Bartender Courtney Ehinger hands a guest beer at the opening of Bitter Sisters Brewing Company in Addison, TX on March 28, 2015.

Bartender Courtney Ehinger hands a guest beer at the opening of Bitter Sisters Brewing Company in Addison, TX on March 28, 2015.

Alexandra Olivia/ Special Contributor

"Women don't like beer." It is a misconception that too often passes as truth.

With the craft beer movement in Dallas-Fort Worth growing rapidly, more women are becoming committed craft beer drinkers and supporters, and some are working on the ground floor of the movement. But even as women's involvement increases, the number of women in brewmaster positions or working in administrative roles remains low.

The Pink Boots Society (PBS) is one organization empowering women beer professionals to advance their careers in the industry. Executive director Emily Engdahl says PBS has very few members in D-FW who work in craft breweries. With the help of Caroline Wallace at Bitch Beer, an all-female craft beer website, we were able to talk to local movers and shakers about their brewing success, their strengths and the support they've found along the way.

Left to right: Carrie Strckland (little sister), Courtney Ehinger (middle sister), Kelly Moody (big sister).

Left to right: Carrie Strckland (little sister), Courtney Ehinger (middle sister), Kelly Moody (big sister).

Chad Vesper Photography

Courtney Ehinger, co-owner of Bitter Sisters Brewery

"Mom, I want to be the brewer," said Courtney Ehinger's 8-year-old daughter, Paige. That's a "perfect" idea, the mother told her daughter, since women have been in the business of brewing for longer than most people realize.

"The first brewers were women as far back as Egyptian times," said Ehinger. "It was what you did as a maker of the home and has evolved as many industries have, to be male-driven industries, usually because of increased labor components."

Bitter Sisters Brewery

That's why women haven't been at the forefront of the modern beer industry, but Ehinger is looking to change that. She owns the Bitter Sisters Brewery in Addison with her sisters, husband, and in-laws.

"My dad didn't raise any Type-B personalities. Everyone's got their own role in the business and it works out really well," said Ehinger.

In addition to directing the family brewery, Ehinger has managed to keep her day job in mortgage banking.

"I am the only woman in the boardroom and it's been that way for the last 16 years," said Ehinger. "In craft brewing, I don't see as many women getting into brewing or trying out recipes probably because it's not been something women take seriously as a career path."

Ehinger does, however, see plenty of women drinking and appreciating craft beer and hopes her daughter's early interest in being a brewer reflects a change in thinking. To women interested in brewing careers, she says, "Don't just be the salesperson. Be the brewer. I think that's what the industry needs. You've got to push the issue to move the issue forward."

Lindsey Sloan

Lindsey Sloan

Lindsay Sloan, co-owner of On Rotation brewpub and taproom

On Rotation's brewery and taproom may have never opened if Lindsay Sloan hadn't taken a Cooper's Craft Beer Kit out of her closest, dusted it off, and experimented with her first recipe. Sloan bought the kit as a gift for her husband, Jacob, a while before the couple brewed their first recipe.

"It's like cooking. If you can cook, you can brew," said Sloan, whose recipe for a jalapeño saison caught the attention of many local drinkers this year.

On Rotation

She likes seeing women customers come in for the big hoppy beers, not just light, fruit-flavored lagers. She also thinks women appreciate craft beer differently than men due to the fact that women have more taste buds and refined palates.

"When our brewers brew a beer, I have to be the one to taste it because I'll taste it more intensely than they do," Sloan said.

Sloan can't always be on hand to taste the newly brewed batches of beer right away since she, like Ehinger, maintains a full-time career in addition to running her brewery. As the senior manager for mergers and acquisitions at Ernst & Young, Sloan says her work in the business world is very different.

"I'm so used to everything being so secretive, competitive," she said. "In business, you don't want to give anyone your edge, but the craft beer community is more communal and everyone is quick to help because we all just have this crazy passion for craft beer."

Recently, Sloan has taken to a new community on Facebook: Craft Beer Ladies of DFW. The group has provided a forum for women beer professionals to network locally and advertise events. Sloan thinks the group is another positive sign of women's growing interest in the profession and need for connection.

Adrienne Ballou, head of barrel program at Jester King Brewery

Adrienne Ballou

Adrienne Ballou

Compared to microbreweries, macro-sized brewing and winemaking operations may be more challenging for women to enter, according to Adrienne Ballou. As head of the barrel program at Jester King Brewery in Austin, Ballou knows both industries well. She earned a bachelor's degree in Viticulture and Enology at University of California Davis, and apprenticed to Veronica Vega, brewmaster at Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Ore.

Despite her credentials, Ballou experienced sexism during another apprenticeship at a winery in France she preferred not to name. She called it "old school."

"They didn't want me to do anything physically labor intensive because I was a woman, and I was seen as a liability to them," Ballou said. "It was a frustrating time in my life, professionally, but it made me a lot stronger as a brewer now."

At Deschutes, Vega offered Ballou a piece of advice that's stuck with her: There will be times when moving a barrel or other heavy object might feel impossible, but using the strength of your entire body will help you move anything. Sometimes that means even taking a literal stand and climbing on top of a barrel to move it without help.

After almost three years of working at Jester King, Ballou said she's never felt like a liability. The crew there respects her strength and capability.

"A lot of women I know working in other industries feel marginalized for being a woman in an industry run by old white men," she said. 

"I can't speak for all women, but the craft beer industry has always seemed more accepting of all."

Daytona Celis, brewer at Uncle Billy's

Daytona Celis with friend and Austin beer scene extraordinaire Tyler Malone, who is commonly called "The Second Shooter."

Daytona Celis with friend and Austin beer scene extraordinaire Tyler Malone, who is commonly called "The Second Shooter."

Tyler Malone

Daytona Celis acquired a taste for beer in first grade.

"It was Thanksgiving and we still had a Celis raspberry beer sitting out on a counter top," said Celis. "I had a little taste and thought it was good enough to finish the whole thing."

Her brewery-founding mother, Christine Celis, was momentarily shocked but she also realized her daughter had a future in the family business. The granddaughter of brewing icon and Celis brewery founder, Pierre Celis, 21-year-old Daytona may be one of the youngest women brewers in the world. She's proud of her family's brewing legacy, but she's determined to be different.

"My goal before I die is to make a brand new style," she said. "And one of the things I love about this business is that whatever style we make, there will always be someone who wants to drink it."

Celis became the a brewer at Uncle Billy's after just five months of working as an assistant brewer on the brewery and restaurant's 20-barrel system. Before that she'd apprenticed to brewer Matthew Conron in Buffalo, N.Y. a year.

When she finished learning from Conron, she started at Uncle Billy's and joined Pink Boots Society, which is how she came to know other women in the industry. Celis has been involved in the women brewers' association in many ways, including her participation in the organization's annual brewing of a similar ale around the world. This year's beer, Unite, was a red ale Celis brewed with a Belgian twist that made her family proud.

"Craft brewing can be competitive, but it's more collaborative most of the time," she said. "I enjoy this industry because everyone stays so curious. That's the biggest advice that I took from my mentor: always have fun and be curious."

Pints Boots Society is a network of women that empower each other to further female careers in brewing.

Pints Boots Society is a network of women that empower each other to further female careers in brewing.

Emily Engdahl

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the name of the brewer under which Daytona Celis apprenticed as well as her job title.

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