Brewery tour gives young women in B.C.'s South Okanagan a glimpse into a career in beer
Students got a hands-on experience of the beer-brewing process
For Grace Connolly and her friends, a local brewery tour in B.C.'s South Okanagan wasn't only an awesome science learning experience — they also learned that people of all genders could succeed in a male-dominated industry.
"It's really empowering," said Conolly, a Grade 12 student at Penticton Secondary School, at the end of her trip to the Tin Whistle Brewery company last Wednesday.
The company, founded in 1995, invited Conolly and two other female students studying biology in the same grade and school to participate in making beer.
The program is a part of a movement to get more women into the brewing industry, a new twist to an annual project initiated by the non-profit Pink Boots Society Canada to mark International Women's Day.
The Pink Boots Society, which is based in St. Paul, Minn., and has 78 chapters globally including one in Canada, supports women and non-binary people in the beer industry in the form of scholarships and public education campaigns.
Every March, the Canadian chapter provides a special hop blend to breweries that are interested in producing a collaboration brew to celebrate gender equality on March 8.
Introducing girls to the science of brewing
Tin Whistle's co-owner Alexis Esseltine says she decided to invite high school students to take part in this year's brew to expose them to a career path they might not otherwise think of.
"There's a ton of science in beer," she said. "So much of what we decide to do later on comes from what we're exposed to in our youth, and so just by bringing people into the brewhouse to see this process will hopefully inspire them."
Esseltine says by inviting young women studying science to see the beer-making process, she hopes to inspire the next generation of women to join the gender-imbalanced beer industry.
"We're the beer capital of Canada — here we have breweries that are co-owned by women, three or four of them. Unfortunately, there are no women brewers currently in Penticton," she said.
Applying scientific knowledge
The three students got a hands-on experience, including dumping grains and hop blends into the mash tun, and testing the pH value and alcohol level of the wort.
Grade 12 student Charlotte Hannah says she was able to apply what she had learned in class in the process.
"Learning a lot of the terminology in the class was useful to be able to understand the processes of what was happening here, understanding the reasons behind why they're testing the alcohol levels and understanding how the alcohol is made from the fermentation of the yeast," Hannah said.
Jaimie Samoyloff, another Grade 12 student, says she has considered becoming a dietician, but now she knows she has other career options after the brewery tour.
"I really just want to see what it's like working in that type of job and what the different opportunities are," she said.
More women in the beer industry
Heather Jerred, who works as a salesperson in the industry, also took part in teaching the students how to brew. She says even though the beer industry is still male-dominated, more women have joined the industry in recent years.
"There [are] lab roles for quality assurance," Jerred said. "There're smaller roles … like sales roles, marketing roles, accounting, everything."
WATCH | Grade 12 students get a tour of a local brewery
Tin Whistle brewmaster Matthew Farmer says he's glad to introduce young women to the industry.
"It's a great opportunity to showcase the industry and to get more women into the industry," he said. "It's basically almost all science and some art, so it's great to see there's an interest, especially in the younger generation, into the science of brewing."
The end product, the Pink Boots Hazy Pale Ale beer, will be on sale throughout the Okanagan region starting March 15. A portion of the proceeds will go to Pink Boots Society Canada.
With files from Zameer Karim