Beer doesn’t have a gender and in 2019 there is nothing extraordinary about a woman drinking a beer. While there are no official figures to show how many women work in the UK’s beer industry, the numbers are still low. As International Women’s Day celebrates women, we wanted to introduce you to some of the extraordinary women who work for BBF and our associated pubs.
Natasha Miller – Director and head of finance
When Tash was a child her father was the big chief at Bass, so spent a lot of time in that brewery. Currently she is the only woman who sits on the board at Bristol Beer Factory.
“Being the only woman on the board has its challenges - but in the most part they are challenges I am happy to take on.“
What is it like being part of the BBF family? "It's been an incredible journey from very small beginnings to where we are now and one I’m very proud to be a part of.
“It’s a unique industry in how much of a community it is - especially in Bristol - small businesses that could be deemed competitors share expertise (but not their actual recipes obviously!) and the odd sack of malt!“
But Tash would still like to see more women in the beer industry.
“I love that Moor Beer have a female brewer. Much like top chefs, men are dramatically better represented than women.
“I hope International Women's Day will result in the next generation of women being better represented but perhaps more importantly their needs in the workplace being taken into account.“
Kiki – Part-time supervisor at the Barley Mow pub.
Female-identifying Kiki is a trans woman, who transitioned while she was working at another brewery. She has worked in some of the best beer places in Bristol and has an in-depth craft beer knowledge.
“The first beer that got my attention was Anagram by Omnipollo. It’s a blueberry cheesecake stout – a lot of people give beer like that shit, but it’s like a ‘Willy Wonka’ beer – 12%, and I tried that and it was like nothing else.”
Beer quickly became her thing and she loves what BBF have done recently.
“BBF has done really well doing collabs with Wiper and True - like the lactose pale ale on cask with a little bit of sweetness. BBF is known for consistently putting out good cask beers and knowing how to look after them.”
Kiki initially started at Bristol’s celebrity cat pub The Bag of Nails five or six years ago, and the road since hasn’t always been easy.
“I think there are three out trans girls in the UK craft beer scene. When I first started transitioning it didn’t go well for me. I feel I have a commitment to speak out and represent us.
“The beer industry has a big problem with toxic masculinity but this has probably been the best job I’ve had, other breweries have refused to use the right pronouns and I’ve had to highlight that as an issue.
“It shouldn’t be an issue, it shouldn’t even have to be mentioned and after five years working in the beer industry this is the first place that has done that.
“I know I look good, feminine and passing because guys don’t pay attention to me – before I transitioned I noticed guys would always go straight to me at the bar and ignore the other girl I was working with if she didn’t use beer ‘buzzwords’.
“The Barley Mow is unique, it has a great reputation and there’s lots of choice, of crazy good cask beer, at a good price, and cask beer that is looked after well.”
Anna-Carin Henderson – Marketing and bookkeeping and 'all sorts'
AC started working at BBF about five years ago knowing very little about beer. Since working here she’s discovered a new thirst for beer and loves trying all of the new brews.
“I'm not an expert by any stretch but I think a lot of people don’t realise there is as much depth of flavour & character to a good beer as you would find in a good wine.
“I do love a wheat beer but I think my favourite recent special is Quartet – I wish we’d brewed more of it, it was delicious. Also loved that it was the result of a special collab between us and Wiper&True, putting our own spin on each other’s beers.
“I love the fact it’s so collaborative between breweries, we (mostly!) get on & help each other out. Not many industries have that culture of being so friendly towards your competitors!
“Sometimes I feel this male-dominated industry needs women to balance things out. Nothing against men but sometimes the testosterone can get a little out of control!
“After all, it used to be women who made the beer..”
Izzy Emberson - Sales
Izzy is a recent addition to the BBF sales team, and her progression into the beer industry was natural from working in pubs and drinking cask ale.
“I think as a woman in the brewing industry you probably have to be quite thick-skinned and be able to stand up for yourself. Make yourself be heard because sometimes you might be overlooked, talked over or just not have your opinion asked for or valued.
“I think the only time my gender has been considered a problem or an inferiority is from people outside of BBF, never within the team, sometimes they seem surprised that I’m here or that I work in beer sales.
“It also probably a generational thing, there are lots of younger women out there drinking beer and I think most men my age are jealous of my job more than anything.
“Any woman pursuing a career that is (wrongly) stereotyped towards men are showing it up, showing that your gender does not have a part in how good you can be at your job.
“The cask report showed that women aren’t as likely to try beers, but women shouldn’t be afraid of beer, we need more women asking to try it and talking about it, engaging with it.”
Ellie Bartram - Arnolini bar-tender
The constantly changing line-up of beers at the Arnolfini cafe/bar captivated Ellie when she started working there.
“It really piqued my interest in a drink I had never really paid much attention to before and made me want to see what all the fuss was about.”
Now she loves BBF's Milk Stout. “It’s a much lighter beer than you think it’s going to be and the coffee flavours really stand out for me.
“At the other end of the scale are the Three Little Fonzies from Siren, a tropical pale with lots of fruit flavours that was super strong (we only sold it in halves) but I loved it.
“Another go-to beer is Mosaic from Arbor, a light, easy drinking beer that’s good and fizzy (just how I like them).
“I had always enjoyed a glass of wine and had done some training to appreciate the flavour profiles of different grapes - and learning that the same could be applied to beer was a bit of an eye opener.
“To be over-general it tends to be the older generations (and men) that find it hard to accept that a young woman can talk knowledgeably about beer.
“On the flipside I have had conversations with other women about beer, and there is this weird dynamic where neither of us can quite believe that the two of us are having a conversation about beer.”
Fran – BBF Taproom bar-tender
When Fran moved to Bristol from Devon and started working at the Grain Barge she gave up drinking cider for beer and never looked back.
“One of the first beers I loved was Shangri-la by Arbor, and I also loved Wiper and True’s Kaleidoscope. But a favourite beer is BBF’s Well above Sea Level, a lactose pale, smooth and sweet, but Milk Stout is my all time favourite.
“People are always surprised when women love stout, but you can’t gender a beer.
“Often serving in bars you find people don’t listen to you as much as you’d like them to – if people ask your advice about beer they automatically go to a guy.
“They think you don’t have as much knowledge.
“So to combat that you just need to share your knowledge, be honest, let people try the beers and allow people to learn with you.
“I had a guy come in who said ‘I don’t want that feminine glass’ – it was a tulip glass, and I explained how it helps keep that beer fresh and he changed his mind.
“You can’t gender a glass and be less masculine because of it. When I started I didn’t like cask beer, BBF made me realise it’ s not just a stuff old man drink. Now I support that it’s for everyone.”
The thumbnail for this post is taken from the wall outside the Tap Room during UpFest. It was painted by Caro Pepe to celebrates 100 years for Vote for Women.