Pink Boots in the Brewhouse

Historically, the role of hunter has fallen to men, while the role of gatherer for ingredients to make the food and beverages to go with the catch, has been the women’s domain. 

Even when our ancestors ended their nomadic lifestyle over 11,000 years ago, started growing domesticated wheat and barley crops, and began living in settled farming communities, nothing changed – brewing was primarily a woman’s role. Through the ages of the Sumerians, Babylonians, Egyptians, and Vikings, most women drank and brewed beer, and it wasn’t until the 1700s, and the rise of commercial breweries, that the roles reversed. But things are changing again and a true passion for beer has more and more women seeking out careers in the Alberta beer industry — the craft beer industry, in particular. 

Natasha Peiskar, National Beer Hall brand manager and Certified Cicerone, is one woman who has made a distinct mark on the Alberta Craft Beer scene in the last few years. 

“Despite the fact that the industry is so male-dominated, there definitely are some bad-ass women doing great things for the beer industry and pushing it forward,” says Peiskar.

In addition to being in charge of all things beer at National, Peiskar is the president of CAMRA Alberta and is heavily involved in Southern Alberta’s craft beer community. Despite what seems to be a more male-forward industry, Peiskar says she’s only had positive experiences working in the craft beer business.

“In Alberta it’s been so welcoming – it doesn’t matter. It’s the love of beer that everyone has in common,” she says. “When you sit down at a table and you talk to someone about it, they just want to talk about beer – they don’t care who you are.”

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Peiskar is also one of the primary organizers of the Calgary version of the Big Boots Brew Day, an initiative started in 2008 by the U.S.-based Pink Boots Society – a non-profit organisation of female movers and shakers in the beer industry. Their mission is “to assist, inspire and encourage women beer industry professionals to advance their careers through education,” and members in fifteen countries learn from each other, and help each other advance their beer careers by raising money for educational scholarships to accredited brewing programs.

Big Boots Brew Day is a collaborative and educational experience that provides an opportunity for multiple groups of women from all over North America to get together to brew a specific beer recipe on International Women’s Day. 

A portion of proceeds raised through the sale of Calgary’s Big Boots Brew is used to fund a bursary that is awarded to a female student enrolled in Olds College’s Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management Course.

Big Boots Brew Day takes place on International Women’s Day, on March 8th, and is expected to be bigger than ever, with many of Alberta’s breweries joining in. This will be the third year that Alberta breweries are involved in the Brew Day. The popularity of the event has swelled from only 17 women and one Calgary brewery in 2015, to seven breweries hosting between 10 and 20 women each last year.

The recipe that will be brewed this year is a version of an “Ancient or Historical Beer,” which will be based on old recipes similar to those that would have been brewed by colonists new to North America centuries ago, and likely brewed by women in the home. These beers will likely use ingredients such as heirloom varieties of grains, as well as honey or molasses. It will be interesting to see how the various breweries decide to interpret the style for this year’s brew!

The increase in popularity and attendance for the Big Boots Brew Day could be perceived as clear evidence that craft beer is gaining popularity among women. According to the U.S.-based Brewer’s Association, millennials represent the fastest growing group of new beer drinkers, and among millennials, females represent the largest percentage growth year after year.

The number of women gaining interest in craft beer in general could be an indication that a change like this is on the way. After all, it really doesn’t matter what colour boots the brewer is wearing, as long as the beer they brew is delicious.

For more information on Big Boots Brew Day 2017, please visit: pinkbootssociety.org/big-boots-brew/

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