International Women’s Day isn’t typically a holiday that’s actively celebrated — unless you’re Patrice Fuller or work for her at Carbondale Beer Works.
“We might pop a couple of bottles to celebrate,” Fuller said. But while there may or may not end up being champagne, there will definitely be beer. Their beer. Fuller, a member of the Pink Boots Society, is inviting her almost-all-female staff to participate in the organization’s Collaboration Brew Day, during which women brewers all over the world brew beer together in commemoration of International Women’s Day. A portion of the proceeds goes back to PBS, an Oregon-based nonprofit dedicated to inspire and assist women in the beer industry through education.
“I just thought it would be fun, since I have my girl gang,” Fuller said. “The girls have always wanted to be in back and learn a little bit about what goes on, so it’s an opportunity for them to get to be part of it and learn a little bit about how the brewing process actually works.”
She also likes that the event has “collaboration” right in the name. “I’m really big on team, so it’s a good team event for us.” And while the point is to celebrate women in the industry, brewer Chachi Rodriguez will be the one coaching them through the process. “We won’t have any beer if he’s not there!” Fuller said.
The ladies have agreed to come in early on Thursday to mash and add grain, both important parts of the brewing process, Fuller said. She’s thinking about ordering matching T-shirts so they can work in style. And of course, their work will last long after last call, as proceeds help fund PBS’s recent scholarship programs; while the organization started in 2007, it didn’t become a nonprofit until 2013.
“From 2007 to 2013, we were pretty much a little hobby association,” PBS Executive Director Emily Engdahl said. Since then, though, the organization has grown almost as quickly as the microbrew industry. “In 2013 — the first year we started doing scholarships — we had one and an income of $15,000. Last year, we had 21 scholarships and $230,000.”
Worldwide, there are 245 registered teams of brewers for Collaboration Brew Day, which Engdahl estimated would fundraise about $60,000 for PBS. This year for the first time, Carbondale Beer Works is one of those teams.
“I’m such a nerd,” Fuller said. “To be honest, I was really excited to qualify to be in the Pink Boots.” Maybe that’s why her Facebook profile is simply her donning her own flamingo-pink boots.
It wasn’t until Fuller and Rodriguez bought Carbondale Beer Works that she qualified to become a PBS member. The society has strict policies regarding its membership.
“In order to qualify, you have to be female-identified in the industry, making either 50 percent of your income from beer, retired from the industry, a student in an accredited beer program, or you have to be a brewery in planning with a secured lease,” Engdahl said. “Otherwise, everybody’s always a brewery in planning.”
The point of both the society and the day is female empowerment through mentorship and mutual support. Fuller said she couldn’t think of a better industry to prop up those ideals. “I’ve never worked in another industry that’s quite as inclusive as the beer industry. I’m sure women have had to fight hard to get where they are — I’m not debating that —but it’s a very inclusive industry.”
And, she said, beer is just fun. All of the Collaborative Brew Day teams are using the same, customized-especially-for-PBS hop to make their creations this year. There will be solidarity in that, but the resulting beers will be wide ranging in their taste profiles. For instance, Fuller plans to brew an IPA, but that doesn’t mean other breweries will do the same.
The tentative name for Thursday’s creation? Bitches Brew.