Sexism In San Diego’s Craft Brew Scene
The recent headlines about sexism in the craft brew industry all started when an instagram page @Ratmagnet, run by Notch Brewing brewer Brienne Allan in Massachusetts, went viral after she reposted stories from women in the industry who experienced sexism on the job. Many of the stories recounted sexist and racist comments, reports of being passed over for promotions by men with less experience, as well as many different forms of sexual harassment, threats and assault.
The ramifications of the viral posts were immediately felt in San Diego, known as the craft beer capital of the world.
The stories on Allan’s page called out several breweries in San Diego. On Tuesday, the CEO of Modern Times stepped down and released a statement of apology . Since then, San Diego breweries have begun releasing statements saying they stand in solidarity with women in the industry.
“Unfortunately, I can't say I’m surprised by the outpouring of all the stories. I think what blew me away was how many,” said Lexi Russell-Martin, assistant brewer at DuckFoot Brewing in Miramar and co-leader of the San Diego Chapter of the Pink Boots Society. The Pink Boots Society is a nationwide organization dedicated to supporting and educating women in the craft brew industry.
Sexism in this industry isn’t new, and neither are efforts to combat it. Steps were taken by the Brewers Association in 2017 to effectively ban sexually inappropriate names for beers.
“That banning actually did help a bit. The problem is not every brewery is a part of the Brewers Association. I think really we have been trending in the industry as a whole to getting away from sexualizing beer. And not only that, but just starting to accept that women are a part of this industry. In the past brewery operations have always been a boy’s club. And, you know, you’d expect a middle-aged, white, affluent, bearded male to be your brewer, and that’s very much changing these days. We have so many, so many women in the industry these days. We’re kind of getting to the point where we have to force people to accept that we’re part of this. And the industry wouldn’t be where it is today without the women supporting it,” Russell-Martin said.
“So many times these [sexist incidents] happen, you know, either in confidence or not, and nothing happens. So our push now is we need to make sure that when these things occur, action is being taken. And we can’t let this go by the wayside any longer.”
Women are not only part of the industry, many now own and operate their own breweries. Esthela Davila is one of the co-founders of Mujeres Brewing, an all-women brewery in San Diego’s South Bay. Despite the brewery being an all-women establishment, they still experience sexism.
“It's just men tend to think that some of the comments that they say aren't sexist or demeaning. I'm behind the bar serving beers and I still get men that come in and say, but you don't even drink beer... another one that I get is: have you actually tried that beer? 'Like, yes, I kind of work here. I have tried all the beers here.' I don't mean to, like, make light of it, but it's just, it's a daily thing that kind of occurs. And you get the, 'oh, why don't you smile more' or, you know, 'you'd make better tips if you smiled more.' It's rough sometimes. But I also want to point out that for the bad there's a lot more good,” Davila said.
“So I just think it's maybe a little bit of lack of education and maybe they just don't understand that what they're saying, you know, hurts people. But hopefully we're going to change that. And that's what we're trying to do at Mujeres.”
2019 data from the Brewer’s Association showed that less than 8% of brewers are women. The numbers didn’t surprise Russell-Martin either. She said it’s a tough job, a dirty job, with a lot of lifting involved.
“More than anything? I think it's just [women] haven't been given the chance,” Davila said. “When you say you want to work in beer they just assume you want to be behind the bar. People don't give you a chance to learn how to actually brew. Fortunately for us in San Diego, we do have a couple of different programs at San Diego State and UCSD where you can learn brewing. And that was another reason why we wanted to have Mujeres, so the girls could actually get in here and learn.”
To hear the full interview with Esthela Davila, check out KPBS’ San Diego News Now Podcast.