Earlier this year, in honour (hon-her?) of International Women’s Day, the Ontario Craft Brewers (OCB) association announced six scholarships for women in the brewing industry. These scholarships were for the first level of the Cicerone certification, an industry standard for those in the beer sales and service industry. The OCB, an association that promotes local beer, made a specific effort to recognize women in the industry with these scholarships. And that’s important.
Of the two-dozen applicants, six eligible applicants were selected by lottery. Two of the deserving women are locals – Jessica Trout of Kichesippi Brewing and Alyssa Kwasny of Beau’s All Natural Brewing. The two were kind enough to take time to talk about the brewing industry, their current favourite beers and what it’s like being a women in this business.
“It is important that the OCB makes the effort to support women in the industry because there aren’t a lot of women in the industry. I am talking specifically about the brewing and production side,” says Alyssa. “I am lucky enough to work with two other awesome women on our brewing team, but unfortunately that is not always the case at all breweries. By creating this visibility, hopefully other women will be inspired to get involved within the industry and realize that there is space for them.”
Jess echoes those thoughts: “The industry is still heavily a male-dominated field, especially in production. With OCB making this scholarship, it shows to other women that working in the brewing industry is a possibility. Look at me, never in my life had I thought to myself that I wanted to work in a brewery. The job isn’t glamorous, it’s a lot of hard – sometimes dirty – work but at the end of day, totally worth it!”
Interestingly, neither winner actually is originally from the 613. Jess moved from Northwestern Ontario to Ottawa and applied at Kichesippi Brewery just for fun. Three years later she’s still there. Alyssa ended up in Vankleek Hill as a go-between as she worked in Montreal and her husband worked in Ottawa. Of course, Vankleek is home to the renowned Beau’s brewery. After starting in the brewery retail shop in 2014, Alyssa applied for a brewing internship the next year. Both women are passionate about brewing and certainly finding success in the industry.
The two winners are excited to better hone their already impressive brewing skills.The scholarship itself will allow the recipients to earn their first level within the Cicerone certification. This program is designed to educate beer professionals so they can elevate the beer experience of their consumers. From the a consumer perspective, is there even a higher calling?
Finally, I asked the two brewing professionals what they are currently enjoying. “My favourite beer from Kichesippi would either be the Hefeweizen or Radler,” suggested Jess. “Both are perfect for a hot summer day.”
Alyssa made a passionate case for the dunkel: “I CAN’T STOP DRINKING BEAU’S FARM TABLE: DUNKEL! It’s so good!” (emphasis not added by author, but appreciated!) Solid recommendations.
A well-deserved cheers to the two local winners and the other scholarship recipients across Ontario. The beer community often sees itself as open and inclusive, it’s fantastic to see the OCB make this contribution – more like it are certainly needed!