Features: ‘Beer is something that everyone is allowed to enjoy’
Kelly Sidgwick founded Good Chemistry with her partner Bob Cary in August 2015. Before opening the brewery in St Philips, she was running The Festival Elderflower Company for five years.
Because it’s a small business, Kelly and Bob both do lots of different things at Good Chemistry. Kelly helps with brewing the beer, and packaging and delivering, designing labels and pump clips, planning and running events like the East Bristol Brewery Trail, as well as social media and marketing, accounts and bookkeeping and human resources.
Kelly also does her bit representing women in the beer industry, recently taking part in a tasting at the Wave Maiden in Portsmouth, what she called “a really fun, unintimidating event just for women to come and hear from three women who work in beer and brewing, and to do a bit of a tasting too”.
So why does she think there are so few women in her profession? “Historically, women were the ones who brewed the beer, like Jane Austen for example. Then, it moved outside of the houses and became a business and so considered ‘a men’s thing’, but now women are getting back to it and they are more interested.”
Kelly wants to increase not just women’s representation in the industry but also women’s interest on beer. “I think that making these women more visible in the media would be the best thing to do. This could work as an example and inspiration to other women who see themselves reflected. If all the information about beer is oriented to men, women’s interest can easily decrease. Beer is a non-gender specific thing that everyone’s allowed to enjoy.”
Also brewing in Bristol is Annie Clements, the co-founder and creative lead of Lost & Grounded in Brislington.
Like Kelly, Annie’s role in the business varies from day to day. She is heavily involved in branding, communications, marketing and events, “and then some!”
“We are only a company of six employees and there is so much to do. Like all of our team, I live, love and breathe everything beer-related. Let’s just say it never gets boring.”
Annie also harks back to a bygone age when most of the first brewers were women (known as brewsters) brewing beer for men to consume until over time men gradually became the primary brewers.
“Fast forward to the present and we have a new revolution of women making some serious waves throughout the brewing world and opening up opportunities for a new generation of women to embrace. Over the past decade, there’s been a steady increase in the number of women working in brewing. I’m certainly excited to be right here, right now, working amongst incredibly talented women across varying roles globally.
“Without politicising too much, the 60s and 70s seemed to bring with it a certain machismo toward beer drinking and consequently the stigma that beer was not a ‘drink for ladies’. What I tend to notice about that era in particular was that, generally, big brewers were mainly targeting men which, when you think about it, is not good business practice to potentially cut off half of your customer base. The use of sexist labeling passed off as harmless fun also did nothing but hinder the distribution and promotion of beer as a non-gender-specific drink.
“Today the ‘craft beer’ boom in the UK and beyond has opened many doors for women to embrace what were perceived as ‘jobs for blokes’ such as more the laborious production roles that were never viewed as traditional roles for women. Of course, gender equality, education, women’s brewing societies such as Pink Boots, local female beer appreciation clubs and a collective voice are all coming together to facilitate the inclusion of women in all manner of roles making the brewing industry much more interesting and exciting.”
To emphasise the difficulty of making a career in beer, Chloe Cooter made the difficult decision to close her craft beer and home brew supplies shop, Brew on St Nicholas Street, last month. The decision to close was a combination of the shop’s lease ending shortly and the increase of availability for good beer. Good for the consumer, not so great for Chloe, who could always recommend something excellent to drink from the shelves and fridges in her small shop.
“In order to get more women working in the beer industry, we need to get more women drinking beer,” Chloe explains. “We need to take the stigma and the almost-snobbishness out of beer. You drink lager? Fine drink lager! Like white wine? Brilliant, try this beer, it has a similar flavour profile! Only drink gin? Cool, this beer has botanicals in it. Don’t like anything I’ve suggested, that’s fine too, you gave it a shot, we both did! I’m not going to make you feel bad for not liking anything!”
Chloe adds: People need educating, they need to try more things and they need to be given the opportunity to do so. Awareness needs to spread about the availability of beer that isn’t your traditional pint of best bitter in an old fashioned pub surrounded by old men, (not that there is necessarily anything wrong with that!) I think it’s a matter of talking to women, and getting them excited about beer and brewing.”
Top image: Kelly Sidgwick
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