This month as we celebrate the contributions women have made to craft beer, let’s just not raise a pint, but the voices, of a group of coworkers who are actively working to bring more women and nonbinary people into the industry.
“If you want to make world class beer, you need to bring in a diverse workforce,” said Shawn, who’s the lead brewer at our downtown Kalamazoo brewery. “You can’t just make one type of beer with one outlook on something.”
Shawn is a member of the Pink Boots Society, an international nonprofit organization that aims to empower and support women and nonbinary people in the brewing industry. It offers networking opportunities as well as scholarships and grants to further education in the fermented arts.
On International Women’s Day (March 8), Century Strong, a Lemon Hefeweizen will be tapped at the Eccentric Café. Brewed by Shawn and other Bell’s Pink Boots members, the beer’s name is a nod to the ratification of the 19th Amendment which gave some women the power to vote – it’s important to note that many women of color were kept from the polls for decades to come and systems are still in place that attempt to suppress historically marginalized populations at the polls.
Proceeds from the beer will go to both the local and national chapter of Pink Boots to help further educational and scholarship opportunities.
“I like to share resources as much as I can and help maybe lead them in the right direction,” Shawn added. “We have a lot of resources at Bell’s, so if I can provide those to anyone that needs them, I would be glad to do that. You can never stop learning in this industry.”
Shawn first became involved with Pink Boots five years ago.
“When Bell’s said they would pay the dues, I was like ‘OK, hell yeah, I want to join this organization — these scholarships are badass!’” Shawn said. “It’s really cool to work with other women in the industry, network and try to bring more people in who are going to school to go into the industry.”
Now, Shawn is the on the chapter’s executive team and is joined by Morgan, a microbiologist, and Deidre, a brewer, two Bell’s coworkers who are passionate about helping others get into or stay in the industry.
“I enjoy supporting and networking with women and non-binary folks in the industry,” said Morgan, the brewery’s microbiologist.
Shawn added: “We hope to give women and nonbinary people the tools they need so they don’t feel left behind.”
Courtney Simmons, Bell’s DEI director, said our grassroots involvement shows the need for historically underrepresented groups of people to have a place to get to know one another.
“This is a way to invest in women in the industry and build community in new ways,” Courtney said. “We can take what we’ve learned from an organization like Pink Boots and bring it back to Bell’s, as well as share the work we’ve done here with them.”
And brews like Century Strong can be one of the ways a group like Pink Boots can locally begin to make craft beer more inclusive and representative.
“It’s what we do,” Courtney said. “We can tell a different story when we brew beers that reflect the priorities, preferences, and experiences of people in our industry that have previously been left behind.”
The West Michigan Chapter of the Pink Boots’ Society has several educational opportunities throughout the year. Learn more about the organization on their Facebook page. Century Strong, a Lemon Hefeweizen, will be tapped at the Eccentric Café on March 8.