Lindsey Kingry first started making beer while working in healthcare. Brewing interested her, so she studied brewing science and operations at Auburn University.
“When I started the brewing program at Auburn, it wasn’t necessarily something that I sought out as a career path. It was just to kind of further my hobby,” Kingry said.
But after finishing the Auburn program in 2015 and working at a brewery internship, she decided to forge a career in craft brewing. Kingry now serves as quality assurance and quality control manager at Scofflaw Brewing Company, where she does microbiology and chemistry on beer samples to ensure the quality of the product.
The work isn’t far off from Kingry’s past work in healthcare laboratories.
“It was kind of a natural progression for me,” she said.
Kingry is one of just a handful of women in Atlanta who work in beer production, responsible for the actual creation of the drinks. That trend remains true nationwide. Just 4 percent of 1,700 breweries surveyed in 2014 had a female head brewer or brewmaster, according to a Stanford University study.
“When people look inside a brewery, they still see a bunch of guys and a bunch of dudes working,” said Laura Ulrich, president of Pink Boots Society, a national organization dedicated to advancing women in the brewing industry. “They think of a bearded man, just rough and burly.”
Ulrich, a small batch brewer for Stone Brewing in San Diego County, Calif., said Pink Boots has around 1,500 members, but only five are in Georgia. One of those members is Kathy Davis, CEO and head brewer at Abbey of the Holy Goats. She started brewing after her parents gave her a brew kit 13 years ago.
Davis said one reason craft beer production remains male-dominated is the perception that it is a “man’s industry.”
“With more women drinking craft beer and more interested in that, I think we’ll see more and more women gravitating toward the production, simply because that is where the true art behind the beer is made,” Davis said.
Zuri Coleman, brewer at Second Self Beer Company, said having few women in production can be a self-perpetuating cycle.
“Women are kind of intimidated that they don’t see a lot of women when they go to breweries working in the back and they don’t want to be the only one,” she said. “They might feel like they’re going to be lonely or something.”
That didn’t stop Coleman. She got started in brewing after she visited Second Self and saw the short-handed taproom. Coleman started as a bartender in 2015 and by October 2016, she had worked her way up to a full-time brewer.
Coleman said the physical demands of the job could be another reason for the lack of women.
“It’s definitely a manual labor job, which surprises a lot of people,” she said. “They’re like, ‘Oh, you mean you don’t just drink all day?’”
Abbey of the Holy Goats' Davis, who used to power lift, explained what a brewer’s day can entail.
“You have to be willing to sling 55 pounds of grain around in a bag or pick up a 160-pound keg, so that’s not easy work, and you’re talking usually about a 10- to 12-hour shift when you’re brewing or cleaning that is very labor-intensive,” she said. “I’m not saying women don’t like to do that. Obviously, I do. But it’s a little daunting when you think that you’re going to be back in a room full of men and you’re the only woman back there, thinking, ‘Hey, are they going to look at me like am I pulling my weight?’”
The physical nature of brewing can deter people, but it can also be an attractive element, said Pink Boots' Ulrich.
“That’s what I find very rewarding is I get to know that I put in a hard day’s work and I didn’t sit at a desk and I wasn’t behind a computer,” she said. “I did it with my hands and I made something tangible.”
Scofflaw's Kingry said she doesn’t see brewing as any more male-dominated than when she worked in healthcare. Women may not work in brewing because they don’t think of it as an industry to work in, she said. On top of that, they don’t drink craft beer as often. Only a quarter of weekly craft beer drinkers are female, according to the Brewers Association.
Despite all of this, Kingry said everyone she has worked with has been respectful.
“I don’t think anybody sees any gender roles in work or not. I don’t think that’s an issue. For the most part, it hasn’t been my issue,” she said. “I mean, there’s been a couple of instances, but nothing to scare me out of the industry by any means. Where I work is very family-oriented, and I don’t feel like I’m the lone fish in the sea.”
Kingry mentioned the importance of supportive organizations such as Pink Boots.
Though there is no Atlanta chapter of Pink Boots, Davis said she would love to get one started.
“We really do need that here in Georgia. We’re one of the few states that has two women owner-brewers,” she said, referring to Riverwatch Brewery in Augusta.
To encourage more women to seek work in craft brewing, Pink Boots offers scholarships to teach the production side of brewing, including quality assurance courses at Portland State University. Ulrich said interests in food science and fermentation tie in well with beer.
Mentorship is also an important aspect of supporting women.
“It’s important for younger women or even older women that get into this to find a connection to other people so that they can ask the questions that they don’t feel very comfortable asking in front of their coworkers,” Ulrich said. “Having other women ... to be able to bounce ideas off of really kind of empowers you essentially and helps you feel confident.”
Davis said she tries to encourage as many women as possible to do internships at Abbey of the Holy Goats. And she has sought out mentorship herself, talking with Bailey Spaulding, the CEO and brewmaster at Jackalope Brewing Company in Nashville.
“She was a big influencer in how I opened the brewery and what mistakes not to make, so I try to return the favor as much as possible,” Davis said.