Good Robot Brewing Co.

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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.

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