On Pink Boots Collaboration Brew Day, I rolled up to Brewhouse No. 1 just after 7AM where Pub Brewer Steve Forman, Lab Tech Victoria Bonca, Marketing Events Coordinator Colleen Ashkettle, and Brewpub Manager Ashley Likavec had already grained in. Office Coordinator Darlene Lurie was on her way. “Sorry, sister,” they joked. “We started without you.” Thankfully, I’ve had the pleasure of participating in a few Pink Boots Collaboration Days during my time at Great Lakes Brewing Co., so I didn’t sweat their teasing. Pink Boots Collaboration Days are always special, and even more so when new faces, voices, and ideas are involved.
New faces, voices, and ideas are invaluable to craft beer, a world driven by new trends, flavors, and innovation. The Pink Boots Society is especially equipped to forward this mission, providing women networking, growth, and educational opportunities in a space where they unfortunately remain underrepresented—for now. A nonprofit industry organization, Pink Boots Society works to assist, inspire, and encourage women and/or non-binary individuals in the fermented/alcoholic beverage profession through education.
L to R: Darlene Lurie, Victoria Bonca, Colleen Ashkettle, Ashley Likavec, Marissa DeSantis
We hear that people “can’t be what they can’t see,” and every year around International Women’s Day, the Pink Boots Collaboration Brew Day and fundraiser brings empowering visibility to women in the industry. Pink Boots Society Partners with Yakima Chief Hops to develop an exclusive hop blend, which is then sold to participating breweries (like GLBC!) with proceeds benefiting the organization. Everyone in the industry—regardless of gender—is invited to participate and craft their own special brew utilizing the proprietary hop blend.
For this year’s brew, none of our participants have “brewer” in their job title (yet) but all possess a passion for beer and brewing knowledge. “I’m glad I got my hand in it and made something I actually want to drink. I really liked the creative aspect of it. I like that I got to make it what I want,” said Victoria, who early in brew day recommended highlighting the special hop blend’s aromas by brewing a lighter style perfect for patio season, like a pilsner. This year’s hop blend features bubblegum, citrus, pine, and tropical notes (some of the crew even noted a “candy peach ring” aroma), and she preferred to play up the aromas v. leaning into bitterness.
Usually interacting with beer samples in the lab, Victoria was locked into the brewing process. “I like being very hands on. If I’m going to observe something, I’m going to treat it like something I’m going to have to do tomorrow.”
Victoria graining out
Brewpub Manager Ashley, who applies her beer knowledge daily when recommending pairings, curating beer cocktails, and answering customers’ questions, echoed a similar sentiment. “I just wanted to see the whole process come to fruition. The brainstorming, the execution, and the final product. I learn about brewing at our Hop Colleges but to be part of it is really cool.”
The women of the Pink Boots brew crew were certainly a part of it, participating in every step of the process from developing the recipe, to graining in and graining out (everyone’s favorite steamy activity), to adding hops to pitching yeast. It wasn’t lost on me that our group got to brew on the original Brewhouse No. 1, a 34 year-old original brewing system that so many beloved and storied beers were crafted on, dating back to a time when there were even fewer women were visible in the world of craft beer. As the hours wore on, the excitement, camaraderie, and positive energy surrounding this unique opportunity became infectious.
“It’s very cool to see other women so passionate about the industry. I have a little extra pep in the step today. I love it,” gushed Ashley. Victoria agreed. “It was very refreshing to work with a crew of women. Having the feminine energy around is like a breath of fresh air.” Even Steve, who’s brewed countless batches of beer in this space felt a difference. “This was a fun crew. And I realize you made me very efficient because I was very focused, talking about the process with you as we went through it.”
Darlene and Steve sniff the hop blend
While brewing together was a fun and meaningful experience for this group of GLBC women, the real fun will begin when it comes time to taste. “When we go to drink the beer it’s going to have a true meaning to it,” said Darlene. Colleen added “It made me excited to drink my beer. I feel like I’m doing my part,” then laughed, “and now I have an excuse to drink it all.” You heard it here first. If you don’t beat Colleen to the bar to taste this beer, you might be hearing, “sorry, sister!”
The Pink Boots Pils, a crisp, crushable, aromatic dry-hopped pilsner with low bitterness, is expected to tap in early May, just in time for patio season. Along with the funds donated by purchasing the hops, GLBC plans to donate an additional $1 per pint sold to the Pink Boots Society to support their mission. Stay tuned to GLBC social media for an official tapping announcement.
To learn more about Pink Boots Society, donate, or get involved, visit pinkbootssociety.org.
Marissa graining out
Words by Marissa DeSantis. Photos by Marissa DeSantis & Adam Ritterspach.