August 19th, 2011 | by RUTH BROWN Food & Drink |

A Woman's Place is in the Brewery

10 minutes with filmmaker and beer lover Alison Grayson

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Today is the first day of PDX Beer Week, a new beer festival—because there just aren't enough in this city—celebrating Portland's craft beer community. 

The event will also host the premier of local filmmaker Alison Grayson's new documentary The Love of Beer, which gets up close and personal with women in the Pacific Northwest beer industry.

Grayson chatted to WW this morning about the female forces in Portland's beer scene and her favorite local brews.

WW: Tell us a bit about The Love of Beer.
Alison Grayson: I moved to Portland about three years ago from the east coast, and I started seeing that there's a lot of women who go to beer festivals—I was kind of introduced to Portland through the beer scene— so you go to a beer festival and it’s maybe 50, 40 percent women, but then you look in the beer industry and there’s only a handful of women who are actually working in the industry. So I was just starting to wonder why that is, and the women that I was meeting who were in the industry were just these amazing, passionate women. I realized there’s this great documentary unfolding around me.

So why are there fewer women in the industry?
From everyone I’ve talked to, it seems like one of the main reasons is that women just weren’t aware of that as an option. There doesn’t appear to be a lot of sexism within the industry—the industry people are more than happy, they think it’s about time women got back into it, because traditionally, brewing is a woman’s job, so there’s a historical tie-in. So it seems like it’s more a combination of advertising from the large beer companies—the Bud and the Coors and their marketing campaigns—and the general public’s perception of women and beer. Because there’s definitely no aversion in the actual industry whatsoever.

Right, because historically, going back to ancient times, beer was a women’s drink. Where did it all go wrong?
It kind of shifted with the industrial revolution, because before that, brewing was a women’s chore—like feeding your family—because water wasn’t the most sanitary thing and by brewing, if you made a low alcohol beer, you could make something safe to drink. So after the industrial revolution, it got out of the women’s hands and into the factory workers’.

Is it harder for women in the beer industry to be acknowledged on the same level as their male peers?
It is, but that’s starting to go away. A lot of it is the product that you're making, and how passionate you are about it. Definitely within the industry, people don’t care about your gender now nearly as much as they did. Teri Fahrendorf, who founded the Pink Boot Society, she was the second female brewmaster in the state and things have definitely changed since she started. She’s been doing this for over 20 years. And she definitely had a tough time starting, but things are much better now.

Who are the most influential women in Oregon’s beer scene?
One of my main characters is Tonya Cornett of Bend Brewing, and she definitely is—female or male—she is one of the rock stars of the beer industry at the moment. She’s just making great beers. Sarah Pederson, she runs Saraveza….which is on North Killingsworth, it’s a beer and bottle store, and she just has this wonderful personality. She went down the path of going into the corporate world and she wasn’t happy and a lot of people are like, “Ho hum, this is life” but she decided, “I’m not happy with this, this is what I’m going to do instead,” and completely rerouted her life to make it happen. That’s a key component of why I made this documentary—I have a lot of respect for people who don’t necessarily do that beaten path and realize that’s not right for them.

You must have tasted a lot of beer in making this documentary. What are your favorite local brews?
I really like the things that are coming out of Cascade Barrel House—they do a lot of sour beer, and sour beers are very complex beers. There’s also some really good stuff coming out of Oakshire—their espresso stout I’m a big fan of. I’m also a big fan of [Fort George's] Working Girl Porter, which is a coffee porter. I like coffee in my beers. I’m going to go with those answers, but I could talk about it for another half an hour!



GO: The Love of Beer premiers at the Bagdad Theatre, Saturday Aug. 20, 7:30 pm. $5. Tickets available here.
 
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