A first of its kind festival being held March 11 in Shelby will not only celebrate women in the craft beer industry but also raise money for scholarships to help more women enter the industry.
The Biere de Femme Festival came about after a discussion between Jordan Boinest, co-founder, part owner and operations manager at Newgrass Brewing in Shelby, and Anita Riley, cellar operator at Mystery Brewing in Hillsborough. Both women are members of the Pink Boots Society, a nonprofit with a mission “to assist, inspire and encourage women beer industry professionals to advance their careers through education.”
Pink Boots Society offers a variety of scholarship opportunities to its members across many different fields in the beer industry. Boinest received such a scholarship to attend a class on business and distribution at San Diego State University before opening Newgrass Brewing in 2015.
Wanting to find a way to give back to the organization, Boinest and Riley started discussing ways they could raise funds so that the Pink Boots Society could offer even more scholarships.
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“We said, ‘What can we do that would be really big?’” said Boinest. “And not only just to raise money for the Pink Boots Society, but to get more women from North Carolina involved with the organization.”
They took the idea to Caroline Parnin at the Pink Boots Society, and were soon contacting women in North Carolina’s beer industry to make it happen. The festival will feature about 30 breweries, each of which will pour a beer brewed by women just for the festival.
Before joining Mystery Brewing, Riley was a professional photographer. After seeing the industry “sort of implode,” she decided to enroll in a new brewing program at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College in 2014. Mystery Brewing offered her the cellar operator position before she could even finish the program.
In addition to raising funds for scholarships, Riley hopes people will come away with an appreciation for the women often working behind the scenes.
“I think putting as many women as we’re going to put in front of those people, I think they’re going to have an entirely different perspective on the brewing industry coming away from the festival,” Riley said. “It would be hard not to.”
In addition to her work at Mystery Brewing, Riley also writes about women in the industry for publications like WNC Woman, Asheville Grit and Carolina Brew Scene. At the Biere de Femme Festival, she will unveil “Brewing Up Ambition,” a book featuring photos and profiles of women in North Carolina’s beer industry (as well as homebrew recipes). It will be available for purchase, and is also included with VIP tickets. It’s much more than a book on brewers – Riley has spoken with attorneys, marketers, owners, environmental scientists and more. Many of these women will be on hand to sign their pages in the book.
One of those women is Alexa Long, head brewer at Legion Brewing in Charlotte.
“I think it’s a great organization,” said Long of the Pink Boots Society. “Just celebrating women in beer and even just celebrating North Carolina beer, regardless of gender, is awesome.”
Like Boinest and Riley, Long thinks the education provided by the Pink Boots Society’s scholarships is critical. While she feels completely respected by her peers now, she also thinks women in the industry sometimes have to prove themselves a little more.
All of the proceeds from the Biere de Femme Festival will be donated to the Pink Boots Society to fund future scholarships. Boinest wants to make the festival an annual event, with the possibility of holding it in other cities in the future.
“I think it’s important,” Boinest said. “These women come out of it with a different perspective and an education in something, and they can bring it back into their industry. And it does empower you. Anytime you learn something I think you’re empowered a little bit more.”
Daniel Hartis is the digital manager at All About Beer Magazine in Durham and author of “Beer Lover’s The Carolinas” and “Charlotte Beer: A History of Brewing in the Queen City.” Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @DanielHartis
The Biere de Femme Festival will take place in Shelby’s City Pavilion (126 W. Marion St.) on March 11. General admission tickets are $45 and allow entry from 2-5 p.m., while VIP tickets are $75 and come with the “Brewing Up Ambition” book, a t-shirt, access into a VIP tent and early entry at 1 p.m.
Tickets can be purchased at pinkbootssociety.org.
In Raleigh this weekend, The Big Frosty beer festival will be held at the Raleigh Beer Garden in Glenwood South. From 2-6 p.m. Saturday, 15 local and regional craft breweries will be seriving rare and specialty beers. Tickets cost $35 and include a tasting mug. Tickets can be purchased at theraleighbeergarden.com/events