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Kristen Wilson

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From Pastime to Passion: A Journey to Craft Beer through Feminism

From Pastime to Passion: A Journey to Craft Beer through Feminism

Working in the New Jersey craft beer scene has been a wild (almost) two years.  If you came to me in 2012 and told me that I would be regularly drinking craft beer, occasionally brewing it, and talking about beer all the time, I would tell you to sit down and have another drink.

My foray into craft beer began at the 2012 Atlantic City Beer and Music Festival with my then-boyfriend, now-husband.  We had just started dating and I only went because it gave me the chance to be ‘the cool girl who drinks beer’.  Up until a few years ago, I believed the societal notion that beer was for guys and women only pretended to like beer to look cool (Go ahead – gasp and clutch your pearls.  I will save my Come to Jesus-I mean Feminism moment for another time.)

I was intimidated.  The only beer I had ever consumed at this point was some classically collegiate light beer and Yuengling Lager when the party hosts wanted to appear ‘cultured’.  Thankfully, my partner was aware of my palate (wine, please!) and introduced me to mead.  I think I spent the majority of the session between two meaderies (or in line for the bathroom) and felt like I was starting to fit in.  Over the course of the next four years, my partner made it his personal mission to find beer that I liked, and to my shock, I liked beer!  I grew comfortable looking at a beer list and learning which styles I preferred, and it became exciting to visit all the local breweries that were popping up like weeds.

This brings us to 2016.  Ever the stereotypical millennial with overwhelming student loan debt, I made the decision to get a second job.  With ten years of bartending experience under my belt and my newfound appreciation of craft beer, I felt confident in applying to a new, under-construction brewery.

Enter Chris Burke and Chris Mazzone of Eight & Sand Beer Co. – two friends who decided to open a brewery in Woodbury, New Jersey that focuses on styles that are traditionally European, with an American flair.

Eight & Sand is a 10-barrel brewhouse dedicated to its community.  Located on Evergreen Avenue, you are close enough to hear the train that runs through the city several times a day.  In the late 1800’s, trains were the main source of transportation.  Almost everywhere a train stopped, a community would grow around it.  This was the case for Woodbury, where three rail lines merged in the center of town, making it one of the oldest train hubs in New Jersey.  The name Eight & Sand is an old train term that means “quick and safe travels.”  Notch-8 is the fastest speed on certain trains and sand was thrown on tracks to prevent slippage.

I had no idea that starting a side hustle would turn into a passion, but Eight & Sand has been like a family to me, from my bosses to every person that comes in the Tasting Room.  Sure, I get to finish my full-time job and go right into a second one.  Many nights, I am responding to emails, scheduling staff, and thinking about social media, but who needs a day off when you get to do what you love every day?

It was Chris Burke that told me about the Pink Boots Society and encouraged me to join.  Founded in 2007 by brewmaster Teri Fahrendorf, Pink Boots Society is a non-profit organization created to assist, inspire, and encourage women beer industry professionals to advance their careers through education. To this end, Pink Boots Society provides scholarship opportunities, job resources, and industry information to its more than 1,500 members.

This year, I coordinated the second E&S Women’s Brew Day and our first for International Women’s Brew Day.  Nevertheless She Brewsisted is a hoppy Kettle Sour brewed with Buddha hand fruit to compliment the citrus and herbal notes of the Pink Boots YCH hop blend.  When collaborating with our head brewer to create the style, I knew that even though the female staff and I would be brewing the beer, I did not want to brew a “girly” beer designed to only be marketed to and consumed by women.  This is the same consideration we had when collaborating on We Can Brew It, our Lemon Wheat Ale.

Within the craft beer industry, pandering to female consumers and using sexualized images of women’s bodies to market products is not hard to find, but it is getting better (a lot in part due to the Brewers Association Advertising and Marketing Code).  From a server standpoint, I have had more sexist comments from those new to craft beer than those who have been around for a while.  The majority of my customers trust and respect my knowledge, knowing that my favorite part of my job is introducing people to new styles and tastes.

It is not hard to tell a craft beer newbie from someone more experienced.  I love asking people what they typically drink and finding a match in one of the 20 beers we have on tap at Eight & Sand.  Most recently, a new female customer told me cognac and coke is her usual drink of choice.  I will admit that this stumped me for a second, but our bourbon barrel-aged Belgian Tripel and Biere de Mars (respectively, Steel & Snow and Broken Nose) were winners that she enjoyed.  I can only hope that I inspired her appreciation for craft beer, as my partner did with me six years ago.

Even though New Jersey now has over 100 breweries (47 of which are in South Jersey), it is still on the list of states with the fewest breweries per capita.  This tells me that there is still more room to grow.  With this growth comes the opportunity for more women to learn and develop a passion for craft beer – whether that is drinking, selling, or brewing it.

Never forget – hop flowers are female!  Cheers.