Grains & Grit: Maine’s Women in Beer
Moderation Brewing sits unassumingly on Main Street in Brunswick. If you weren’t looking for it, you’d likely miss it driving towards the Frank J. Wood Bridge on Route 201 from Bowdoin College. I paid the brewery a visit during off-hours to meet a demographic that is sometimes overlooked in the world of brewing – women. Female brewers and brew aficionados have had a meaningful impact in the craft landscape here in Maine, and the Pink Boots Society offers them an opportunity for intellectual advancement, networking, and a place to share their passion in the world of beer.
“Being in a space that is dedicated to women is uplifting,” she remarked, gesturing to her compatriots seated around the brewery. More than a dozen women had filtered into the room at this point and were socializing prior to business. The room buzzed with salutations and chatter as more joined the meeting.
Emery got her start in beer in Minneapolis after initially choosing a career path in microbiology, and then, psychology. However, homebrewing became her gateway to pursue beer as more than a hobby. She joined the Pink Boots Society in Minneapolis after a career pivot and she cites the organization as being “genuinely open to exchange of thought and ideas.” The opportunity to share both physical and mental space with these women grants her a venue to express her ideas more openly.
The membership meeting rotates venues and the hosts at Moderation Brewing poured a few of their favorite offerings, highlighting their unique house strain of kviek-fermented beers (a Norwegian strain of yeast noted for unique ester production and fast fermentation time). Some of the women in attendance brought some offerings of their breweries to share, get notes on, and enjoy during the social moments of the meeting. Mattie Larsen, co-owner of Moderation, led a discussion on kviek yeast and how to manage it. Looking around the room, it was obvious how invested these ladies were in their craft. They occupy various positions in the industry from sales, to quality control, to the brewing process itself. Every part of the industry seems to be represented in the room.
Heather Holland, co-leader of the Maine Pink Boots Society chapter, has recently opened Outland Farm Brewery in downtown Pittsfield. However, before she put her hands on a mash paddle, or her nose in a glass of porter, she has assumed the reins of the organization with the help of Dani Coons, formerly of Lone Pine Brewing.
“As long as 25 percent of your income comes from somewhere in the beer industry, you can be a part of Pink Boots Society,” she said. Holland got her start with her husband, Mike, many years ago in Connecticut when they fabricated electronic control systems for brewhouses. That experience qualified her for PBS membership, and since then, she has helped to revitalize the local Maine chapter and inspire a new generation of women who are passionate about beer. Getting women involved in the organization and helping it flourish is a primary driver behind the events that have been taking place all over Maine. A series of collaboration brews with women from hosts of different brewhouses are served locally with the proceeds going to the PBS. And with a larger membership comes benefits. “The access to scholarships is enormous,” she emphasized.
The onset this year of the novel coronavirus waylaid many of the release plans for the Pink Boots Society collaboration brews. All 10 collaboration beers were produced, but the capstone event to release them as planned in Portland was canceled in an effort to stem the spread of the virus. However, many were released to the general public through May while supplies lasted such as Bissell Brothers Brewing’s “One Little Stone” or Oxbow’s “Hexen.” The organization stands very much at the ready to welcome new membership and help enrich the lives of women in the craft beer industry even during this trying time. I’m sure next year you’ll see a renewed motivation in the women that make the beer industry in Maine so impressive.
— Text: Matthew Brown. Matthew is a resident of Portland, a Certified Cicerone®, an avid homebrewer, and financial planner.