A picture of iconic TV beer bottlers Laverne and Shirley hangs on the wall at Seattle’s Pike Pub & Brewery, but that’s about as far as it goes here.
Nobody can even remember the full intro to the show’s famous theme song. (How do you spell “schlemiel and schlamozzle” anyway?) These women don’t want their identities bottled up by some silly 1970s sitcom. They are intent on tossing a keg through the beer brewing industry’s glass ceiling.
“It's definitely male dominated, but not for much longer,” said Tiffany Herrington, who will fill 300 cases of beer with 7,200 bottles by the end of the day.
Of the nine people working in Pike’s brewhouse, three are women. Even more work in other aspects of the brewery’s operations. They say they’re reclaiming their rightful place in history.
“Females were the first brewers,” said Meg Bragg, who kegs the beer at Pike. “At one point in time we were the only ones making beer.”
Thousands of years before bikini-clad babes started marketed beer to men, women alone were brewing it in ancient Egypt. Women continued the work throughout much of recorded history until the commercialization of beer relegated the work to their male counterparts. These days, however, women are doing much more of the heavy lifting, both in the brewery and in the boardroom.
Seattle's matriarch of microbrewing is Rose Ann Finkel. When she and her husband started in the beer business in 1978, there was one female brewer in America. Now, there are about a dozen operations around Puget Sound alone where women are either brewers or owners. She believes as better beer emerged over the past 25 years, it piqued women's tastebuds and pushed them from the kitchen to the brew kettle.
“Beer is liquid bread. If you can cook you can brew,” Finkel said. “There are so many breweries opening up right now, it’s just the natural evolution for women to move into the brewhouse.”
A "Women in Beer" conference is on tap Monday at Seattle's Pike Brewery. It's part of Seattle Beer Week.