Big Apple Event Highlights Women in Craft Beer

Front Row, L to R: Theresa McCulla, Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C., Mari Kemper, Chuckanut Brewery, Bellingham, Wash., Leah Cheston, Right Proper Brewing Company, Washington, D.C.
Back Row, L to R: Virginia Morrison, Second Chance Beer Company, San Diego, Calif., Tamil Maldonado, Raices Brewing Company, Denver, Colo., Karen Hertz, Holidaily Brewing Company, Golden, Colo., Ting Su, Eagle Rock Brewery, Los Angeles, Calif., Mariah Calagione, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Milton, Del., Julia Herz, Brewers Association. Photos: ©Brewers Association

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Women in craft beer were in the spotlight in New York City earlier this week, as the Brewers Association (BA) hosted a special media event at WeWork Now in Manhattan’s Midtown neighborhood. The event, which included a specially paired beer dinner, featured nine prominent women of the craft beer community participating in a three-panel format moderated by Julia Herz, the Brewers Association’s Craft Beer Program director.

The year 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing and protecting women’s constitutional right to vote. This historic centennial, combined with Women’s History Month in March, offered a unique opportunity to spotlight the stories and contributions of women in the craft brewing community.

Panelists included:

“Leveraging the timeliness of this year’s milestones allows us to showcase some of the best and brightest women in today’s craft beer community,” said Herz. “It is inspiring to have these women tell their stories, in their own words, to the media and to put their voices at the center of what’s taking place in craft brewing.”

The Conversations

More than 25 members of the national media attended the event, which was presented in a series of three panels over the course of the evening.

Herz kicked off the event with a welcome address, followed by the first panel, Wisdom and Women, exploring the often-overlooked role women played in the foundations of beer. Representing the Smithsonian, McCulla narrated women’s earliest ties to beer, as well as their changing roles in today’s craft brewing community. Kemper, who has worked extensively with breweries around the world, offered her perspective on the growing role of women in craft beer. Sidelined at the last minute by a cold, Cilurzo sent a video greeting to the event and discussed serving as a mentor to her industry peers and up-and-comers on the scene.

Natalie Cilurzo of Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa, CA delivers a video greeting to the event.

The Trailblazers segment explored the experience of pioneering new paths, from building community to taking the road less traveled. As a producer of solely gluten-free beers, Hertz discussed her unconventional approach to the future of craft beer. Cheston and Maldonado both emphasized the importance of building community and working with local neighborhoods, demonstrating similarities between the two businesses despite their 1,500-mile difference.

The Rock Stars of Innovation panel highlighted how women have redefined industry standards, embraced new ways of doing business, and endured challenges to emerge stronger than ever. Calagione discussed her role in creating a brand voice for Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and the evolution of marketing efforts since the brewery’s founding. Morrison shared Second Chance Beer Company’s involvement with Pink Boots Scholarship in order to create more leadership opportunities for women in craft beer. Su explained what it means for her brewery to offer events and space for women to convene and have an open dialogue on craft beer, as well as the brewery’s involvement in the local community.

Between each conversation, Adam Dulye, executive chef of the Brewers Association, served up a special menu paired to the represented breweries’ beers. Mary Izett from Fifth Hammer Brewing in Long Island City, N.Y. served her beers as a special guest of the event.

Media members had ample opportunities to ask questions, and stayed late into the evening to mingle with the featured panelists.

The Brewers Association and the Craft Beer Program, along with CraftBeer.com, travel to New York City on an annual basis to promote small and independent craft beer and engage with local media members. Building relationships with national and regional media ensures the association and its member breweries stay top of mind.

Diversity and Inclusion Efforts

The New York City media event is just one of many steps the Brewers Association has taken to continue its commitment to nurture a more diverse and inclusive craft beer community. This week, the BA announced the recipients of its second annual Diversity & Inclusion Event Grants Program.

Since the creation of its Diversity Committee in 2017 and the hiring of its first-ever diversity ambassador in 2018, the Brewers Association has taken continued, proactive steps to advance diversity and inclusivity among brewers and beer lovers. In 2019, the association released a five-part series of best practice guides that lay the groundwork for addressing, creating, and managing a diversity and inclusion program. In May, the inaugural class of diversity and inclusion event grant recipients was announced, with a total of $20,000 awarded to six recipients. The association also completed its first benchmarking survey of brewery owner and employee diversity in terms of gender, race, and ethnicity; and in December published a free “We Welcome Everyone” poster available for download in Spanish and English by breweries and beer businesses. For 2020, the Brewers Association will publish a series of case studies written by diversity ambassador J. Nikol Jackson-Beckham, Ph.D., that spotlight best practices in action, and will also introduce a pilot mentorship program.