Drafts & Fare: Women brewers find more recognition in market

By Nate Johnson
Columnist

According to the Brewers Association, women currently represent 30 percent of the craft beer consumed in the United States.  The number of domestic woman-owned breweries has hit double-digits. It seems like every week, there’s news of another female brewmaster in both the macro and micro industries.

This long-building demographic shift has virtually demanded that females gather and carve out their niche in the social end of the craft beer movement, and an ever-growing group in the Rockford area is doing just that.

Rockford FB-Twitter imageGirls Pint Out is a national craft beer organization for women whose mission is to build a community of women who love craft beer and are an active, contributing part of the greater craft beer community.  The organization was founded in Indianapolis in 2010 and has built up over 50 chapters in over 30 states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico.

In the summer of 2014, Rockford chapter president and founder Sarah Heidemann contacted the national organization. “A friend had moved to Indianapolis and she started posting things on social media from local chapter events like brewery tours and ‘Pints and Pedis’ and I finally decided to find out what this group was all about,” said Heidemann. By August, the local chapter had been set up and planning was on to organize.  Heidemann canvassed last year’s Screw City Beer Festival and stuck a postcard in every hand she could, which resulted in an impressive turnout at Prairie Street Brewhouse for the launch party of over 130 curious beer aficionados.

That launch party formed the structure of the group, which is now on the verge of passing 200 members. Rockford Girls Pint Out holds monthly events (including occasional co-ed activities) ranging from a tasting with the Forest City Brewers to the Olympic Tavern’s Beer School with Tracy Hurst, co-owner of Chicago’s Metropolitan Brewing, to the upcoming beer and chocolate pairing at Carlyle Brewing Company featuring Chocolat by Daniel.

According to Heidemann, these events average 40 to 50 people, but what excites her the most is that there are new faces every time.  “The response from the women is the most exciting thing (for me). The idea of beer and especially craft beer in the time we are now, where it’s very popular, it’s a really great reason for women to get involved. They might be there for different reasons, whether it’s a mom who has toddlers at home and finally got their husband to stay in with the children or if it’s an older woman who attends the event with a group of friends, but the members unanimously love it.”

Despite the considerable membership for being such a young chapter, Heidemann is not resting on her laurels.  Planning continues for future events, including a bus trip to Milwaukee breweries in April, and the group is looking at options for representation at this fall’s SCBF.  For now, though, her long-term outlook is perfectly set.

“We’ll be fully established when we have a group of people who are fully on board with the GPO mission and know why we’re there.  I love it when I’m with someone who is describing Girls Pint Out to another person and I listen to them explain the group.  The members are getting it and they’re putting their own personal spin on it.”

To find out more about the local chapter and track their upcoming events, follow them at facebook.com/rockfordGPO.

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