How the Pink Boots Society was founded & supports female brewers
The majority of Wisconsin brewmasters are male. It wasn’t until 2005 when Jamie Baertsch became the first female brewmaster in Wisconsin. She, along with fellow female brewmaster Teri Fahrendorf, eventually came to found the Pink Boots Society, an organization that supports, inspires and encourages women and non-binary people in the brewing industry.
Baertsch shares how she got her start and how the Pink Boots Society was formed for this week's Tavern Tuesdays.
She says she was always interested in science but wasn't sure what area she wanted to pursue until she took a class that involved brewing beer.
"All my professors were like, 'Hey you could be a brewer' and I was just like, 'Wow that's a job option? Sign me up!' So from then on I just focused all my program classes on beer," Baertsch recalls.
She says when looking for an internship she applied all over the state and didn't get hired until she heard back from Moosejaw in the Wisconsin Dells.
"I approached the brewmaster at the time and asked if I could help clean or sanitize and he looked at me and said, 'You might actually know what you're talking about when it comes to brewing,'" Baertsch says.
Baertsch worked as an unpaid intern for a few months and says she learned a lot. Then in 2004, the brewmaster announced he was leaving so she attended the Master Brewers Association to get a degree. When she came back to Moosejaw in 2005 to take over as brewmaster, she became the first female brewmaster in Wisconsin.
"I didn't think much of it cause I would go to all the meetings ... and I'd be the only woman at the table ... I didn't even realize it until many years later when we always just said I was like the only one, and didn’t realize until we did a little research that I happen to be the first," she says.
In 2006, Baertsch connected with another female brewmaster who was based out of Oregon named Teri Fahrendorf.
"I had never met another female brewmaster, I didn't really realize there were other ones so I'd never thought about it. I was so isolated, I'd never even met another woman who worked in a brewery," Baertsch recalls.
Fahrendorf was traveling the country visiting different breweries and when the pair met at the Wisconsin Dells Brewing Company, they both showed up in a pair of pink boots. Fahrendorf told Baertsch that she'd met lots of other women working in breweries around the country and they decided they wanted a way to connect.
"She started compiling a list so we could all get in touch and we were like, could we have a group? And she just thought cause we had this picture of me and her standing with the pink boots brewing that that would be a good name for it so yeah, Pink Boots got created," Baertsch explains.
There are now chapters around the world, including one in Wisconsin with about 50 members. The mission of the Pink Boots Society is to assist, inspire, and encourage women and non-binary people in the brewing industry to advance their careers through education. Baertsch says they've recently expanded even beyond that.
"[Back then] we decided it should be any woman who's mortgage is paid because of the fact that beer is being made, so trying to take the whole scope in. But just recently, we expanded it to fermentation — so the distillers, the wine makers, the kombucha makers, so everyone can come to the table," Baertsch says.
A pair of pink boots has been part of the Wisconsin Historical Society's collection since 2017 to celebrate Baertsch's work as the state's first female brewmaster and the work of the Pink Boots Society.
"I just can't wait to really bring those girls into the fold so we can exchange technical information or marketing information because you just learn by getting new information and new ideas and bouncing things off of each other and I can only imagine with all of this new energy coming together the things we'll come up with," she says.