National conference in Austin encourages more women to brew beer

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — The number of women in the brewing industry has been growing in recent years as craft breweries take off, but a national group with a chapter in Austin would still like to see more women represented in the industry.

The Pink Boots Society, made up of women who brew, market and sell beer, is in Austin this weekend for its biannual conference. Following a reception Thursday night, it will include panels, classes, and presentations for women in the industry to improve their craft and expand their skillsets.

The group is where Meike Rossman found a community. “There was already brewers there, already owners there,” she said.

Rossman, now the head brewer at Blue Owl Brewing in east Austin, started her beer journey a few years ago while in the process of building a career in another field, computer science. 

“Did that for a couple years, wasn’t for me. I left and just plunged into beer as much as I could,” she said.

She’s now responsible for coming up with new recipes and maintaining and tweaking the old ones, combining her science background with a love of working with her hands to create the sour brews her employer is known for.

Blue Owl is good about hiring women (after all, it was co-founded by a woman), she said, but the industry as a whole can do better.

“As we have more representation, more people will be able to put themselves in the shoes of a craft brewer,” Rossman said.

Laura Christie, head of the Austin chapter and owner of Hopsimath Beer Education, told KXAN the number of women working in the central Texas craft beer scene is improving, but a lot of the representation exists on the business and marketing side.

As the craft beer audience becomes increasingly female, she said, behind-the-scenes needs to reflect that diversity.

“I do think that Austin needs a lot more women involved on the production side,” Christie said.

The Pink Boots Society exists in part to encourage women to seek those opportunities, and in part to build a community for women in beer that they might not have in their workplaces.

“There was a thread recently on our group Facebook page about what bra to wear while working,” Christie said. “That’s kind of hard to have that conversation with your male coworkers.”

Rossman’s been head brewer at Blue Owl for about a year now, she said, one of a few women in lead brewing roles at Austin craft beer makers. As women continue to seek out brewery positions, she believes, it’ll lead to a more diverse industry that reflects the beer-drinking public.

“The more we see different people in different roles,” she said, “the easier it’ll be for other people to come up into those roles.”

The weekend conference is sold out, but anyone interested in learning more and meeting some of the women shaping the country’s brewing scene can do so at an open reception at Oskar Blues Brewery on Friday night.

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