Nashville Women in the Beer Business
The Pink Boots Society lands in Nashville.
Written By: Erin B. Murray
Photographers: Amy Nicole Photography
Nashville’s craft beer scene boasts an inordinately high number of women in brewmaster boots. Right now, three of the top craft brew houses are run by females—Jackalope, Tennessee Brew Works, and now Corsair—and there are even more women populating roles throughout the industry, from taproom employees and pourers to distributors and draft line installers. Last fall, one of them, Zoe Glassman of restaurant industry supply company A Head for Profits, decided it was time to band together and launched a local chapter of the Pink Boots Society, whose mission is to help advance the careers of women beer professionals.
The organization was originally started in 2007 by one of the country’s first female brewmasters, Teri Fahrendorf. The local branch has stayed busy since its inception, says Bailey Spaulding, brewer and cofounder of Jackalope.
“We’re probably one of the more active chapters,” she adds.
Chapter president Nina Ritchie, who is the director of marketing at Fresh Hospitality, says there are about 50 members on the email list and anywhere from 10 to 25 meet up monthly. In April they released their first collaborative project, a beer called Unite Red Ale, which was brewed in honor of International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day. Only 27 kegs were released, and most were emptied in just a few weeks. The ale was created using some general guidelines given out by Pink Boots that brewers Spaulding, Sally Cooper (also of Jackalope), Laura Burns (of Tennessee Brew Works), and Karen Lassiter (of Corsair) then riffed on by adding Mosaic hops, which are hard to get these days—fellow brewer Linus Hall of Yazoo donated from his own stash.
The proceeds from Unite Red Ale went to Pink Boots’ scholarships for women in the beer industry as well as the local charity Stephanie’s Fight. Nashville’s original female pioneer in brewing, Stephanie Weins was the cofounder of Blackstone Restaurant and Brewery, and later, the Blackstone Brewing Company. She was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2011 and lost her battle in 2014—but along the way, she helped start a new brewing business, played a strong role in the industry, and inspired the women who were coming up around here.
“It was right around when [Jackalope] opened that she was diagnosed, so she was kind of laying back at that point, but it was great to have her around,” says Spaulding. “She would still come out to festivals and was great to talk beer with. She was a no-nonsense lady, and I always liked that.”
Weins’ legacy lives on in local brew rooms where women are clearly dominating the scene—likely because Nashville’s craft brew revolution is so new. “It’s not an old brewing town, so people haven’t historically seen men brewing here,” says Burns. “When we all came into the profession here, it was more or less like we were all in equal standing.”
The Nashville chapter of Pink Boots plans to work on more large-batch collaborative beer projects and will continue raising funds for Stephanie’s Fight. More at pinkbootssociety.org
A Craft Beer Drinker's Guide — July issue of Nashville Lifestyles!