By Mira Brody EBS STAFF
BIG SKY – If you’re an avid beer drinker, you’ll be humbled to find that beer has shaped much of mankind’s journey through history, and not just by offering an alcoholic beverage for times of sorrow and celebration. According to the Discovery Channel documentary “How Beer Saved the World,” brewing has played a role in mathematics, commerce, medicine, writing and food preservation. Although modern brewing has the stereotype of being a man’s occupation, it has been well documented that women played an irreplaceable role in beer’s history.
According to Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine, because men were out hunting, women were tasked with gathering ingredients for their family’s meals and planting and harvesting crops like barley and wheat. As far back as ancient Mesopotamia, women were preparing, alongside a hearty meal, fermented beverages, including a low-alcoholic beverage used in daily religious ceremonies.
Through the centuries, brewing was a craft passed down through women, and rural America was no exception—although founding father Thomas Jefferson often receives the credit for being the brewer in his family, it was actually his wife Martha who provided the family recipe.
Today, the tradition of women brewers is carried on by the Pink Boots Society. Pink Boots is a nonprofit organization that encourages and supports women all over the U.S. to become successful brewers, whether that’s a small homebrew hobby operation, or a full-scale women-owned brewery. A few notable, modern-day women-owned breweries include: Fort Point Beer Co. in San Francisco, CA; Freemont Brewing in Seattle, WA; New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins, CO; Lost Coast Brewery in Eureka, CA; and Cabinet Mountain Brewing Co. right here in Libby, MT.
If you find yourself in Big Sky with some time to kill, you can even pick up your own pint of Pink Boots brew at Beehive Brewing.
Brewmaster Andy Liedberg says they purchased a hop blend that donates money to the Pink Boots Foundation as well as a Montana Craft Malt from Butte. He added that the female Beehive crew worked with Hanna Turner from Montana State University’s Malt Quality Lab to perfect the Pink Boots Session IPA. It was released just in time for International Women’s Day on March 8 and is a great addition to the brewery’s current lineup.
“Our three pillars are research, education and outreach and education is a huge piece of what we do,” said Turner. “With Pink Boots having education as such a big part of what they do, it was a natural fit.”
The Malt Quality Lab hosts community workshops throughout the state but due to COVID-19, their programs were scaled down quite a bit this past year. Beehive was one of a handful of unique collaborations that happened. With the lady brewers at Beehive, Turner started with a “hot steep” demonstration, which is basically a barley tea. She says the most rewarding thing is meeting other people with an appreciation for brewing.
The Pink Boots Brew is a mellow IPA at 5.4 percent ABV and Liedberg says they used about 22 pounds of hops. It’s smooth, crisp and perfect to pair with a lunch sandwich from neighboring Roxy’s Market, or to top off a day of spring skiing at Big Sky Resort.
Pink Boots will only be available until they run out, so grab a pint your next time through town and lift a glass for the women in your life.