Hops and hopes: Female brewers toast Women's Day

Female brewers worldwide are raising a stein to International Women's Day.

Thousands of women in the beer business and female homebrewers are brewing together around the event, which falls on Thursday, seeing it as a way to raise the profile of women in a male-dominated industry.

"There's a spot for everybody in brewing and especially in learning about brewing," said Emily Engdahl, executive director of the Pink Boots Society, a U.S. nonprofit that supports women in the brewing industry. "It's important we all help each other."

British brewer Sophie de Ronde began encouraging women to brew together on March 8 five years ago to promote female brewers and beer drinkers, and to draw others in.

It has grown globally, with about 160 breweries, homebrew clubs and other beer lovers in 12 countries hosting a free International Women's Collaboration Brew Day this year. The theme is exotic ingredients. They call their beer "Unite ."

The Pink Boots Society used to collaborate with de Ronde but now runs its own event to raise money for educational scholarships for its members and to comply with rules for nonprofits. More than 200 breweries are participating in the society's collaboration brew day, which is up from 115 last year.

Seeing the number of women getting involved is heartwarming, said de Ronde, head brewer at Burnt Mill Brewery in Suffolk, England.

"Having the unity of people brewing on the same day is wonderful," she said. "But having people get involved, no matter what the day is, is what the whole event is about, really."

The women's day brewing events are complementary, Engdahl said.

"It's a natural way for us to get together, share ideas and have a creative collaboration," she said. "And who doesn't want to make a beer that tastes great?"

Black Pond Brews in Danielson, Connecticut, hosted homebrewers and beer enthusiasts on Sunday for a Pink Boots event.

The industry benefits from bringing in more people with different ideas, said co-owner Mike Teed.

"It's dominated by white men. There's no question about it," he said. "Any way we can encourage any and all diversity, it's going to be better for all of us."

Studies in recent years have found that women hold about a quarter of brewery jobs in the United States.

About 20 people attended the Connecticut event. Shannon Jutras, president of the Quiet Corner Homebrew Club, said she is encouraging more women to brew as a hobby, which could eventually lead to more women seeking jobs in the industry and shattering the stereotype that it's a manual job for men only.

"To have a room full of women, all eager and interested, who were developing a little bit of confidence to maybe try this independently, was not just exciting for me, it was a little emotional," she said. "It was the first time we've gotten that many women in the room."

Most of the breweries working with Pink Boots are in the United States, with 40 events in California alone and about 25 more in Massachusetts. There are participants in nine other countries, with the most in Canada and Brazil.

They're using a blend of hops created for the brew day to make various beer styles. Both women and men, Pink Boots members and nonmembers, can brew for the day. Many events take place Thursday.