NYC beer scene grows with local groups for women

The Pink Boots Society is building its presence in New York City.
The Pink Boots Society is building its presence in New York City. Photo Credit: Getty Images/Rick Diamond

The Pink Boots Society provides support for women in the beer industry around the globe. But until recently, New York City was missing out.

Since its founding in 2007, PBS has grown to more than 85 chapters nationally and abroad and has awarded more than $140,000 in scholarships for professional education. It hadn’t caught on here, though, until this past summer. Before that July launch meeting, chapter leader Mary Izett says she doesn’t know if there had ever been an official PBS meeting in NYC.

“We are the most populated city in the country, but we didn’t have that many breweries until the last five or six years,” says Izett, co-owner of Fifth Hammer Brewing Company in Long Island City. “There were more breweries elsewhere, and so more women working for local breweries in those places.”

New York doesn’t lack in opportunities or connections, says Ann V. Reilly, the events and promotions coordinator at Five Boroughs Brewing Co. in Sunset Park, pointing to support systems like the NYC Brewers Guild. But “once we started looking into the benefits specific to the Pink Boots Society, though, like their scholarships, we thought we should wrap our arms around this [organization] as such a big city,” says Reilly, who helped spearhead the society’s local launch.

To join the Pink Boots Society, at least 25 percent of a potential member’s income must come from the beer industry. That can translate into a variety of different jobs — there are members who brew, tend bar at breweries or beer bars, write about beer, work for distributors and in human resources.

Since its launch, 60 women have joined the NYC chapter — already more than other regional chapters, barring brewery-dense cities like San Diego — and Izett and Reilly are anticipating further growth.

Its presence has also encouraged the launch of a local chapter of Barley’s Angels, a women-run beer education network with more than 150 chapters worldwide.

“Barley’s Angels came into play because we knew not all of the women interested in beer would be able to join Pink Boots since you have to be a professional,” says Lineup Brewing owner and head brewer Katarina Martinez, a founding member and education chair of PBS’ NYC chapter, who helped launch the Barley’s Angels NYC chapter. “We wanted all women who are interested in craft beer to be included, so we started them alongside each other.”

The local Barley’s Angels chapter, which held its launch party this week at Five Boroughs, is led by industry professionals Andrea Proaño and Larissa Clifford, who both wanted to help extend education and networking to women who might not work in the industry.

“Barley’s Angels was founded with its focus on education in safe environments,” says Clifford, a bartender who recently made the switch to marketing. “I want to make sure all of our events provide that same sort of comfortable space for learning — about beer and beyond.”

Proaño, who has spent more than a decade in hospitality and fine dining, wants to “get as many women involved from different industries and provide them with as much information as possible while having fun with other women.”

Many gatherings of the Pink Boots Society and Barley’s Angels will be held together so that all members — whether professional brewers, home-brewers or simply beer fans — can benefit from the discussion and education (from cleaning beer draft lines to pairing beer and food).

The Facebook group NYC Women in Beer serves as an umbrella group for both chapters, and members frequently post events there for all to attend, from beer launches to festivals. The Facebook group is an example of what Izett considers a cornerstone of PBS and BA: community. Members can ask questions about everything from HR matters to equipment preferences, as well as share accomplishments, concerns and goals.

As both chapters grow, the plan is to hold four to six official meetings per year with more informal meetups in-between. The next joint meeting of the Pink Boots Society and Barley’s Angels is March 25 at 6:30 p.m. at Strong Rope Brewery in Gowanus. Nonmembers are welcome to attend ($10).

Spotlight on female homebrewers

This month, Izett and Martinez (along with Brooklyn Brew Shop co-owner Erica Shea) will judge the first Brooklyn Women Homebrew Competition at Sycamore Bar + Flower Shop in Ditmas Park. Visitors will also get to taste more than 15 beers by female homebrewers and vote for their favorite to win the People’s Choice Award. The event is March 30 from 2 to 5 p.m. at 1118 Cortelyou Rd. Tickets are $15 ($20 at door).