Women in Craft Beverage
I’m new to the craft beverage industry, new to St. Vrain Cidery, and I have to tell you: it is a fascinating space. Not only for the obvious reasons of all the experimenting currently happening. Like what happens chemically when you mix barrel-aged gin with fermented apples or throw in some tropical fruit like pink guava in a place far from the equator (a huge hit by the way).
It is also fascinating because it is a microcosm of what is going on in the greater stage of our country and world. Those with identities beyond male are entering the scene and by doing so, they are changing the landscape. People tend to go where they feel represented. I was drawn to working at St. Vrain precisely because of the women on the team. I started wondering, who is feeling represented in the drinking and making of craft beverages, especially cider? And where is the industry going, more of the same or becoming more inclusive? My small sample size of the industry at St. Vrain, as it turns out, is not representative.
Cindy Landi is the CEO and Co-Founder of St. Vrain Cidery in Longmont, Colorado. She got into the industry for several reasons. After working for years in customer service and in nonprofit work, she wanted to be her own boss. She was also drawn to all the possibilities for craft cider. Everybody is doing it differently, focusing on different aspects of the industry. That could mean concentrating on the production side and making cider or opening a taproom and promoting other people’s ciders, or both. There is a lot of space to create and do it your way.She noticed immediately the diversity problem. Cindy explains,
“You realize pretty fast just how much a male-driven industry it is. Not because it tries to be, that is just how it is. I would love to see more diversity and more women in this space.”
And therein is the great irony. Currently, women may not see themselves in the role of the business owner or maker of craft beverages. However, in the long history of human civilization; the vast majority of ancient brewers and vendors were women. opens in a new windowArchaeologists who study fermentation disagree on the ancient origins of the first fermented beverage. Nevertheless, they agree that while men were out hunting, women were responsible for making the fermented household drinks to go with the meal. For thousands of years, women were the homebrewers (or the feminine version brewsters) until custom and law changed that in the 1700s. We have been on that trajectory ever since.
Cindy’s advice for women who have been thinking about entering the brewing/fermenting space: just do it. The business of cider making is life changing and worth the investment. The community is open, welcoming and supportive. She wants to see people succeed and that is the feeling she gets from others. Women are few and far between and there are numerous ways to be involved in the industry.
Cyn Goodman’s involvement in the industry has had an interesting flight path. Currently, Cyn is the Production Manager and Assistant Cidermaker at St. Vrain. Though, her degree is in Fine Arts and she trained as a potter. She started making beer at home then started selling and making wine in the Midwest. Her experience in the craft beverage space has been refreshing and positive. She does think it is different to be a woman in the industry. In her experience, the brewer/fermenter space is 90% male. Luckily, she did not have to fight tooth and nail to get into it. It helps to have women like Cindy leading the business and industry.
Cyn believes the industry is bringing more talented women to the forefront for their skill and ambition. The great thing about St. Vrain, according to Cyn, who initially was in a secondary helper role, is the support and encouragement she received to have a voice and take on more responsibility. Her cidermaking counterpart Dan Daugherty, co-founder and lead cidermaker, encouraged her to shift her role from production to include cidermaking.
Different backgrounds, experiences and opinions create more profound wells of knowledge. To become a more inclusive industry for women and minorities, the craft beverage industry will only strengthen its foundation, make a better product, and broaden its consumer base. So get out there women! There are fermentation science programs developing at most major universities and finding an internship at a cidery, winery, brewery or distillery may be a great start to feel out your career change.