Teri Fahrendorf and The Pink Boots Society Present Bring Mom Out for a Beer

Teri in her now-famous pink boots.

A journalist once asked  Teri Fahrendorf  what kind of beer she would be.  “I told her I’d be Belgian saison.  I’m not bitter or dark, I’m a little funky and summer is my favorite season,” she laughed.

Teri is a long-time brewmaster, beer advocate, and president of the Pink Boot Society (PBS), an organization supporting female beer professionals through mentorship and education.  I spoke with Teri last week, and she shared how she broke into the industry and the formation of PBS.

Teri ’s  fascination with fermentation began in grade school:

“When I was nine years old, my family attended our church’s rummage sale. I was so excited when I found a small blue booklet titled, ‘How Beer Is Made,’ that I gladly parted with my weekly allowance of one dime. I opened the booklet and held my breath, certain with sweet anticipation that I’d soon learn the secret of making beer. As I pored over my precious blue booklet, I deflated quickly. The diagrams showed enormous equipment. That was a huge disappointment.”

Instead, she focused on bread, fermenting cultures and sourdoughs.  When she reached legal drinking age, she graduated to wine and eventually home brewing.

In 1988, Teri took a break from her programming gig with Unisys Corporation and San Francisco to attend  the Great American Beer Festival in Denver.   Two things happened on that trip that gave her the push she needed to turn her hobby into a career.  She met John Maier, then brewmaster of the Alaskan Brewing Company.  Maier had previously worked as a senior electronics technician at Hughes Aircraft company; he left Hughes went pro after attending the Siebel Institute of  Technology brewing program.  She was further inspired upon witnessing Mellie Pullman, a head brewer at Schirf Brewing Company, win a medal.

“Here was Mellie, this petite little thing winning a medal for her beer.  Brewing is requires a lot of physical labor, but I thought if she can do it, so can I .”

After that, it didn’t take long for Teri to enroll in Siebel,  leave her job behind and pack her bags for Chicago.  She charmed her classmates, organizing brew pub tour and tastings to introduce her peers to different styles of beer other than simply “yellow.”  She was voted class president, a first for a female attendee.

After graduation, she hit the road.  On the drive between San Francisco and Portland, she stopped off at every brew shop and brewery and handed off her resume.  She didn’t find a job right away, but her efforts paid off.  Golden Gate Brewery hired her on after receiving TWO resume referrals from different contacts.

In 1989 she became the second female brewmaster at a craft brewery in the United States.  After cutting her teeth with Sieben’s River North, Golden Gate and Triple Rock brewing companies, she accepted a position with Steelhead Brewing.  Seventeen years and five brewery locations later, Teri was ready for a new undertaking.

She bid Steelhead adieu, and hit the road on a 139 day trip across the U.S., visiting 71 breweries (and working in 38 of those).  She documented her experience on her blog, Road Brewer.

“Shortly before my trip, I received a pair of pink boots as a birthday gift.  I was worried that they were too flashy, but they became my signature.  When I walked into a brewery, people would immediately know exactly who I was and why I was there.”

During a visit to Stone Brewing Company, Teri met fellow female brewer, Laura Ulrich.  Laura expressed curiosity about the number of other women in the industry, so Teri decided to keep a list of those she met along the way.  At the end of her trip, she had complied sixty names. And The Pink Boots Society was born!

Photo sourced from the BMOFAB Facebook Page

The first Pink Boots Society  meeting was held  during the Craft Brewers Conference in San Diego in April of 2008.  At that time the group consisted of 16 female brewers and 6 female beer writers.  Membership has since grown to over 800 professional female professionals worldwide within the beer industry, including owners, brewers, packagers, marketers, manufacturers, servers and beer journalists.  Their mission:  empower female beer professionals to advance their careers in the beer industry through education.

The ladies of Pink Boots Society have started a grassroots Mother’s Day tradition, Bring Mom Out for a Beer (BMOFAB).  “Not only were women the first brewers,” Teri said, “they were also mothers.” How apropos!

Breweries, brewpubs, and restaurants nationwide are inviting patrons to raise a glass in toast to Mom this Sunday, May 13th from 1-4PM.  Participating establishments are encouraged to post their Mother’s Day festivities on craftbeer.com or on BMOFAB 2012’s Facebook page.  Don’t see an event in your area? Give your favorite beer-based establishment a call to inquire and spread the word. Cheers!

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Comments

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  1. […] Urban Brewery) will teach some of the courses herself, and she is eminently qualified: She was a pioneering female brewer in the craft-beer scene in the 1980s, she was co-owner of the Wasatch Brew Pub and […]

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