The Phoenix craft beer scene is bustling today, but two decades ago it was still sleepy.
“Arizona had always been an underserved market by local breweries until this latest boom,” says Leah Huss, the co-owner of Huss Brewing Company in Uptown Phoenix.
Huss and the many women in the Phoenix brewing industry are more signs of the growing importance of women in the craft brewing industry. Nationally, the Pink Boots Society, an organization of women in the brewing industry, has grown from 16 chapters when it was founded in 2007 to about 2,400 today, including the Phoenix faction.
“Back when I first started in the industry in the early 2000s, beer festivals were mainly Southern California and Colorado breweries. It was time for us to catch up so we could nurture a local beer culture,” says Huss.
Megan Greenwood, owner and founder of Greenwood Brewing, said the city’s slow development of a mature craft beer scene compared to some other big cities has been beneficial to women in the Phoenix brewing industry.
Greenwood opened her brewery on July 18, and is one of the first female brewers in Arizona.
“I love that what we’re doing is exactly what I intended to do, and that’s inspiring women to get out of their comfort zone,” says Greenwood.
Challenges remain, though, for women in Phoenix’s brewing industry.
“I think that women are nervous to do something like brewing because it’s not a traditional industry for them to go into,” says Greenwood. “We have had a lot of applicants to our brewery and our taproom that traditionally have never thought they were going to be a brewer, but because of our story, our brand pillars, and our mission — they saw that they could fit into this space.”
As a woman in business, Huss says she doesn’t see her own path through a gendered lens.
“My gender has never been an obstacle to me. That doesn’t mean it didn’t exist, I suppose I just always pushed on with the confidence that I knew what I was doing and was the best person for the job,” she says.
Instead she focuses on broad principles of hard work, integrity, results, and caring for others.
“My self-confidence, knowledge and abilities always served as my own stepping stones to succeed,” Huss says.
Huss’s experience in the craft beer world so far has taught her that gender in business shouldn’t matter, but being a woman in business is nonetheless challenging. Still, she says, it’s an exciting time in craft brewing.
“It seems like a night and day difference between now and 2001, 2002. All of a sudden, there’s starting to be more and more women and I’m like, ‘Yes, this is awesome, I’m loving this.’”
Women trying to start a career in the brewing industry may encounter the same obstacles they face trying to break into other industries.
“It’s not always the easiest industry to be a female in,” says Sherry Engelhorn, founder of Angels Trumpet Ale House.
“It’s very heavily male-oriented, so there’s a lot of uniting among the women. All the female brewers, for the most part, are so gracious,” says Engelhorn.
Though Engelhorn has faced scrutiny as a female brewer, she believes it doesn’t matter who makes the beer, so long as it’s a quality beverage for consumers.
“Don’t be discouraged because it’s a male-centric field. Just be true to the actual thing that you’re passionate about, and that’s the craft beer.”