The gnome gals traveled to Denver last week for a "work" trip. While most of us are familiar with International Women's Day on March 8th, unless you are really into craft beer, you probably didn't know that it is also International Women's Collaboration Brew Day (IWCBD). This day was started in order to encourage and empower female brewers all over the world to work together, whether they brew professionally or at home. While more women are joining this growing industry each year, the craft beer world is still predominantly male, especially on the brewing and production side. The Wichita craft beer scene has really taken off the last few years, but currently, there are no women employed as brewers and still very few in Kansas.
While I do not claim to be a brewer, I am the HBIC of the Gnome after all, and I strive to embody and support all things that empower women. Like other Wichita and Kansas breweries, we have participated in this day by holding our own ladies collaborations and donating proceeds to local non-profits. We know the importance of giving back to the community, and will continue to do so, but I wanted to think bigger this year. I thought about what IWCBD really means to the craft beer community as a whole, and how I can contribute by highlighting the women doing the real work. So, I decided to seek out female brewers for an epic collaboration trip with the lady gnomes. My research immediately took me to another place they call "The Gnome," and their Head Brewer, Bess Dougherty. Like many in the industry, Bess started as a home brewer, and after taking a trip to Belgium, she knew she wanted to make a career out of brewing. She attended Siebel Brewing school online, knowing that she had to get as much education as possible in order to be able to compete with men in a relatively small craft beer industry at the time. While working at Wynkoop Brewing, she became the first full-time female brewer in Denver. She is now the Head Brewer at the Grateful Gnome Sandwich Shoppe and Brewery in Denver, and I knew we had to collaborate, if only because of our love of gnomes and beer.
We worked together to create a recipe that aligned with the IWCBD theme Unite Forage; utilizing plants, herbs, and spices that can be found in your area, while also including a special hop blend from the non-profit women brewer's association, the Pink Boots Society. Prickly pear is native to Colorado, so the gnome team brewed a Prickly Pear Saison that will be on tap at the Grateful Gnome for the upcoming Craft Brewer's Conference in April. Stay tuned for plans for Bess to come to Wichita for a brew day later this summer. While visiting other breweries in Denver, Bess's name came up a lot as not only a pioneer for women in the industry, but also just a great person who makes awesome beer. She is definitely a role-model to any woman interested in pursuing a career in brewing and the craft beer industry as well, and the Hopping Gnome gals feel lucky that we had the opportunity to invade her brew house and learn her inspiring story. I like to take time on International Women's Day to reflect on all of the gains that have been made towards gender equality, but to also remember we aren't there yet, and there is still work to be done. Women like Bess show us that we can live our life the way we want, to say and do whatever we please. Don't tell me what to do.