Crimson Coast surprised me. This new beer from Reuben’s Brews is billed as a hoppy West Coast amber, which to me means an unbalanced mix of piercingly bitter hops and a cloyingly sweet malty body. But my expectations were all wrong: when I tried Crimson Coast last week it was full of fruity aromas with a pleasantly malty body that wasn’t overwhelming in any way. It was soft and enjoyable and unlike anything I could remember drinking recently.
Crimson Coast’s surprising qualities might be caused by the beer’s somewhat unique pedigree: this beer was designed and made entirely by women. Its recipe was designed by the female staff of the brewery after they decided they wanted hop-forward amber and couldn’t find one on the market.
“When we were doing market research we went to Chuck’s to try to find a hoppy amber or a Pacific Northwest red that is something we are going for, and we just couldn’t find anything, even from breweries that we really liked,” said Jess Keller Poole, a staff member at Reuben’s. “So we thought, okay we are just going to have to do something ourselves.” The resulting beer has “a bright hoppy aroma, a nice crisp tone, and a nice amber hue,” according to Reuben's lead brewer, Leslie Shore.
I first tried Crimson Coast last week at Reuben’s Brews while chatting with Grace Robbings, Reuben’s co-owner, and some of the women that she employs at her brewery. I asked the group what they thought was holding back women in the beer industry. They told me how the industry makes it harder for women to move ahead in craft beer by assuming women can’t handle the heavy lifting of brewing (they can) and by men perpetuating sexist stereotypes that make women feel unwelcome. But one of the biggest problems for elevating the role of women in the beer industry is simply that the industry refuses to recognize the contributions women are already making.
“I think the biggest roadblock is there's a mentality that women in the brewing industry are meant to be placeholders or scenery backdrops, strictly taproom, strictly managerial. When the reality is that there are so many females that are in brewing, are in distributing, are in farming, that are in malting and working on hop farms. They are accountants and chemists doing sensory analysis. It’s not just that females are scenery backdrops, we’re pretty much permeating every aspect of the industry,” Shore said.
The industry’s hesitancy to recognize and promote the women already in the industry only furthers the gender imbalance by creating environments where women feel less comfortable and welcomed. This self-fulfilling circle isn’t just bad for equality, it’s literally bad for the beer. Diverse communities create better beer by bringing more ideas to the table.
The brewing industry does appear to be making small progress to more of a gender balance. More breweries are opening with female brewers and owners—two great local examples are Reuben’s and nearby Stoup Brewing—but there’s still more work to do according to Robbings. She said she thinks of it just like Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg thinks about the number of women who should be on the Supreme Court.
“I take a bit of an RBG approach to this. I don’t want [female-made beer] to be confined to one month. Why stop at even half women on the Supreme Court? We need all women. So I think there’s definitely more to do in the brewing industry,” Robbings said.
Crimson Coast is one of six beers you can drink in Seattle this month that were made in participation with the Pink Boots Society, a national nonprofit that helps elevate women in the craft beer industry. All of the beers were made entirely by women and their proceeds help support the nonprofit's work. The beers were all brewed in early March on International Women's Day. Now that the beers have finished fermenting we can taste the fruits of all of that labor this month. It's basically a way to prolong your celebration of Women's Day through the end of April.
Seattle’s contribution to the Pink Boots Society’s beers is admirably diverse and well suited for the Spring. Stoup Brewing made a dry hopped Grisette. Fremont Brewing brewed a pale ale with honey. Flying Bike made an India Red Ale—I’m curious how this compares to Reuben’s hoppy-but-not-too-bitter red. Ghostfish brewed a gluten-free IPA. Annie Johnson, the master brewer and beer expert at Fremont startup Pico Brew made ReSister IPA, “an easy-drinking IPA” over at Lucky Envelope. Georgetown is releasing Pretty in Pink Pale Ale, a pale ale made with Skagit Valley Malting’s NZ-151 malt. You can find these beers at the breweries or the taprooms (call ahead to make sure) or you can check them out at Fierce Ladies Beer Fest at Optimism Brewing on April 25. I wouldn’t normally recommend you visit this brewery on Capitol Hill, but this event will feature beers from other breweries so there will actually be good beer on tap for one night at Optimism. Tickets are $27 and include 10 tasters. You can also buy pints of any of the beers.
So go drink some Pink Boots beer this month and you’ll be helping bring more women into the brewing industry. Keep looking for and supporting female-made beer all year round and you’ll do even more to help.