Kat Thompson, founder and CEO of Texas Ale Project, poses for a photograph at the brewery in Dallas on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2016.

Kat Thompson, founder and CEO of Texas Ale Project, poses for a photograph at the brewery in Dallas on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2016.

Rose Baca/Staff Photographer

In 2014, a Stanford University study found that women held as many as 21 percent of principal positions in the craft beer industry -- meaning more women are working as brewers, brewery owners and CEOs than in most other commercial industries in the United States.

As the number of breweries has steadily risen in D-FW, so have the number of women entering other positions in marketing and distribution. A few have even sought higher education on the art of brewing through Eastfield College's Journeyman Brewer Certificate program.

We asked four local women working in various facets of the industry to share their perspectives on the beer business. Turns out, a gender gap isn't stopping these ladies from rising to the top.

Lauryn Eby, an Eastfield college student who earned her Journeyman Brewers Certificate, has worked in the brewing industry and still likes to make homemade batches.

Lauryn Eby, an Eastfield college student who earned her Journeyman Brewers Certificate, has worked in the brewing industry and still likes to make homemade batches.

Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News

The student: Lauryn Eby

Former cellarman at Four Corners

"I hadn't even homebrewed before I started class," says Lauryn Eby, a graduate of Eastfield College's brewing program. Her instructor, master brewer Peter Boettcher, taught her everything she needed to know from start to finish, allowing her to intern at a number of local breweries throughout the course.

Like many other women in brewing, Eby says lifting heavy bags of hops and other ingredients makes brewery work seem intimidating. But rather than focusing on what she can't do physically, Eby redirects her attention to what she can do.

"Women taste differently than men, so the women would sit and do sensory panels at the brewery," she says. "It's interesting to do that and see how brewing is really a creative art."

Before enrolling in the program, Eby was a certified motorcycle mechanic, working on machinery by day and bartending at night. Her interest in beer and her knowledge of mechanics helped her immensely while operating canning lines or handling equipment on brew days.

Her advice to potential brewing students is simple: "Ask for help," she says. "Because when you're first starting out in the brewery you have to learn the processes ... If you mess up, you throw away a lot of beer and that's a lot of profit."

Catherine DeMarco, president of FullClip Craft Distributors, at the company's warehouse in Dallas.

Catherine DeMarco, president of FullClip Craft Distributors, at the company's warehouse in Dallas.

Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News

The distributor: Catherine DeMarco

President at FullClip Craft Distributors

Catherine DeMarco knows the pulse of D-FW's craft beer market at any given time. In two years, the New York native has grown her distribution business from two to 22 employees, and it now represents 16 local breweries.

"What is surprising is that the Dallas-Fort Worth market is really growing," she says. "Now 12.8 percent of the beer sold in Dallas is craft beer, and that is very low compared to the higher percentage of craft beer sold nationally."

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Although the craft beer's market share hit 12.2 percent nationally in 2015, according to the Brewers Association, DeMarco's market research shows a significant gap between North Texas and other craft beer hot spots. Portland leads the way with a total craft beer consumption of 43.5 percent, followed by Seattle (34.9 percent) and San Diego (34.7 percent). That's not so much a problem, DeMarco says, as it is an opportunity for growth.

"Growth is our oxygen," she says.

DeMarco's strategy for growing her company in tandem with the beer scene is to select the highest-quality beer for distribution and support her distributors. FullClip account manager Madison Carney confirms that most beer buyers are men, but the gender gap is closing -- albeit gradually.

"I think that what you'll find is that as more women get into the field, there will be more acceptance of them as beer buyers," says DeMarco. "Especially because the networking is easier [for] women, who can carry on a conversation more than men sometimes."

Brittany LaFollett, a sales rep for 903 Brewers in Sherman, hosts a pint night at Parker Barrow's in Bishop Arts. 

Brittany LaFollett, a sales rep for 903 Brewers in Sherman, hosts a pint night at Parker Barrow's in Bishop Arts. 

Rex C. Curry/Special Contributor

The saleswoman: Brittany LaFollett

Brand Ambassador at 903 Brewers

When it comes to counting brewery representatives, Brittany LaFollett can name more than a few women employed in these increasingly important sales positions.

"I think that's a trend that's changing over time. You're just going to see more women coming into this role," she says.

Women of Craft Beer Happy Hour / Q&A

LaFollett is happy to see a more even split between men and women consuming craft beer; however, that divide doesn't apply to the number of women working as sales professionals. The split is "more 80-20," she says.

LaFollett enjoys working alongside husband-and-wife team Jeremy and Natalie Roberts, who own 903 Brewers and employ LaFollett full-time to represent the brewery throughout the region. Her job requires a lot of traveling and can feel like an "endurance test" at times, but she thinks that as a woman, she brings a feminine-type of mental toughness to her work -- not to mention a different sense of humor.

"I work a ton to prepare myself for a 10-hour work day," she says. "I know my male counterparts aren't thinking about what hosiery they have to wear ... And sometimes I wish I had a beard. It's just man makeup, really."

Kat Thompson, founder and CEO of Texas Ale Project, poses at the brewery in Dallas.

Kat Thompson, founder and CEO of Texas Ale Project, poses at the brewery in Dallas.

Rose Baca/Staff Photographer

The CEO: Kat Thompson

Founder and CEO of Texas Ale Project

As founder and CEO of Dallas brewery Texas Ale Project, Kat Thompson appreciates the "very welcoming" culture of D-FW's craft beer industry. But if she's honest about competition in the marketplace, she'll tell you women aspiring to principal brewery positions need more than "just passion."

"You have to have the rest of the picture figured out as well," she says.

This woman was one of the first to open a brewery in North Texas ... in 1869

In the nearly two years since her brewery opened, Thompson has watched persistence pay off. Now that there's a lot of competition on the scene, she says it takes foresight, perseverance and planning to ensure the business is growing. Listening to consumer feedback and following new trends closely are two ways Thompson has helped Texas Ale Project thrive.

Another part of her success as CEO comes from the people she employs.

"The biggest learning curve for me [has been] dealing with lots of different people, personalities and perspectives -- both within our team and with other people we do business with," Thompson says. "Making all that jibe and building a strong culture at the brewery can be very challenging."

Thompson credits many people for assisting her in the development of a positive work culture. She hopes to encourage more women to learn about the industry, and says volunteering is one of the best ways to get involved.

"Texas Ale Project is always looking for good women to add to our team," she says. Having a mixed-gender team "makes our team stronger in terms of the skill sets we offer."

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