Even casual drinkers have to know that something's rotten in the state of craft beer. Between debating the merits of "indie" versus "craft" terminology and which breweries qualify as a sellouts, even picking a pint at your local watering hole has become a political statement.
However, searching for bright spots in this emotionally charged climate couldn't have come at a better time. Last weekend, San Diego breweries and homebrewers participated in the Big Boots and Little Boots Brew Days in support of the 3rd Annual International Women's Collaboration Brew Day (IWCBD). Breweries such as Fallbrook Brewing Company, Karl Strauss, Culture Brewing Company and a handful of others opened their doors for aspiring brewers, beer fans and anyone else who wanted to join.
The catch? Ladies only.
If you have a problem with a women-only event, you might as well stop reading now before I hunt you down with my feminist pitchfork. More women than ever before are buying beer, brewing beer and spearheading change that's revolutionizing the craft beer industry, so fostering this growing demographic in a traditionally male-dominated industry is more important than ever.
Thus—despite my own not-so-successful forays into homebrewing—I joined the San Diego Suds Sorority for their Little Boots Brew Day event to make a Belgian IPA. As part of the Quality Ale and Fermentation Fraternity (QUAFF), SDSS has participated in IWCBD for Big Boots Brew Day every year since its inception by partnering with official breweries such as URBN and Mike Hess Brewing, but this is the first year they struck out on their own as part of Little Boots Brew Day, the homebrewing counterpart.
Unlike the Pink Boots Society, another female-only beer group, you don't have to work in the beer industry to join SDSS. From beer judges to women who simply like drinking beer, members run the gamut of experience. But what remains the same is a passion for craft beer.
"When I first joined QUAFF, there weren't a lot of women, and the ones who were there were mostly significant others," says SDSS founder Juli Goldenberg. "I wondered why that was, so I thought I'd just try something new to see how it would do."
It's done well. While their numbers are still relatively small, participation seems to be extremely high. Between monthly meetings at White Labs, regular pub nights, helping QUAFF host America's Finest Homebrew Competition and more, SDSS members represent a rare dedication to craft.
However, there are detractors. "We've gotten some pushback—even from women—who don't think that we need to be separate," says Goldenberg. But she assured me that they actually aren't exclusive to females. In fact, two men attended the brew day, but held back from the actual process to ensure the entire brew remained women only.
While "Big Beer vs. Small Beer" tends to dominate today's conversation, it's crucial that we don't forget about Very Small Beer. Homebrewing is what set many world-class brewers on their professional journey, and we're lucky to have passionate women who truly exemplify the love of the craft.