Ogden • At the end of a long week — when beer often dominated the headlines — more than two dozen women came together Friday to make a one-of-a-kind brew and to celebrate the growing female presence in Utah’s craft brew ranks.
“After the drama in the craft beer industry this week," said Jacquie Wright King, a brewer at Roosters Brewing Co. in Ogden, “this is our happy place."
In addition to being the head brewer at Roosters, King is co-founder of the Utah chapter of the Pink Boots Society, which promotes women in the beer industry.
On Friday — as part of International Women’s Day — members of each chapter gather at a single site, don pink rubber work boots and beanie hats and brew a beer using a recipe they have created.
The Utah chapter has about 24 members. They include brewers, brewery managers and sales staff. They hail from about a dozen breweries, including Roosters, Wasatch, Squatters, Epic, Uinta, Kiitos, Red Rock, Strap Tank and Proper. To belong to the society, a person must get at least 25 percent of her pay from a brewery.
“Women still only account for 2 percent of head brewers nationwide," King said. "We obviously are a very, very small portion of this industry, so events like this help women and girls everywhere realize that it is attainable to work in beer.”
On Friday, the group produced 30 barrels — 930 gallons — of a cold IPA dubbed “On Wednesdays We Wear Pink Boots” — a nod to the 2004 chick flick “Mean Girls.” The beer comes from a special blend of hops, made specifically for the Pink Boots beers across the country.
“It will be a hop bomb,” King said, “but in a good way. It won’t be bitter.”
The beer also will be steeped with a bit of hibiscus, she added, “just long enough to give it a light pink color."
Some of it will be canned, so it can be shipped out of state and to April’s Craft Beer Conference in Denver. The rest will be kegged and available on tap at restaurants and participating breweries, said King, who noted that the beer will be 3.2 percent alcohol — a Utah staple — and take a couple of weeks to ferment.
Proceeds from the beer sales will be used to provide educational scholarships and programs for members of the Pink Boots Society.
“I love that a group of women can come together and do something great,” said Ashlin Trolin, a sales representative at Kiitos Brewing in Salt Lake City.
While the collaborative beers were made across the U.S. and in several countries, the Utah edition served as a welcome respite from the divisiveness that has occurred in recent weeks over SB132.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, would have raised the alcohol cap on beer sold in grocery and convenience store from the current 3.2 percent by weight to 4.8 percent.
On Wednesday, however, the Senate-passed bill was hijacked by the House Health and Human Services Committee, which gutted the proposal and replaced it with language that would create a task force to study the issue over the next nine months and possibly address it again during the 2020 Legislature. Committee members, led by Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, questioned the need for such an alcohol increase and its potential effects on underage drinking, drunken driving and suicide.
Stevenson — a powerful figure on Capitol Hill and the Senate’s budget boss — strongly objected to the changes and said after that vote that he was not willing to negotiate. He believes the bill is focused on commerce and related to changes in the beer industry. As other states have abandoned their 3.2 percent standards, major brewers have opted to discontinue their low-alcohol lines, which is expected to result in declining availability of some beer products, including six-packs.
Lawmakers aren’t the only ones split on the issue. So are Utah brewers.
Small brewers would like to see the alcohol cap boosted to 4.8 percent by weight, which they see as a moderate and responsible way to adjust Utah’s century-old cap on beer in grocery and convenience stores.
Large brewers, on the other hand, say the small bump gives an advantage to the mega-makers who will flood the shelves with out-of-state beer, leaving no room for craft brews.
While men dominate the beer-brewing industry, women have been leading each side of the state’s retail beer debate.
Kate Bradshaw is the director of the Responsible Beer Choice Coalition, formed several months ago by small-business owners, Utah grocery stores, convenience outlets, beer distributors and brewers to push a change to the 3.2 beer law
Nicole Dicou is the executive director of the Utah Brewers Guild. The group opposes the proposed alcohol increase, saying the state’s brewers can step up and fill the void.
No matter what happens at the Legislature, Dicou said Utah’s beer industry continues to grow. With nearly 30 breweries, it provides 4,000 jobs and pours nearly $500 million a year into the economy.
That’s why bringing more women into the industry is important.
Pink Boots Day helps make that happen, said Krin Riedel a manager at Epic Brewing. “It creates a sense of community and encourages us to make the best kick-a-- beer we can.”