Good Robot Brewing Co.

Women in Brewing

Women in Brewing | Top 5 Reasons It’s Harder to Be a Woman Brewer

1. That shit is heavy!

A full bag of grain is 55lbs. A 50L keg weighs up to 140 lbs, or as much as me! Okay, almost as much as me. These things often need to be lifted above hip level, which isn’t easy, but it is doable – for ANYONE. I’m also super tough! My ovaries don’t prevent me from developing muscle mass, so I have brand new biceps and triceps where little noodle arms used to be. Check out these sweet pipes!

kelticdevil and Kelly Costello together at the Halifax Curated local food and craft beer celebration in Halifax.

Besides, if something is too heavy, you lift it with a pal. Work smarter, ya dummy! (Pictured: Phil Church/kelticdevil) and Kelly.

2. Sanitizer removes nail polish.

Also, my hands are really dry, like really dry. Hundred-year-old, desert-leather dry. Boo! I suppose I’ll get over it. Honestly, these are style things more than gender things. I mean, everyone has skin, and most skin is affected by hot water, caustics, and sanitizers. I worked with a male brewer a few weeks ago. Throughout the brew day, he lost most of his beautiful purple polish. Oh no! Fashion faux pas! Just kidding; you’re beautiful, Donald. So yeah, nail polish gets removed, hair gets hella frizzy in all that humidity, your skin gets rough from getting wet all the time… But I’m here to impress you with my sick brewing skills, not win a beauty contest. (If that’s what you’re into, awesome! Go get ‘em, tiger!)

Kelly Costello and Donald MacLennan brewing up something with nail polish.

Donald’s coloured nails are matched only by Penn Jillette’s.

3. Sometimes it’s lonely.

At Good Robot, only 25-30% of our Untappd beer reviews come from women. (Editor’s note: This is in spite of our taproom following being well over 50% women.) We house only 5 actively working female brewers, brewsters, beer engineers, or alesmiths, whatever you want to call us (PLEASE correct me if you know of more). Feminism in beer is pretty niche feminism, and sometimes it feels like you’re all alone and you wonder who you’re really doing any of it for. Sometimes your vision doesn’t line up with that of your fellow femmes or you find yourself always surrounded by (generally lovely) dudes. Then you remember the powerful humans (and deities) who started before you and the wonderfolks who have joined the brewing world thanks, maybe in part, to the space you’ve created for them. Then you get over the bad days and keep on hauling grain.

Nova Scotia women in brewing.

A few Maritime brewers in action.

4. Sometimes people don’t take me seriously.

Well, fork them. They can either get on board or continue living in their tiny little world. No skin off my back. Yes, I am more than a pretty face; so are the other women in this industry. Women are more than an image or object used to sell a product. We are at times the producers, the transporters, the salespeople, the experts, and the consumers of that product. Up to an estimated 52% of patrons at Good Robot are female! We love the stuff, so please stop trying to tell us we don’t! And stop assuming we know nothing about the industry we’re a part of; that’s just insulting.

Kelly Costello gives finger to the patriarchy.

Kelly cares not for the patriarchy.

5. I bleed.

Alright, surely this is the hardest thing about being a woman brewer. It’s something I can’t help, and something I still pay taxes on, so don’t make it harder than it is. But wait, that’s not just hard for brewers. That’s a monthly inconvenience for pilots, doctors, lawyers, servers, or anyone with a menstrual cycle. Well, I guess we can accomplish everything else we have to that week, so why not carry on doing our jobs. Like we have done. Every month. For our entire adult lives. It’s just science! Nothing scary! Here, learn something!

The menstrual cycle of craft beer.

The menstrual cycle courtesy of MedComic.

Okay, so I guess there really aren’t that many things that make it harder to be a woman in a brewery. The only thing that sets us apart is the relative novelty, and that’s changing (woot woot!). I hope this industry can be a metaphor for the way things are going in the real world. The craft beer world seems to embrace change and progress in ways that I haven’t experienced in many other places, but it won’t happen on its own and there are still many changes we can make – not just for women. Let’s make it easier for everyone. Or at least make it more equally difficult, ha ha.


Kelly Costello is the BetaBrew Manager and on the Brew Team at Good Robot.

By in Brewing, Brewing, Women in Brewing 0

Women in Brewing | Musings from a Woman in Brewing

If I’m honest, whenever I am asked to do an interview, or give my perspective or opinion on the “issue” of women in brewing, my response invariably begins with a sigh. In fact, I probably sighed when Josh asked me to write this blog post. I sigh because I hate that it’s an “issue”. I sigh because I don’t have all the answers. I sigh because really, there is nothing about brewing or serving craft beer that should make it a male dominated industry. And most of all I sigh because it makes me a little bit sad that in 2018 we are still talking about gender equality. For a long time after I became a brewer and brewery owner in 2013, my standard response to these requests was along the lines of “why does anyone care what sex I am, as long as my beer is good?”. I didn’t want to talk about it, because I felt like talking about it validated the perspective that it was an “issue”. And I didn’t want it to be.

FemmeBot Homebrew Competition | Emily Tipton & Henry Pedro of Boxing Rock Brewing

Emily Tipton & Henry Pedro, owners of Boxing Rock Brewing Company.

When I was about 6, my father went away on a business trip and came back with a pink t-shirt for me. On the front was a rainbow, and the words “Anything boys can do…girls can do better”. I’m sure he has no idea how that t-shirt shaped my view of the world, but those words served me well as I pursued a career in engineering, and later as a brewer and entrepreneur. Because of my experiences as an engineer who did a lot of field work in the oil and gas industry, I am used to being the only woman in the room or around the table in a meeting. I am used to having to prove myself as equal rather than it being assumed. I am not fazed by being a woman in a man’s world, in fact I probably prefer it by now. But I know that’s not necessarily the way all women feel, and I know from experience that gender and power dynamics can be frustrating, frightening and extremely tricky.

Meg Brennan (Garrison Brewing), Rebecca Atkinson (Sober Island Brewing), Laura MacDonald (Stillwell) & Kelly Costello (Good Robot Brewing) at a 902 Brewcast podcast on Women in the Beer Industry.

Meg Brennan (Garrison Brewing), Rebecca Atkinson (Sober Island Brewing), Laura MacDonald (Stillwell) & Kelly Costello (Good Robot Brewing) at a 902 Brewcast podcast on Women in the Beer Industry.

As the years have passed I have come to realize that my position as co-owner and brewer at Boxing Rock has likely made things a little bit different for me than many women in brewing industry. I have the luxury of dismissing those that don’t respect me, and of standing up to those who objectify or insult my feminine side. As a brewery owner, I no longer fear repercussions to my career or livelihood. I also know the man who I started this business with sees me as his equal, respects me and will support any defense I mount of my gender and position. The more time I spend in this industry though, the more experiences I have or hear about that disturb me. I’ve had suppliers and customers express surprise and disbelief that a woman owns a brewery…and brews beer. I’ve had suppliers make inappropriate comments or suggestions. I’ve heard stories about female staff at breweries being physically and verbally assaulted by customers and even by colleagues from our industry. I’ve seen beer names and labels that objectify women. I’ve had all manner of inappropriate things said to me when I’m anonymously pouring beer at beer festivals. So yes, I will grudgingly admit, there is an “issue.” But what do we do about it?

Kelly Costello & Dina Lobo, a non-drinker, brew a dark saison.

I’ve been grappling with the answer to that question for a few years now, both as a woman in the industry and as the President of the Craft Brewers Association of Nova Scotia (CBANS). I am proud that CBANS made a motion at our AGM in June 2017 that encourages members to “uphold the fundamental principles of inclusiveness and equality to all in our day to day activities”, and to “pledge zero tolerance of discrimination in marketing practices”. I think as an industry association this is a great place to start. By making this motion we as an industry said we are willing to talk about this issue, explore it and debate it. It is important to start the conversation, because if we don’t talk about it within the industry, the assumption is that the status quo is OK. And it isn’t. If you have the appetite for a full exploration of sexism in beer marketing, and how it feels to be a woman in this industry, this piece is a pretty thorough look from this time last year. And CBANS got a mention in a follow-up piece from the same blog last summer.

Shelby Peters at Boxing Rock Brewing in Nova Scotia.

Shelby Peters, Boxing Rock’s first employee.

The next part of my answer is that I want all the men who love craft beer, and who think women are their equals to stand up and say so. If you see a man treating a woman in a way you think is wrong, don’t look the other way, don’t be a silent bystander, say something. And then tweet about it: #HowIWillChange. Because one thing I know from experience is that nothing changes for a man who doesn’t respect women and our contribution to the world of craft beer if he is called out by the woman he doesn’t respect. But I believe a whole lot can change if another man tells him that what he is doing or saying isn’t right.

Alewife’s Revenge Brew Day with Ladies Beer League at Boxing Rock Brewing in Shelburne, Nova Scotia.

Alewife’s Revenge Brew Day with Ladies Beer League at Boxing Rock.

The truth is, there are no easy answers. Everyone has a different perspective of what is right and wrong when it comes to power and gender and equality. But we can only move forward as a society if we are diligent about questioning our assumptions and being open to other points of view. It might seem like I am calling on men to come to our rescue, but I can assure you I am no damsel in distress. I am calling on men who love and respect women and the craft beer we brew, pour and serve to stand beside us as equals, to have hard conversations with women and other men, and to join us in challenging the craft beer industry in Nova Scotia to be a safe and inviting place for everyone.

Emily Tipton brewing a craft beer at Boxing Rock Brewing Company in Shelburne, Nova Scotia.

Emily brewing and being a bad-ass.

Co-owner of Boxing Rock Brewing