“Women brewers dominated the industry for 4,000 years,” says Tradesman Brewing’s co-owner Sara Gayle McConnell. “There was an Egyptian goddess of brewing.”
Originally called Brewsters, women brewers have quite the history, especially in the United States. McConnell, who owns Tradesman with her husband, wants to show more women how brewing works. So, she created the BREWSTER (an acronym for Building Relationships and Empowering Women Striving To Exist Responsibly) Brews series.
(Thinking the history of women brewers would be easy to search, we gave it a shot. The interweb, unfortunately, has some catching up to do.)
When we first heard about BREWSTER we kind of freaked out. A special series for women to come out and brew beer … for free? How had we not heard about this? McConnell admits that the series has mainly grown through word of mouth, with the first few people coming out because they dated or knew male brewers in the area.
McConnell’s first event was held in conjunction with the Pink Boots Society, an international organization of women beer professionals. Along with thousands of women across the world, McConnell and three others (the gang started off small) got together on International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day on Sun. March 8 to brew a red ale.
“I didn’t see much on their [Pink Boots] website about it. There wasn’t any social media,” says McConnell. “I was brewing the same beer as women in South Africa and no one was talking about it.”
This under-the-radar approach to women’s brewing was not what McConnell had in mind. As a former neonatal nurse, McConnell has years of experience fundraising for various causes, and she decided that she could start a series similar to what Pink Boots was doing, but expand on it in a larger and on a local sphere.
Each BREWSTER event will raise money for various charities. With a brew sesh every quarter, that means four charities a year will benefit from the beers brewed by chicks in town. Local breweries (and hopefully, soon bars) will sell these beers and donate money from each sale to the charity chosen by the brewsters. According to McConnell’s description of the BREWSTER series, “the goal is to donate $1 from all pints sold in our tasting rooms to a locally named women’s charity.”
At the first brewing event McConnell says $700 was donated to The Point, a women’s nonprofit located in Wadmalaw that raises funds for Lowcountry women and children struggling with financial, family, and health issues. This year’s remaining charities are My Sister’s House, the Center for Women, and around Christmas time, the local homeless shelter for women and children.
“It can never boil down to just one day,” says McConnell, pointing to the lengthy brewing process. While most of the action takes place during the brewing day, brewers have to wait two weeks before they can try what McConnell promises will be “really tasty beers.”
“Everyone does something. Someone weighs the hops, someone dumps stuff in the mill,” she says. The process is lengthy (and we’re not just talking about that two week waiting time), with a whole day’s work taking about six hours.
Holy City’s Julie Stallings has worked at at the brewery for over three years, and while she currently helps manage front of house operations, she’s gotten more and more involved with the brewing process. “People think beer is just for guys,” says Stallings. “It’s a knowledge thing. It’s a lot of fun to see how it’s made,” she says.
In her time at Holy City Stallings says she has seen the number of women patrons grow, so much so that now she says each weekend brings a “fair ratio” of guys to gals seeking out craft beers.
BREWSTER brews, in conjunction with Tradesman, Frothy Beard, and Holy City, will be holding two brewing events this weekend. Head to Holy City on July 11 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. and Tradesman on July 12 from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Tradesman will brew up a Trappist-style ale with local John’s Island honey, while Holy City will brew a Saison with French Saison yeast and (hopefully) some herbs like basil. To sign up for Holy City’s sesh email firstname.lastname@example.org and for Tradesman’s email email@example.com.
Frothy Beard will hold their brew day on Sun. July 19. Contact Macey Martin (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more info.
UPDATE: Due to issues with their beer cooler, Tradesmen had to move their brewing date to this Sun. July 19. Same time, same place.