Cheers to the Ladies

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A significant but generally unknown fact amongst the masses is the huge influence women have had on the consumption and distribution of beer. Due to a male-dominated industry today, most people attribute the brewing of beers to men, but dig a little deeper and history tells a very different story…

get link Throughout the Middle Ages, women known as “alewives” were traditionally the brewers and retailers of beer. The Sumerians from the Middle East worshipped Ninkasi, their deity of beer – who was female. However, as the beer trade slowly evolved into a more commercialised industry in recent centuries, brewing seems to have become a profession largely dominated by men. Thankfully, organisations such as Barley’s Angels (barleysangels.org) and Pink Boots Society (pinkbootssociety.org) have formed in recent years to support and promote women in the industry. We’re so proud that Hong Kong is now the second Asian location with a Pink Boots Society chapter! We had the pleasure of interviewing some of our city’s loveliest brew-ladies to see what’s hoppin’.

 

Marisa Jackson, Co-Founder, Back To School Brewing
backtoschoolbrewing.com

How did you first hear of Pink Boots Society?
I was introduced to the Pink Boots Society about two years ago while driving down the California coast, listening to a podcast called MicroBrewr. They did a series about empowering women in the beer industry, which I am all for!

What made you decide to launch the Hong Kong chapter?
Back To School Brewing is all about education and so is Pink Boots Society, so it seemed pretty natural to get one started. Craft beer here is a relatively young scene, so I wanted a place where women could support each other in a growing market.

Describe your role at Back To School Brewing.
Besides being a very supportive wife and holding the illustrious title of co-founder, I will be the events and social media manager. Justin and I have always loved having events and creating community, so this is really a way to do that and bring people together.

 

Koey Chan, Co-Founder, City Brew 城釀
citybrew.hk

How were you introduced to the beer world?
I visited a brewery in Belgium during a business trip back in 2013 and fell in love with their beer. After that, I decided to start homebrewing.

What is the male-to-female ratio in your workplace?
The general ratio in Hong Kong, I’d say, is about 5:1, but it’s 2:3 in our brewery.

Have you ever faced any gender discrimination in the workplace from clients or customers?
Not so far – most of the customers appreciate our knowledge and enthusiasm about craft beer.

What are your predictions for beer in the city?
The craft beer industry is just in the boiling process of brewing now. It’s heating up and loads of flavours are emerging. Hopefully it will become even more delicious after fermentation. What I hope is that craft beer will eventually become as popular as commercial beers, and most importantly, to see our local beers available worldwide.

Ronda Liu, Operations Manager, Young Master Ales 少爺麥啤
youngmasterales.com

Describe your role at Young Master.
I handle everything from the brewery’s daily operations to organising events, marketing and beer sampling.

What is the male:female ratio in your workplace?
6:2.

Have you ever faced any gender discrimination in the workplace from clients or customers?
Yes! Men often think that women only drink ciders or light beers. We actually like all kind of beers, and choose them based on our mood and the occasion. It’s important to be passionate when working in this industry and not let our gender hold us back.

What are your predictions for beer in the city?
Since the beer trend is taking off, consumers’ expectations of beer will be higher in both diversity and quality. Education is the most important step – letting people know what good beer is through beer-appreciation classes or even homebrew courses.

Belle Leung, Co-Founder, HK Brewcraft & Heroes Beer Co.
hkbrewcraft.com

How were you introduced to the beer world?
After trying my first homebrew from Chris [Wong], our brewmaster, I was inspired to start brewing my own beer. It was an overwhelming amount of information, so I was really just following instructions in the hopes of not messing up the whole thing. It was a lemon tea beer that turned out to be quite nice!

What was your first occupation in the industry?
My friends and I started the first local homebrew store [HK Brewcraft] in Hong Kong, selling ingredients and equipment to brew beer. We also started homebrew workshops to teach people how to brew their own beer. I now teach a wider variety of courses at HK Brewcraft, including homebrew workshops, tasting workshops and beer examination preparation courses, as well as handling events.

What was a significant moment in your beer career?
Becoming one of the first female BJCP judges in Asia! It was a breakthrough not just for our company, but also for the beer world.

How has the beer industry in Hong Kong evolved since you started?
It has been a very fruitful journey. The number of microbreweries have more than tripled. Our annual homebrew competition also received a threefold rise in entries last year compared to the year before, proving that people not only love drinking but have also fallen in love with brewing. We’ve also noticed the love of craft beers spreading locally; expats used to take up most of our customer base but in the past year, more local people are coming to our doors with a thirst for craft beer. We have also seen more and more females joining our crew.

How can we encourage more women to join the industry?
I think education is still the key. If people get to understand that beer isn’t just for men and open their eyes to the wide variety in the beer world, that would be a huge first step. Giving females in the industry more exposure will also help.

http://thenannycollective.com.au/blog/danny-the-male-nanny-an-interview-with-daniel-from-angeles-mannies/ Editor’s Note: Since this interview, Belle has emerged as the first National-rank BJCP judge in all of Asia – both genders included! Congratulations Belle!

Michele Raphael, Co-Founder, Moonzen Brewery
moonzen.hk

How did you fall in love with beer?
I first began to appreciate beer when my husband and I started to homebrew, and the end result was completely different to what was available commercially at the time.

How has the beer industry in Hong Kong evolved since you started?
The beer industry in Hong Kong has blossomed like no other Asian city. There has been a burgeoning number of local breweries and a craft beer ecosystem that has been quick to embrace it, although we still have a long way to go.

Have you ever faced any gender discrimination in the workplace from clients or customers?
Nope… Well, maybe the occasional surprise when they see a woman lifting cases and making keg deliveries!

How can we encourage more women to join the industry?
Beer isn’t only about drinking. There’s also a very creative and communal aspect that makes it an exciting industry to be part of. As the beer industry matures in Hong Kong, there will be a growing awareness of craft beers and more people drinking high-quality beer in more establishments.

Fish Fung, Bar Manager, TAP: The Ale Project
thealeproject.com

How did you fall in love with beer?
During my hospitality management studies, the modules included learning about alcohol and cocktails. I started out working as a bartender, but after my friend convinced me to try some Fullers’ beers that blew away my previous expectations of beer, I decided to try out the beer industry. I then joined The Beer Bay part-time around four or five years ago, and it was my first exposure to a lot of different beer styles.

Describe your role at TAP.
As a bar manager, I have to assist in operations, provide job training to new staff and teach them about the craft beer world. All the members of staff need to be able to explain to customers the differences between beer styles and the story behind the beer, if any. I love chatting to customers and sharing my knowledge of beer.

What is the male-to-female ratio in your workplace?
About 7:3. It’s nice because most people remember me when they come back to TAP. It’s an honour that people recognise and appreciate my work.

Have you ever faced any gender discrimination in the workplace from clients or customers?
Of course! As a young-looking Asian female, whenever customers ask for my suggestion, they presume I don’t know what I’m talking about. There are even some arrogant men who laugh and think that “girls only drink cider” – which makes me quite angry.

How can we encourage more women to join the industry?
The mentality that “beer is for men” needs to be challenged. Introduce more women to beer by flirting with their senses through the different characters of the brew – and let them learn to fall in love with it.

What are your predictions for beer in the city?
It’s a blossoming time for the beer industry now. It’s good to see more breweries opening, as more competition between brewers will inspire us to brew better beers. Also, with beer certification programmes becoming more easily accessible in Asia, this will help open up the market in our city even more.

Lidia Kuzmina, Brewer, Hong Kong Beer Co.
hkbeerco.com

What was your introduction to beer?
Growing up in the far north in Siberia, we didn’t have many options. Available on the shelves were Baltika, Budweiser, Heineken and Carlsberg. I never considered beer before, as I didn’t know that it could have such flavour and variety.

What was your first occupation in the industry?
My first job in the industry was at Bionic Brew in Shenzhen. This was the place that introduced me to the world of craft beer.

Describe your current role.
As a brewer, I’m responsible for all aspects of the brewing process as well as assisting with the day-to-day operations of the brewery. My team and I are ultimately responsible for the quality of the beer that the brewery produces.

Have you ever faced any gender discrimination in the workplace from clients or customers?
When I talk about what I do for a living, I find that people tend to be quite supportive, as it’s still a novelty to see a woman brewing. Personally, it’s been a very positive experience so far – and I think a lot of it has to do with the general mentality of the craft beer world. It’s a very creative, fresh and young industry, so it doesn’t carry a lot of baggage such as the preconceived ideas about who should be doing what.

 

Ging Van, Co-Founder, Kowloon Bay Brewery
kowloonbaybrewery.com

Describe your role.
I’m responsible for the sales, marketing and business development at Kowloon Bay Brewery & Black Kite Brewery. Other than the traditional definition of these roles, a lot of this involves great opportunities to meet so many interesting individuals – both in the F&B world and our direct-consumers world.

What was a significant moment in your beer career?
I walked into one of our key accounts and one of their customers came up to me and enthusiastically introduced himself, telling me how much he loves our IPA and that it reminded him of home. It’s not exactly saving lives – but it’s so nice to hear that what we do helps others, even if only in a small way.

How can we encourage more women to join the industry?
First, make sure they love the product. We are natural sellers. People sell themselves on a daily basis, whether they realise it or not. I think specifically for a lot of the locals, there’s still this stigma of beer being a man’s drink and that it will make you gain weight. It’s a perception that needs to change.

What are your predictions for beer in the city?
I do believe we are approaching an oversaturation of brands in HK. Because the demographic for craft beer lovers still tends to be more expats than locals, we’re quickly reaching the point where it’s education we need, rather than more brand variations. The overall feedback I get when talking to consumers at random bars is that most of them are confused by all the options. Most bars offer a big variety of beers, but then lack the staff with expertise in talking about or educating their customers on choices. If you don’t educate or articulate why a customer should choose a new product, it’s highly likely that he or she won’t try a new beer. Instead, they’ll end up going with something they’re already familiar with. Education is key!

Sandra Kwong, President, Craft Beer Association of Hong Kong
cbahk.org

How did you fall in love with beer?
After completing my undergraduate degree in Hong Kong, I was super stressed and tired of life, so I very dramatically ran off to Germany to get a break from everything. I ended up staying for two years, learning the language and exploring their rich and diverse culture of brews. Munich was my first stop and then I made my way slowly up to Berlin, visiting breweries in almost every city along the way. This experience made me truly appreciate the history and craft of beer, and, having previously only drank lagers, opened my eyes to the many wonderfully varied styles available.

What was your first occupation in the industry?
A sales executive role at Bestbev! This was great as it not only exposed me to up-and-coming craft breweries from the U.K. and Australia, but also helped me build relationships within the local beer industry.

What was a significant moment in your beer career?
Joining the board of the Craft Beer Association of Hong Kong! I was a corporate member for two years before coming on as Vice-President for the 2017/18 term. As I really enjoyed and believed in the changes that we were making as a team, I decided to run for President this year to continue pushing projects forward. Being the first female President since the Association’s inception is a role I am immensely honoured to play.

How can we encourage more women to join the industry?
I believe more women joining the industry is happening pretty organically now with mainstream media finally starting to pick up on local breweries and beers. To really see a boost, women already in beer should aim to be more visible in not only professional roles, but also at various beer events around the city! Presence translates to a genuine love and interest in what they’re drinking, and that speaks volumes, potentially sparking curiosity in their audiences. Also, of course, beer education.

According to the vice-president of Free the Hops, Carie Partain, “The days of the dumbed-down, bro-centric, misogynistic mass-marketing of the big ‘macro’ beer companies are long gone.” Cheers to the ladies!

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