Hey, girls, there's a new beer fest coming to town. Scheduled for Friday and Saturday, May 8 and 9, at Waitsfield's Big Picture Theater & Café, Betty's Beer Fest seeks to bring women into the conversation in a big way.
Moretown-based Megan Schultz of Meg's Events says she organized the new event in hopes of initiating a meaningful discussion with and about women in the beer industry. Schultz's other beer-driven brewfests — SIPtemberfest and Hop Jam — draw droves of thirsty drinkers.
Betty's Beer Fest will be smaller — tickets are capped at about 100 for Friday and 300 for Saturday — and more dialogue-focused. "I didn't want this to be a simple beer fest; I wanted a little more depth to it — I wanted to have the conversation," Schultz says. Beer is — or should be — a gender-neutral topic, she adds, and attendance is by no means limited to women. "This is not about 'girls rule, boys drool.'"
Friday's events will include a screening of The Love of Beer, a 2012 film about women of the Pacific Northwest's beer industry, directed by Portland, Ore.-based Alison Grayson. Eating Well senior food editor Carolyn Tesini, who cofounded Maine Beer Mavens while living in that state, will moderate a panel discussion. Schultz says she's still choosing panelists from a mix of female brewers, administrators and other industry folk. The film and panel will be followed by an industry mixer where attendees continue the conversation over — you guessed it — beers.
Saturday will follow a more traditional beer-fest format, with attendees sampling brews from a dozen or more regional brewers. All weekend, Big Picture will be home to a brewfest tap takeover featuring participating breweries.
Schultz is still finalizing the list, but confirmed Vermont breweries include Waterbury's the Alchemist and Northfield's Paine Mountain Brewing. (Brucie Donahue, who brews at the latter, is the president of the Vermont chapter of the Pink Boots Society, which aims to empower women to enter the industry through education and collaboration.) Also coming are Rising Tide Brewing and Bissell Brothers brewery, both from Portland, Maine.
Despite assumptions to the contrary, Schultz says finding breweries with women in leadership positions was easy. "Here in Vermont and regionally, we have such an incredible group of women in beer," she says. "I just kind of wanted to say, 'Hey, ladies, let's look at these incredibly awesome women who are already out there and doing it.' It's about introducing women to an opportunity that they don't think they have."
No one is intentionally or institutionally excluding women from the business, Schultz adds. "It's not like men are afraid of women [entering the business], but brewing has historically been the man's dominion. It's just the way it is."
The original print version of this article was headlined "Something for the Ladies"
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