Indeed, the trio's beer, a Belgian dubbel they have named "Project Venus," offered a chance not only to work together but also to call attention to the growing role of women in beer-making. "We were talking about all these collaborations going on, and the absence of any women from any collaboration we could recognize," said Parisi, who has been the brewmaster at Cambridge for four years.
What's changing? Partly it's a matter of the numbers reaching a critical mass. "More women are starting to realize there's a place in the industry for them," Parisi said. But it's also part of the changing place of beer in American culture. "More women are drinking beer on their own, and that's led to greater awareness. I see it at the bar. I was here at our bar doing a tasting, and there were three women with a tower of beer. It was a great sight."
The number of women involved in brewing is still a small slice of the total workforce, particularly when the count excludes office staff, sales teams, and bartenders and waitstaff. And even though all three women say they've felt welcome at their respective breweries, they still face a challenge when it comes to dealing with suppliers, distributors, and, especially, customers.
"When I'm with a group of brewers, people will walk up straight to the men and not even acknowledge me being a part of it," said Ulrich, who trains new brewery staff at Stone. "Unless I introduce myself, it's almost like I'm not there."
Still, it's a lot better today than in 1987, when Stoudt, a former kindergarten teacher, opened her brewery next to the restaurant owned by her husband, Ed. Wholesalers and restaurant owners "just didn't take me seriously; they figured probably it was her husband doing it," she recalled. "I went into a bar in Lancaster once, and one of our beers was on the menu with Eddie Stoudt's name next to it."
These days many women brewers say they find the industry itself fairly accepting of their presence, though they still feel subtle pressures to conform to brewing's masculine ethos. "You have to have a strong will to work with guys," said Ulrich. "We tend act like brothers and sisters."
But even that's starting to change, thanks in large part to Teri Fahrendorf, a former brewmaster at Steelhead Brewing in Eugene, Oregon. In 2007 Fahrendorf took a cross-country brewery road trip, which she tracked with regular blog entries. At the time she wasn't aware of many other women brewers, and she certainly didn't feel a connection with them. "There'd be one or two here or there," she said. "But it's not like we bonded. We were used to being one of the boys."
Along the road, though, she began to meet more and more women, including Ulrich and Thompson. One evening during a stop at Victory, after a long conversation with Thompson about women brewers, she suggested on her blog that there should be an organization to promote women in the industry. Within hours she received dozens of e-mails from readers asking how they could sign up. The Pink Boots Society—named after Fahrendorf's signature brewery-floor footwear--was born.