- Associated Press - Monday, May 4, 2015

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) - This winter, Madison Craft Beer Week co-founder Robyn Klinge invited the women of Wisconsin’s craft breweries to join her on a special project.

Each year, Madison Craft Beer Week, which began Friday, kicks off by tapping the Common Thread, a passion project of sorts for one of Madison’s many brewers. Klinge and two women at Wisconsin Brewing Co. wanted the female brewers of Wisconsin to make this year’s Common Thread.

The response, 11 women from nine breweries, came as a surprise to many of those involved.

“I think we were all surprised by how many women there are in Wisconsin making beer and the different routes that got us into beer and brewing,” Klinge told Press-Gazette Media (https://gbpg.net/1GLdA1P ). “There were a lot more than we knew. It was a pleasant surprise.”

Two Titletown Brewing Co. brewers, Krystina Engebos and Heather Ludwig, made the trek to Madison. They said the chance to connect with their peers was enlightening and empowering.

“We’re starting to see more women brewers, craft beer lovers and horticulturists,” Engebos said. “It was really awesome to collaborate with these women who are so knowledgeable.”

“The group of women emerging right now are all young,” Ludwig said. “It’s kind of cool to think about the future, what it will be like in 10 years.”

Ludwig, 29, and Engebos, 31, both learned the art of brewing in 2013 when positions opened up at Titletown. Neither had any background in brewing at the time. Ludwig started learning in May 2013 and Engebos later that summer. It didn’t take long for the chemistry, biology and precision of making beer to hook them both.

“It’s easily one of the most labor-intensive jobs in the food and beverage industry,” Engebos said. “You put your blood, sweat and tears into it, but it’s worth it when you see people enjoying what you made.”

Ludwig and Engebos became the first two women to brew at Titletown since it opened in 1996. And in January, they proudly poured their first batch of Johnny “Blood” Red Irish Ale, one of Titletown’s signature beers.

Almost everything about the role of women in craft brewing might come as a surprise to even the most ardent ale aficionados.

Stanford University conducted a survey for the Brewers Association that found a woman founded, runs or brews beer at one of every five craft breweries.

Of almost 2,100 craft brewers surveyed, 349 indicated a woman was chief executive officer or co-CEO, about 17 percent of the total.

In comparison, the Center for American Progress found women hold 14.6 percent of executive positions in Fortune 500 companies and 12.4 percent of executive positions in the finance industry.

Julia Herz, who directs the Brewers Association’s craft beer program, said women’s leadership roles in the industry should continue to expand as the industry grows.

“I still think it’s low, considering the number of women who drink craft beer,” Herz said.

Between 2012 and 2014, craft beer sales grew from 6 percent of the market to 11 percent as breweries boosted production from 13 million barrels to 21 million barrels of beer.

In Wisconsin alone, 24 craft breweries announced plans to open or have opened since the beginning of 2014.

Women are helping to drive craft beer’s growing market share.

Herz provided data that indicates women consume 32 percent of all craft beer produced and that women ages 21-24 consume 4.2 percent of all craft beer produced alone.

“As beer became known as more than American lagers, you started to see more females get back into the beverage of beer,” Herz said.

Engebos isn’t surprised women have started to drink more craft beer. While the science of brewing fascinated her, she said women have a more expansive palate than men and she’s sure there’s a style of beer to suit everyone.

“Women’s palates are more detailed, they can taste more flavors,” Engebos said. “There’s a beer out there for everyone. The history of brewing is fascinating, too. Beer was brewed by women for a long time. It’s in our blood.”

Local craft beer fans will get a chance to taste Engebos’ and Ludwig’s handiwork shortly, too.

Engebos proposed and Ludwig spearheaded the creation of the Grapefruit Gose Local beer that will be tapped at 3 p.m. May 11, at Frets and Friends, 2105 University Ave., to kick off Green Bay Craft Beer Week. The project was a collaboration among Titletown, Hinterland Brewery, Stillmank Beer Co. and Badger State Brewing Co.

There was one less pleasant common thread Wisconsin’s women brewers discovered as they brewed the Belgian Tripel for Madison’s Craft Beer Week: The sexist sliver of the otherwise welcoming craft beer community.

“It was good to hear they all experience the same challenges and frustrations we do,” Engebos said of the trip to Madison.

Ludwig said she’s no stranger to catcalls from patrons watching her work at Titletown. Klinge said one brewer told her of a patron who aimed a laser pointer at her butt as she worked.

“I hear from several of the women, talking about the stereotypes we deal with, that sexual harassment comes not from our co-workers, but from customers,” Klinge said. “Our co-workers are all very great and very supportive.”

Herz said it’s likely not a coincidence that craft breweries do not target young men with sexist advertising and that the beers enjoy a growing popularity with women.

“What I see from the majority of the 3,400 craft brewers in the U.S. is presenting their brands in a way that is not gender specific,” she said. “(Craft brewers) do not have a directive to go after any specific subset of the population. . We focus on the core of brewing enthusiasts, which is both men and women.”

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Information from: Press-Gazette Media, https://www.greenbaypressgazette.com


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