Building the Pink Boots Society

When I began this column in 2015, I didn’t set out to build a community of women within the North Carolina beer industry. The Pink Boots Society and the countless women working with beer far longer than I have were already doing that. The community existed in tiny pockets across the state. Through Brewing Up a Storm, I have had the privilege of meeting dozens of spectacular women that are individually awe inspiring. Most of the time, they don’t even know it. What I’ve enjoyed most, however, are the phone calls and emails from one amazing woman asking me if I know an equally amazing woman with expertise in another part of the industry that could potentially help her with a challenge she’s facing, and being able to say “yes.” Without realizing it, I have become a human Rolodex of awesome. I am not upset about this!

I can’t help but draw comparisons between my experience and the journey of Teri Fahrendorf, founder of The Pink Boots Society. After a 19 year career as a Brewmaster, Teri decided to give up her job in exchange for a cross country trip of a lifetime. She visited 71 breweries and brewed with 38 of them. Along the way, she met dozens of women working in these breweries that all believed they were the only woman in the industry. They didn’t have a support system of women who could offer guidance, advice, or lend a sympathetic ear. They worked in male bubbles. Each meeting with a new Brewster (the feminine term for a brewer) reminded Teri of an article she had read or a colleague she wished she could introduce to the Brewster in front of her.

When she returned from her five month trip, Teri began The Pink Boots Society, named for the pink brewing boots that she wore during her trip. At first, she only set out to offer a list of resources and a database of women in the industry that other women could turn to when they needed a boost. In the ten years since The Pink Boots Society was formed, it has become an international nonprofit organization that seeks to assist, inspire, and encourage women to pursue their careers in the beer industry through education. I can’t emphasize education enough.

As women in a male dominated industry, we have to be exceptional at our work in order to compete with men in job interviews. We have to work harder, be more knowledgeable, and roll with the punches more fluidly than our male counterparts. Education is vital to our success. Through the scholarships The Pink Boots Society offers women in the industry, we are able to stand out in the crowd of applicants clambering to get into this growing industry. I didn’t know about The Pink Boots Society until I had been in brewing school for a year, and they didn’t have scholarships established for accredited degree programs. Granted, fermentation education in the United States was quite limited prior to 2013, with two schools in the country: University of California Davis, which offered a master’s degree that required a bachelors in either chemistry or biology, or Siebel in Chicago, which is private and unaccredited. Both are geographically and financially limiting, with a waiting list that is years long. Today there are five community colleges in North Carolina that offer fermentation education, and two public universities. My goal is to start a scholarship fund for women to attend each of these schools.

With this goal in mind, I began writing ‘Brewing Ambition,’ a collection of homebrew recipes donated by Pink Boots Society members, along with an article about each woman that participated. It was released this year in March at the inaugural Biere de Femme Festival, which celebrates women in the beer industry by showcasing beers they designed and brewed. These two projects have knitted the community of the North Carolina Pink Boots Society together in unexpected ways. We have worked together across the three tiers of the beverage industry (supplier, distributor, and retailer) and collaborated with other breweries to create the beers and organize a festival that exceeded all of our expectations.

As excited as I am about the experience we were able to provide our ticket holders, I am even more excited about the experiences we have been able to offer our members since the festival. So many women came together to make Biere de Femme possible that we were able to envision new possibilities. We are growing in leaps and bounds both in membership and in action. I am thrilled to see this growth and to have a clear vision for continued growth in 2018.

The Pink Boots Society of North Carolina is proud to announce the second annual Biere de Femme Festival! Saturday, March 3rd at The Raleigh Beer Garden in downtown Raleigh, NC, beginning at 1pm for VIP ticket holders, while general admission begins at 2pm and ends at 6pm. Food will be available along with samples of beers created especially for this festival by women employed from each participating brewery. Proceeds from the event will benefit the scholarship fund of Pink Boots Society, which exists to ASSIST, INSPIRE, and ENCOURAGE women beer professionals through EDUCATION.

Tickets go on sale Friday, December 1st. General admission is $45 and includes samples of beers throughout the festival and a souvenir glass. VIP tickets are $75 and include an extra hour of sampling, access to the VIP area with food and private restrooms, along with a festival t-shirt. For tickets or more information about the festival, visit www.bieredefemmefest.com.


Anita Riley is the Cellar Tech and Assistant Brewer at Lonerider Brewing Company in Raleigh and serves as Co-Chapter Leader of The Pink Boots Society’s Eastern NC Chapter. Her book ‘Brewing Ambition’ that benefits The Pink Boots Society’s Scholarship Fund can be found at Lulu.com. Anita is a Certified Beer Server Cicerone and studied Brewing, Distillation, and Fermentation at AB Tech in Asheville as well as Rockingham Community College in Riedsville, NC. Her blog, Brewing Up a Storm, focuses on women in the beer industry: www.metrowinesasheville.com/brew-blog. Anita is a native to North Carolina.

Anita Riley
Written by Anita Riley