang out with awesome chicks that, you know, doesn't have anything underlying it that is actually required to support them.
Alli: Not so much a change but rather a continuation of those courageous conversations started by Brienne Allan. As a whole industry, we need to keep having these conversations and calling out unacceptable behaviour, we need to keep championing diversity in all its forms, we need to call out bias and still strive for equality, we need to create safe spaces for everyone to be part of this industry, we need to see more female representation on boards and in senior leadership levels.
Tif: This is a follow-up from the last answer - knowing how much misogyny, sexism and racism there is still in our industry - what I'd like to see for the beer industry in the future is to see more women and people of colour not only stepping into our world but leading it. There's a real lack of diversity when it comes to leadership in the beer industry, and I think as it continues to grow, this will only become more apparent and more of a problem. With so much research around increased success for businesses with diverse leadership and I'm talking about increased profits up to 10 percent here.
It's still quite mind-blowing how few women there are in senior roles in breweries - and wineries and distilleries I'm sure too. I'd like to see a lot more role models for our members to see where their careers in beer can take them.
The Wagga Wagga leg of the year-long celebration is more than just a brewday, with the Thirsty Crow also hosting a tasting session and party following the actual work. If you'd like to take part in any part of the day, tickets and details are available here.
You can read our coverage of the conversations started by Brienne Allan, sexism and sexual assault in the local beer industry by heading here.
- If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, family or domestic violence, call 1800 RESPECT (188 737 732), the national sexual assault, domestic family violence counselling service. You can visit the RESPECT website here. The organisation recommends using their website in private browsing mode.
- You can also call the Sexual Assault Crisis Line on 1800 806 292.
- A list of state- and territory-based support organisations can be found on the Australian Human Rights Commission website here.