Auburn’s Crooked Lane Brewing is a lot like most of the breweries around Sacramento. Their beer comes in pint cans. They have a fruit-infused milkshake IPA. They have a cool tasting room and a patio lit by dangling strings of lights.
But there’s one thing that stands out: the brewmaster is a woman.
We checked with the area chapter of the Pink Boots Society — an organization of women interested in brewing. We asked brewery owners. Out of 84 Sacramento-area breweries, Teresa Psuty of Crooked Lane was the only one we found.
“When people figure out I’m the one behind this, they get so excited,” Psuty said in a phone interview. “(They ask) ‘You really do this?’ Yeah. It’s not that magical. It’s a process. Like with anything, the difficulty is in the details. Running a brewery isn’t about brewing beer, it’s about running a business and making a high-quality product that people want to buy.
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“There’s not a reason in the world there shouldn’t be a ton of women doing this.”
This situation isn’t unique to Sacramento. In Maine, there were just two women head brewers out of about 120 breweries at the end of 2017.
This is why, when you picture what a brewer looks like, you think of a guy with a beard in his 30s. It’s almost always a guy.
This raises an obvious question: Is the beer industry horribly sexist? Not really.
“I don’t know that it’s excluded women, so much as it hasn’t always been inclusive of women,” said Lindsey Nelson, who is involved with the local Pink Boots Society. “For so long, the stereotype of someone in the beer industry, or even someone that likes beer, was a guy with a big beard wearing flannel. Women have always liked beer — even the earliest brewers were women — but I feel like beer hasn’t always been marketed to us or made us feel like it was brewed with women in mind.”
Put another way, it’s hard to get into brewing beer if you don’t like drinking beer. Breweries are among the more progressive businesses in our area. They often support local agriculture, support social causes and have forward-thinking business practices.
They just need some ambitious women to try their beer and get into the scene.
Psuty remembers her gateway beer. It came about 20 years ago in Colorado, where she cracked open a Fat Tire from New Belgium.
As her love of beer progressed, Psuty started visiting breweries. But not by herself. It’s no fun being the only woman in a brewery. Then she joined the Pink Boots Society, where she met Nelson.
Nelson said she started attending Pink Boots Society events in 2016.
“It was so small!” Nelson wrote in an email. “At most, we would maybe have 10 members at a chapter meeting — and that’s me being generous. A lot of the growth has happened in just the last year.”
Both Nelson and Psuty say there’s been an explosion in the number of women interested in craft beer. That’s a good sign if you’re rooting for a more diverse beer industry. And you should be. Maybe there’s a woman out there with a recipe for an IPA that will blow your mind or a fruited kettle sour that pairs well with dinner. We just don’t know because there aren’t many women brewers.
Crooked Lane has a female assistant brewer who just graduated from UC Davis’ professional brewing program. Track 7 has multiple women in brewing positions.
UC Davis professor Charlie Bamforth has taught brewing theory and practical brewing for nearly 20 years. In a spreadsheet he shared with The Bee, Bamforth tracks the number of people in his classes and how many are women. In recent years, women account for 30 to 40 percent of students in his classes, and Bamforth said he expects the brewing industry to see more women brewers.
It’s only a matter of time, Psuty said.
“As we become more plentiful in positions where we’re working in production, I think it’s less and less daunting. From a societal standpoint, I don’t know how many women worry that it’s a man’s job and they can’t do it,” Psuty said.
There’s nothing about the job that can’t be solved with a forklift and a little know-how, Psuty said.
So she has reason to like what she sees. She sees women coming by themselves to try Crooked Lane brews. She sees moms having play dates on her brewery’s patio. And she sees many women starting to work their way up the ranks at breweries — maybe to become brewmasters themselves, one day.
It’s about time. One head brewer out of 84 breweries isn’t nearly enough for anybody’s taste.
“I always say the future is bright,” Psuty said. “What’s happening right now doesn’t make a ton of sense. One day, it will sort itself out, because there’s not a lot of reason for this to be happening.”