by Charlene Williams
What do you get when you gather over 200 women who have turned their passion for craft beer into careers? The Biennial Pink Boots Society Conference in Austin, Texas.
The Pink Boots Society is an organization made up of women who work in the craft beer industry. The group supports education and inclusiveness and this conference was the perfect example of their mission. The conference is an opportunity to network, learn more about the industry (and, specifically, about judging craft beer quality) and simply feeling the love and support of fellow members.
This year at the Pink Boots Society Conference, women from across the world who carry the title of brewers, brewery owners, sales representatives, marketers, as well as brand developers and ambassadors joined together to learn about a wide variety of topics and issues pertaining to the brewing industry.
The conference kicked off January 17, at The Brewtorium with a meet and greet. This event was a great, relaxing way to break the ice for the first-timers and served as a reunion for those who had previously met. It didn’t take long to see that this was going to be a great weekend and the initial social meet-up (you know, with beer) certainly helped to set the tone for the following day’s events.
Day one began with the keynote delivered by Julia Herz. Herz is the craft beer program director for the Brewers Association. She covered industry statistics and trends, told the story of how she started her journey in craft beer and what it’s like to not only dream of your “beertopia” but to manifest what it is you want from this industry.
Herz keynote was followed up by the Siebel Institute of Off-Flavors session. This was a fun one! Caroline Parnin from Lallemand Brewing taught attendees to recognize off-flavors—factors such as DMS (dimethyl sulfide), diacetyl, trans-2-noneal papery, and infection—and what causes them in beer. Some people pick up on these flavors easily—I have a sensitive palate and could pick them up instantly—while others may have to work a little harder to detect the problems in the test brews.
While the conference’s primary focus was to educate attendees on topics ranging from social media to cellaring, there was an underlying theme that resonated through the event: Inclusion.
This theme helped to lay the groundwork for a really special session: “Diversity and Inclusion: Growing Your Brewery,” led by Christie Merandino from Transport Brewery.
Pink Boots is in no way a radical feminist movement within the craft beer industry. We celebrate women and the accomplishments we’ve made in our field of work, but the most important part of what we did here was discuss the importance of making this industry a place where all feel welcomed and included, regardless of sex, race, religion or for that matter, species—dogs were a hot topic.
Friday’s sessions transitioned nicely into more technical and business-focused tracks on Saturday. The closing keynote was given by Teri Fahrendorf, the founder of the organization, and chairwoman of the Pink Boots Society Board.
The final event, of course, was a huge bottle share hosted by Hop Culture.
I returned to Jackson around noon utterly exhausted, but with a full cup. The memories I made in Austin will always stay with me. Visiting area breweries, eating great Texas food, and having some fun conversations with locals made me feel right at home.
It is difficult to put into words how incredible this conference was or how wonderful the women in this organization are. I learned valuable information, made fantastic connections, and created friendships that I hope will last a lifetime.
The craft beer industry is evolving, the future is female, and I am so lucky to be a part of it.