In the male-dominated beer business, the Pink Boots Society (PBS) is a sudsy oasis where women can go to receive support, mentorship and education to succeed in the industry. With chapters all over the United States, including several in the Pacific Northwest, the nonprofit organization helps advance careers for women in beer with seminar programs, educational scholarships and monthly meetings. Members include brewery owners, sales, marketing, beer writers and just about every other aspect of producing beer.
Sonia Marie Leikam is the leader of the Portland chapter and owner of Leikam Brewing with her husband. “I think Pink Boots means different things for each woman involved,” she says. “For me, it has been a place where I have been able to find support without judgement, ask questions and get straight answers and explore things in a safe space. I have grown professionally from the education I have received both informally and formally from my participation.”
The Portland Chapter is very active, typically covering more than Portland, down to Eugene and up to Southwest Washington, Leikam says. “We have everyone from production down to CPAs and historians at Oregon State University who focus on the beer industry as their area of professional work,” she adds. “We hold regular membership meeting covering a variety of [topics] as well as special education focused ones such as one recently on trademark law and protecting your recipes. We also hold tap takeovers and opportunities for the public to hear from us.”
Victoria Chaplin, quality manager at Worthy Brewing in Bend, is a member of the Bend chapter that meets quarterly, often meeting with an educational component to the event. One meeting met at a whiskey distillery where the group learned about barrel health and barrel aging beer. She has also found the support and camaraderie with members of the society important in a male-dominated industry.
“I often find [in] talking with men in the industry you really have to be on the top of your game but with the women in the Pink Boots Society you feel supported rather than challenged,” she details. The society “gives you the tools and the allies you need in this business. It is especially nice when you go to brewing conferences as there will usually be members of the society attending and it is less intimidating and is also an opportunity for networking.”
Chaplin and members of the Bend chapter like PBS chapters all over the country gathered together on March 8 — International Women’s Day — to take part in the Pink Boots Collaboration Brew Day. The event is a way for members to raise the profile of women’s roles in the beer industry and take part in the celebration and honor of the day.
Each chapter gets together with supporting breweries to brew their own special recipe. The proceeds from the sale of the beer are then split between the chapter and the Pink Boots Society, where it is applied to educational scholarships and other programing for members. The Bend chapter’s brew will be available for sale in the Portland area in a few weeks.
The Bend chapter members are producing a tropical stout which includes the second annual Pink Boots Blend from Yakima Chief Hops. Proceeds from the sale of this beer benefit the PBS scholarship funds. Members of the society meet each year with staff from Yakima Chief Hops at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver to decide on the recipe. Triumphantly, sales from the 2018 blend contributed approximately $40,000 to the Pink Boots Society scholarship fund and the chapter looks forward to making similar impact for the 2019 beer.
For more information and to find a chapter near you visit the Pink Boots Society.