Now in a millennial world, it’s not so surprising that women are joining the beer community in troves, stepping onto the scene as sales representatives, marketing coordinators, reporters (ahem) and imbibers, and—although they are still few—brewers and brewmasters.
But before there were us gals who started appreciating good beer post-2000 (although we still may feel uniquely, utterly female in a scene that continues to be dominated by beer guts and beards), there were women like Mellie Pullman, who I’d like to spotlight for my first #WomanCrushWednesday (#WCW) post here on Beer Affair.
I do not mean this in the literal or romantic sense, as I’ve never met Pullman personally, I mean it simply in the sense that my “love affair with beer” (where the name Beer Affair came from) is due in part to women who flew their freak flags high before it was popular, or even possible, for gals like me to be a part of the beer community.
After re-reading a feature written by Tara Nurin in Craft Beer & Brewing last month, “Replanting the Seeds of Brewing,” I was reminded of all of the women I have yet to meet, the history I have yet to learn, and the amazing strides women have made in this still-young industry since it began its second wind in the 1980s.
As a young woman swept up into the romance of the craft beer world just five or so years ago, I have to acknowledge the true pioneers before me, and commend these ladies for stepping up to the plate when it was even harder to be a female in a male dominated business like beer. (Or, as Nurin phrases it, for each woman who had to “finesse her way out of enough brewer-as-bearded-German-guy stereotypes.”)
In the days before national women’s industry groups like the Pink Boots Society (and in my case, local groups like the Beerded Ladies), these gals were among the first to explore the beer business, truly planting the “seeds” that sprouted roles for women in the brewing industry today. Among the “firsts” these femmes accomplished, Pullman is particularly #WCW-worthy for the following:
1. She was first female brewmaster in contemporary U.S. history;
2. She helped bring Utah its first brewery, Wasatch Brewery, in 1986; and
3. She lobbied to modernize the alcohol laws in Utah which were, even up until the late 80s, quite restrictive.
Beginning with Pullman and moving through the significance several more, Nurin’s article attributes beer props to Beth Hartwell, who co-founded Hart Brewing in Kalama, Wash. (now Pyramid Breweries) in 1984; Rosemarie Certo, who co-founded Dock Street Brewing in Philadelphia in 1985; Carol Stoudt, who became the nation’s first female sole proprietor-brewer in 1987; Barbara Groom and Wendy Pound, the first female ownership team in the industry, who opened Lost Coast Brewing in Eureka, Calif. in 1990; and Teri Fahrendorf, currently specialty malt account manager at Great Western Malting in Vancouver, Wash., who entered the industry at 1988 as a brewing intern and now has 19 years’ experience as a brewmaster and brewery supervisor at various locations.
Although you can take the woman out of the brewing industry (according to Nurin, Pullman left her post at Wasatch just three years after co-founding it), you can’t take the brewing industry out of the woman—Pullman is now serving as an associate professor at Portland State University, where she teaches several courses in the Business of Craft Brewing Certificate program.