By Christa Lawler, Duluth News Tribune
Nicole Emery’s recent trip to Duluth from Minneapolis yielded two unforeseen highlights: First, she installed a gasket in a tri-clamp, then she used a pallet jack — “and didn’t crash,” she added. And toward the end of a day of beer brewing, she poured a bag of hops into a whirlpool which, she said, was like a facial.
Emery was one of about 20 brew-enthusiasts who stopped into Hoops Brewing last week — on International Women’s Day — for a day-long collaborative event with head brewers Melissa Rainville of Hoops and Allyson Rolph from Earth Rider. The crew used a Pink Boots Blend of hops for the 14 barrels of yet-unnamed dry-hopped pale ale that will be released at an event April 3. Part of the money made from beer sales will benefit the national group Pink Boots Society, which provides scholarships to women in the industry for further beer education.
“It’s great to have female energy in this space,” Rainville said in a down moment between adding hops. “It’s exciting to see there is this interest.”
The event, part tutorial, part Q&A, part hands-on experience drew female-identifying brewers from as far as Minneapolis. It offered the chance to stand on the platform, get up close to the round window of a mash tun, take a deep inhale from a fresh bag of hops and consider a bin of spent grain. Plus, there was protective eyewear.
Similar collaborations, started by Pink Boots Society, were held around the world, according to a map on the group’s website.
Jill Joyce, a self-described science geek, is currently on hiatus from homebrewing, but was drawn to the event because of “kickass women and learning. … Some women are intentional about what they choose, and some women fall into things,” she said. “This is the spectrum.”
The best thing Joyce learned over the course of the day, she said, was a new term: organoleptic.
“Using taste, touch, smell and sight to inform or create a well-rounded image,” she said.
Emery is a homebrewer and beer judge. She said it’s the scientific aspect of brewing that appeals to her. “Also, it’s an inclusive culture,” she said, “with a long and amazing and compelling history.”
ABOUT THAT HISTORY
The website womenincraftbeer.com has aggregated the numbers: According to a 2014 report by the Brewers Association — at a time when 1.5 breweries were opening per day in the United States — women, mostly ages 21-34, consume 32 percent of the craft beer volume. The same year, studies by Auburn University and Stanford University found that 29 percent of brewer workers were women, but only 4 percent were head brewers or brewmasters.
The Twins Ports has two women in head brewing positions, Rainville and Rolph, and more in leadership roles at local breweries.
Rainville got her start as a college student living in Minneapolis. She was a “huge craft beer fan” when she first volunteered at Flat Earth Brewery. Eventually it turned into a job — and then a career.
“I sew, I knit, I like doing things with my hands,” she said. “I love the scientific and the artistic aspects, and I love that I don’t do the same thing every day.”
Rolph’s route to head brewer was similar to Rainville’s: homebrewer-turned-volunteer-turned-job opportunity. She started at Thirsty Pagan Brewing in Superior. And she’s also drawn to the science-plus-artiness of it. You can’t just follow a formula, she said. You have to have a creative understanding of what you’re making.
“I love brewing because I really, really love learning,” she said. “I don’t think I’ll ever be at the point where I’m done learning.”
According to an article in Beer & Brewing magazine, some archaeologists believe that while men were out hunting, say wooly mammoth, women were foraging for drink ingredients. European history includes various beer goddesses. And when settlers came to America, homebrewing was another facet of the work done in the kitchen.
The daylong event was described by Emery as “hurry up and wait.” While there was plenty to see and smell, the heavy action came in bursts. When it came time to add hops — done in specifically timed increments — the visitors took turns pouring.
Rainville described the Pink Boots blend as having a “ton of really sexy specific Northwest varieties,” she said. She’s expecting a sweet beer — there are intense tropical flavors — and a dry finish.
As of last week, the name was still TBA. At Hoops, the beer is named by number. Attendees suggested various dates in women’s history and beer history to use, but nothing was decided.
IF YOU GO
What: Twin Ports Pink Boots Collaboration Brew Release
When: 5-8 p.m. April 3
Where: Hoops Brewing, 325 S. Lake Ave.
Also: A panel of local women in the beer industry; $1 from each pint sold goes to the Pink Boots Society
Barley’s Angels: This is a local beer-education group for female craft beer enthusiasts. Go to www.barleysangelsds.org for more information;
Pink Boots Society: This group helps women in the beer industry to get advanced beer education. Go to www.pinkbootssociety.org for more information.