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Commonwealth Beer Panel, with cheese
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Commonwealth Beer Panel, with cheese

By Jasmine · January 30th, 2008 · 5 Comments

Last Friday, Joe and I attended a beer panel at San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club. On it were (from the announcement):

JUSTIN CROSSLEY, Radio Host/”Brewcaster,” The Brewing Network and CBS Radio
JOHN FOSTER, Co-host, Beerschool.com Webcast
NICO FRECCIA, Beer Journalist; Co-owner, 21st Amendment Restaurant and Brewery
DAN GORDON, Co-founder and Master Brewer, Gordon Biersch
DAVID MCLEAN, Owner and Brewmaster, Magnolia Pub and Brewery
BOBBY COLEMAN, Co-founder, San Francisco Brewers Guild – Moderator

They started out discussing why San Francisco is such a hotspot for craft beer. They talked a lot about Fritz Maytag, the owner of Anchor Brewery, and his willingness to help others get going. He helped to create a feeling of comraderie among bay area brewers that continues to this day.

At the end, they took questions from the audience. I had written my question and turned it in before the panelists even started talking. I have to give them credit – despite a pile of dozens of possible questions, the moderator actually read mine: Why are there no women on the panel?

Justin replied with “Yes, I was told there would be women as well.” Which was funny, but, um, sort of reinforced that whole sexist vibe going on up there. Then Dan Gordon mentioned that Maureen Ogle, the author of “Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer” was there that night. Someone else mentioned that the second in command over at the Fairfield Budweiser is a woman. And then I believe it was Nico Freccio who said, “There are a lot of women involved in the beer industry. Unfortunately none of them started a brewery in the bay area.”

Now, none of that really adds up. My friend said later that it was the same kind of response some people give when accused of being racist: “No, see I have this one black friend, well, more of a coworker, so I can’t be racist.”

If Maureen Ogle was there, why wasn’t she ON the panel? And what does the fact that there are no women brewers in the area have to do with anything? Only 4 of the 6 men on the panel were brewers, so that obviously wasn’t a requirement. Again, I’m grateful they even addressed it, but it only served to highlight the problem.

After the panel was a beer and cheese tasting. My favorite beer was Gordon Biersch’s Marzen (which is apparently their most popular beer) and Joe’s was 21st Amendment‘s The Beer Hunter (a tribute to Michael Jackson). The cheese I kept going back to over and over again was the Fribourg Gruyere paired with Magnolia’s Bonnie Lee’s Best Bitter. It went well with the beer, but I would have eaten that cheese by the handful with or without it. Joe, because he’s a cheddar freak, loved the Cabot Vermont Cheddar pair with Beach Chalet’s West End Wheat. All in all, a very good time.


Tags: Tastings · Women in Beer

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 john foster // Feb 2, 2008 at 9:20 pm

    I’m pretty sure that Maureen Ogle was NOT in the audience because if she was I would have recognized her. I’ve never met her but I have read her book. It’s worth reading.

    As for “women how are brewing” there aren’t that many. All added up there are around 2o professional women brewers and there are hundreds that are homebrewers. Search for Queen of Beer to find out more.

    The bay area is home to several women brewers. Denise Jones, brewer at Moylans, won two golds and a silver medal at the GABF this year. Natalie Cilurzo is a key part of Russian Rivers success. My friend Melissa, who used to brew at Drakes, has been brewing for almost a decade. She’s currently working on starting her own brewery. When we interviewed her last fall on the show she was very forthcoming with the answer “why don’t more women brew?” Her answer in a nut shell was, “it’s a really physical job. there’s a lot of lifting, hauling, and cleaning. don’t forget there’s a lot of gear to know. girls (or guys) aren’t always into it….”

    Here’s the link to that show called Brewing a Career.

  • 2 jasmine // Feb 11, 2008 at 10:55 pm

    Teri Fahrendorf lists about 50 women brewers in the U.S. currently in her “Pink Boots Society”, though I’m not sure how they work out regionally or how she defines a brewer.
    I’ve heard that Melissa is starting her own brewery – I can’t wait to see what she comes out with!
    I can imagine that the physicality of brewing can be a deterrant (and she would certainly know better than I) but I think the road to being a brewer starts long before a person is faced with the physical part of it. Women are changing the idea that they can’t (or don’t want to) do heavily physical jobs anyways (which more often than not just a stereotype)- the number of women in construction, for example, has been rising steadily for years. I think as we see more and more women drinking beer (which is happening), we’ll see more and more starting their own breweries. And I will be oh so happy to support them.
    My point, also, was that I didn’t necessarily need to see a female brewer on the panel, but simply a woman involved in craft beer somehow. Thanks for the beer school link – I’ll definitely give it a listen. Are any of your regular hosts women?

  • 3 john foster // Feb 14, 2008 at 7:01 pm

    “Rosie the Intern” contributed lots to the show while she was on last summer. “The Producer” aka Sarah helped with research until she got too busy with her own bar. I’m also make the effort to have women guests on the show frequently.

  • 4 Sheana D // Jul 13, 2008 at 7:24 pm

    We have some local Brewers and Brewery Owners in the Bay Area:
    Denice Jones, brewer at Moylan’s Brewery
    Natalie Cilurzo, owner with Vinnie Cilurzo at Russian River Brewing Company
    Carissa Magee, owner with Tony Magee of Lagunitas Brewing Company.
    Hopefully we have more!
    Sheana D

  • 5 Bobby Coleman // Jan 8, 2009 at 6:35 pm

    As moderator of this panel, please note that I’m also a lawyer with a demonstrated lifetime commitment to the civil rights of women. I purposely chose to elevate your inquiry by publicly reading your question for broadcast. Maureen Ogle and other brewsters were not available or appropriate to this panel, which was lauded by the many other women present. The spirit of the beer industry is highly inclusive, by the way, which is central to its appeal. I heed such details with great awareness (so please spell “deterrent” correctly), and I believe that our struggle against rampant sexism is too important to waste our energies as inappropriately as here. Please join me in targeting meritorious offenders.

    Crossley made a universal joke about his being lonely and eager to join a mixed gender panel. No offense in that!

    The San Francisco beer/food story is a truly fascinating one, and I’m grateful that you came to the event and generally enjoyed our efforts. Many thanks for your feedback.

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