The Bay Area brewing industry may feel awash with burly bearded dudes, but a growing number of women are beginning to change the face of the male-dominated field. San Francisco photographer Natalie Jenks set out to document the sea change with this series of portraits that spotlight the women behind your favorite brews.
Inspired by a story she'd read about women-run breweries, Jenks enlisted the the help of the Bay Area chapter of the Pink Boots Society. The national group, which aims to empower women working in the beer world, connected her with dozens of badass beer babes—more than 40 of whom have sat for portraits with Jenks since July 2015.
Having captured women in an array of different jobs—cicerone, keg wrangler, brewmaster, CEO—at breweries across the Bay Area, from Anchor to Drake’s, Jenks says she found one strong common bond:
“The sentiment was that it’s not about being a woman making beer—it’s just about making great beer,” says Jenks. “As much as they were excited about the prospect of getting more attention for women working in the industry, they mostly wanted recognition for doing their jobs well.”
Tiffany McFarland, copresident of Pink Boots' local chapter and a territory manager for Fieldwork Brewing Company in Berkeley (who also posed for the project), balks at the limitations imposed by defining beer industry workers by gender. “I still hear terms like ‘lady brewer’ or ‘woman cicerone’ all the time, but you never say, ‘Oh, he's a male brewer,’” she says. “Some of the best and hardest working people I know in this industry are women.” (Editors' note: Our apologies to McFarland for the headline of this story!)
Melissa Myers, longtime brewer and owner of Oakland’s The Good Hop, agrees: “It doesn't matter what’s between your legs—either you can do the job or you can’t,” she says.
Myers—whose 15-year career as a brewer has included stints at both Magnolia Gastropub and Drake’s Brewing Company—hosted a show of Jenks’ photo series at The Good Hop during SF Beer Week. The response was overwhelmingly supportive.
“I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there isn't a lot of competition between genders [in the field]," says Jenks, who hopes people will take something away from the project—especially for women who may have been "interested in a career in beer, but weren’t sure that they’d be welcome. “It’s mostly about encouraging people,” she says.
We hope you enjoy the slideshow of Jenk's portraits above. See more at natalienphotography.com.