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Good Robot Brewing Co.

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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.

Cheers.
Emily
Co-owner of Boxing Rock Brewing

By in Brewing, Events, Taproom 0

Women in Brewing | Bettering Our Industry

What I’ve Learned

Hi everybody! It’s Kelly, your friendly neighbourhood BetaBrew Manager. I’ve been in this business for a little over a year now. The robotic nest I inhabit has been pretty close to perfect. Warm enough. Safe enough. Just enough worms vomited in my direction for me to really thrive. I’ve learned things from everyone around me – including some of my fellow women in brewing – and been encouraged to seek out facts from other beautiful brains (EMILY TIPTON, I LOVE YOU). I’ve been given access to resources, supplies, equipment, and seemingly bottomless Meatball Heros (Thank you, Sam and Tony). I’ve been pushed to improve my brewing practice and my character… and my punctuality. Space has been made for me in ways that I never expected.

But that’s within my nest.

Women in Brewing | BetaBrew FemmeBot Homebrew Competition | Kelly Costello, Irene

Kelly & Irene brew Virgo Saison, a grissette.

Beyond that, sometimes I feel safe and warm and sometimes people even puke worms at me, which is nice. It’s familiar. Often, especially in other breweries/nests, people share their information and experiences. They seem to really recognize that the more everyone knows about beer and how it’s made, the better it gets, which is what we want. Usually, I can ask questions, be it about water profiles or hop utilization methods or a simple “what’s that” or “where can I get more worms/meatballs” and the answer is there, given to me freely.

Women in Brewing | BetaBrew FemmeBot Homebrew Competition | Kelly Costello & Evelyn White brew Reclaiming My Time, which received media attention from The Coast and Metro News in Halifax

BetaBrew – Kelly, Evelyn White & friends brew “Reclaiming My Time”, a milk stout with some media attention.

The Problem I Experience

All that said, I still sometimes get laughed at, talked down to, talked over, and even sexually harassed. I’m white, cys-, hetero-, and physically able. I’m soaring in privilege and I still get the bird-shit end of the stick sometimes. This isn’t a “wah wah, everything sucks” message. This is a plea that if we’re going to put so much energy into bettering our beer, then we should also put energy into bettering our beer environments. Socially, and not just for women in brewing, but everyone. We need to crack through the happy shell we’re incubating in and puke encouragement onto the next wave of worm-lovers. Wait, the metaphor is becoming a metamorphosis… You know what I mean! My brewing does not impede your brewing. So yay! Let’s all make beer and eat worms!

FemmeBot Homebrew Competition

Oh, and in the spirit of bettering our beer environments, I’m organizing FemmeBot Homebrew Takeover, a homebrew competition targeted at women in brewing and fabulous femmes. The rules are simple:

  • Who? FemmeBots (female and female-presenting brewers).
  • What? Beer must be pre-Prohibition style (from when brewing was truly a woman’s job).
  • When? March 1st is deadline for submission: 4 x 351mL bottles (or equivalent) with recipe, ABV, name and brewer’s info. Here is the submission form. March 7th (International Women’s Day weekend), winners announced at FemmeBrew Tap Takeover.
  • Where? Drop off at Good Robot. Winners announced at Good Robot.
Women in Brewing | BetaBrew FemmeBot Homebrew Competition | Kelly Costello, Maria Josey & Erica Fraser brew a mole beer

BetaBrew – Kelly, Maria & Erica brew Holy Mole, a brown ale with mole.

Sign up here and help get the word out. Happy brewing.

By in Beer News, Brewing 0

Beer Cans vs Bottles | 3 Facts about Canned Beer

If you’re anything like me, you’re an idiot. And idiots believe anything their Uncle Charlie tells ’em. Like the time Charlie and I drank at my cousin’s wedding all night until the break of dawn. Between bouts of unconsciousness on that trampoline, I was privy to Charlie’s rants about canned beer. He only drinks bottles. Green bottles, specifically. Charlie’s rants about beer cans vs bottles impregnated my impressionable college mind so deeply and perversely that I was terrified when we decided to pursue our first canned beer, Extra BIG-ASS Beer – Oktoberfest style lager (and look out for cans of our Tom Waits for No One – stout in winter 2018). As it turns out, Charlie’s canned beer belief system is as fragile as the green bottles he drinks from. Here are 3 facts about canned beer you and Charlie should know… Not that Charlie will read them. He believes the internet is a Mayan conspiracy.

1. Beer cans are more recyclable.

Beer cans vs bottles | Extra BIG-ASS Beer Oktoberfest lager tipping over pallet

Note: beer cans are only good for the environment when stacked properly.

Everything is bad for the environment, including this blog post. But aluminum is the most recyclable material on the planet. In fact, the energy consumed to make one fresh can equals the energy used to make 20 recycled ones. Also, aluminum can be recycled indefinitely, and its lower density makes it cheaper to ship. Take that, glass. (Note that aluminum’s footprint to produce rather than recycle is quite big, so be sure to recycle those cans.)

2. Beer cans do not make the beer taste metallic.

Beer cans vs bottles | canned beer metallic taste

Extra BIG-ASS Beer – Oktoberfest style lager. Now in cans for your uncle’s aggravation.

There is a neat lining on the inside of every beer can that prevents corrosive beer from ever coming into contact with aluminum. “But Josh, I’ve definitely tasted metallic or tinny canned beer before.” Listen, Charlie, I’ve had enough of your shit. That flavour is probably the metal can sitting right beneath your nose, your primary flavour picker upper, as you drink. Pour your beer in a glass and taste again. If it’s still metallic, it’s likely an off-flavour from the brewing process: incorrect water profiles, yeast health issues, or brewery tank wear.

3. Beer cans keep the beer fresher and tastier.

Beer cans vs bottles | Johnny Heighton at Good Robot Brewing Company

Beer cans are as fresh as Johnny’s many Lil’ Wayne tees.

Unlike bottled beer, canned beer is airtight. Nothing kills the flavour of a beer easier than oxidation. Ever cracked a beer, nodded off, and then tasted it the next day? Yes, Charlie, I know this is a daily occurrence for you. Oxidized beer, or “flat beer”, has little to no carbon dioxide and therefore no body. It also typically tastes bad, perhaps like cardboard. Also, unlike bottles, beer cans do not allow UV rays to enter the vessel. Ever had a skunky tasting beer? UV rays from light sources can interact with a chemical component of hops to produce 3-methyl-2-butene-1-thiol, which is not unlike the sulfur (thiols) present in a skunk’s secretion. Green and clear bottles are especially ineffective for preventing UV penetration.

[embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNge3VojOHk[/embedyt]

There you have it. Scientific evidence that canned beer is vastly superior in every way to bottled beer. Oh, and we’re happy to announce our first bottled beer, bourbon-barrel-aged Mississippi Goddam American barleywine.

My Beer: My Friend, My Confidant

A column about booze, anxiety, and feeling like you’re a part of something.

Walking through the gates of Good Robot on a busy weekend can feel intimidating as all hell – even for an employee. The people are crowded together, the cups filled to the brim with a new beer that you don’t recognize, and you feel like not even the shadow that casts over the gastroturf can protect you.

But our beer, it doesn’t judge. Our beer doesn’t ask questions or cast expectations. Our beer will run right up to you and ask you to be its friend.

That’s at least what I found in my 3 months working with GRBC.

The Goseface is my sour friend when I’m in need for a little bitch-fest and a half, or when I’m really ticked off about my “grown-up job.” She gives me the salty edge I need to carry on.

Screen Shot 2017-05-30 at 9.37.59 PM

Now, the nuttiest of them all, is the smoky Camacho Lager. He can be a really big ass, but man, can I let loose with this guy. He is a goof, and he is a great listener. He’s my go-to when I need to just be myself. Continue reading