Pub Talk

Women & Beer in Alberta

My beer brothers and sisters, did you know that in Alberta there was a time that it was illegal for men and women to sit and have drink together in a bar? Luckily, we have crossed that road. The next road we need to cross…getting more women into the industry. Any ideas?

Women & Beer in Alberta

The first time I watched the movie “Australia” I noticed that on the bar “The Drover” (aka:Hugh Jackman) frequents there were separate entrances. When I pointed it out to my husband he said “only you would notice that.” Then there is a scene in the movie where Nicole Kidman’s character is allowed to have a drink in the men’s side of the bar because she has driven the cattle, a very “manly” thing to do. While to most this doesn’t seem like a big deal, but in the context of history it is huge!!!

 

 

The movie takes place during WW2 (1939-1945). This was a real changing point in the status of women. The men went off to war and women were required to take on their roles in the workforce, sports (A League of Their Own) and in many other realms, but it changed the face of gender relations because once the men came back women did not want to go back to their old roles. WW1 (1914-1918) had also been a catalyst of change and during this time the country granted women the right to vote. Some say it was because the country needed their votes to pass conscription. Most provinces followed suit (Alberta in 1916), but in places like Quebec women didn’t have the right to vote until 1944.

So, when you understand historical context and climate, it makes a little more sense. I think for most modern men and women the idea of having a separate bar is definitely odd especially when the first thing most people do on a first date is go have a drink! But according to the documentary Aleberta (which is a must-see for all Beer Lovers), in Alberta between the years 1927-1967 men and women had segregated bars and separate entrances. They could not have a drink together. According to director Spencer Estabrooks, this was not to protect women from drunken men which would be an obvious benefit to this situation, but to protect men from “salacious women”.

“They didn’t want women to corrupt the men,” he says. “The women who would hang around the beer parlours were seen as loose women.”

As the world moves away from this ridiculous and conservative view of women, we move to the Food and Beverage Industry which is predominantly still seen as a man’s world especially the Beer Industry. Researching this article made me happy to hear that my hunch about the Alberta Craft Beer Industry was correct and that, here too women are making inroads. Alberta’s burgeoning craft beer industry is a great place for women interested in the beer industry to grow because it is still an open field with new players emerging all the time.

 

banff-ave-female-brewers-hard-at-work
Image by: Banff Avenue Brewing Co.

 

In the article “Alberta’s Craft Brewing Industry Is Changing The Way We Think About Beer” Olds College Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management program student Taylor Larson says:

“It’s good being a woman in this industry. Male brewers are excited that a woman is there. They’re not trying to bar women from being in the industry,” according to her the focus on the Alberta Craft scene is more concentrated on growing the community than excluded people “We’re connected to everyone,” she says. “We’re connected to the whole community. It’s business, it’s artistic, it’s local, it’s craft and it’s community.”

I have to say from my experience so far in the industry, I’ve also had nothing but admiration and encouragement for my beer knowledge. I don’t know the exact demographics from Alberta Beer Festivals, but I definitely see a large amount of women in attendance enjoying themselves. I know there are many women working in the breweries, but not necessarily as brewers, several female beer reviewers like the Beer Maven and I’m just waiting for women like Taylor Larson to graduate and get brewing. While Alberta has had a few women brewers like Megan Moore from Banff Ave. Brewing Co. (who has since moved on to a brewery in Ontario), Kelti Boissoneault from Theoretically Brewing and rumour has it that an all-female brewing team has been hired at Tool Shed, there is still room for more growth in the Alberta Craft Beer Industry. Alberta is a pioneering province with a pioneering spirit and if any place can bring more women into brewing it is Alberta!

international-womens-collaboration-brew-day-in-alberta
Image by: Last Best Brewery & Distillery

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