These Five Women Are Revolutionizing the Craft Beer Game in Mexico
These women spoke to MUNCHIES about the challenges of making their way in an industry still flooded with testosterone.
This story originally appeared on MUNCHIES MX.
For centuries, beer was a woman's affair. While men went out to hunt, women were in charge of fermenting this precious elixir that was such an important part of their families' nutrition. The industrial revolution, however, took brewing out of their hands and placed it in factories. Now beer is largely made by men for men, and women's role in the industry has often been limited to advertising campaigns.
But that's slowly changing for the better.These five women from Mexico spoke to MUNCHIES about the challenges of making their way in an industry still flooded with testosterone.
Elizabeth Rosas González
Founder of Cervecería Calavera González founded this brewery with her husband in 2009. She's currently supervising distribution, sales, and branding. She's 44 years old.
Why beer? For many years, my husband and I lived in Denmark. There we started to experiment with homemade wine. Some time later, we tried to the same with beer and we were instantly hooked. To discover new kinds and styles of beers is so much fun. Besides, the results you get from beer compared to homemade wine are much better. After a few years we wanted to come back to Mexico to be near our families. We started to investigate the possibilities of founding a craft brewery here and it seemed very plausible. In 2009 we founded Calavera.
Has it been hard for you as a woman to work in this industry? It's difficult to be a businesswoman in general, no matter the industry. And it's not just in Mexico, but all over the world. The doors are just opening for us and you are starting to see women in every area of business. To me, it's been hard because this is a 100-percent male-driven and -consumed product. I'm not in charge of production but I'm very involved in all processes. And I've found that many of our clients are surprised when they see a woman in charge who knows about beer.
What do you usually say when they tell you that women don't drink beer? I think this is a very noble and universal product. It's not about genre but mostly age. My kids can't wait to be 18 and be able to taste it.
Which women do you admire? Marie Curie. Rosalind Franklin, too. Thanks to her, Watson and Crick noted, it was possible to publish an investigation about DNA structure. It makes me sad because she worked really hard on it but it was published under the names of the men that owned the laboratory. That's how it used to be in most areas: Men were always the ones to get all the credit.
So you can say that behind a great man there's always a great woman? That's a cliché that needs to be demystified. In my case, I work as a peer, not behind a man.
María Antonieta Carrión
Founder of Cervecería Madrina Carrión is the founder and master brewer at Madrina. She's one of the few master brewers in Mexico and she's head over heels for stouts. She's 32 years old.
How did you arrive in the beer world? Oh, it was a great journey! I'm a psychologist and after I graduated from college I moved to Buenos Aires. There, I realized that I wasn't interested in psychology, so I started looking for other work alternatives. That's how I arrived to a brewery in Patagonia and I said to myself, "I want to start something like this in Mexico!"
Has it been hard for you as a woman to do this job? It's a lot of physical work daily and as a woman I do have limitations in that way—carrying barrels, for instance. Even if I don't like to admit it, I have to accept that I do need help in that area. I've had problems with some workers and suppliers, too. When they come to work on the electrical installation for instance, they always try to take advantage of me because they can only see a young naïve woman in front of them.
Among my peers there's always an element of surprise when they first meet me, but it's usually very positive. It's fun. People are always intrigued by how I got here. You do have to work to make your way as part of the group of brewers.
Which women do you admire? Other than my mom? My grandma. She's a woman that had to take care of 12 kids. She got a divorce in a time when it wasn't common nor easy. She gave everything to her kids and they are all very successful thanks to her. She's now 92 years old, a completely lucid and driven woman. She still drinks beer and tequila, and I actually think that's her secret to staying so young.
Guillermina Gutiérrez Morales
Beer Taster/ Consultant at Fiebre de Malta brewery Morales is Mexico City's coordinator for the Women Beer Tasters Group. As part of this group she's in charge of developing promotional activities for beer culture in Mexico. You can find her teaching beer aficionados at Fiebre de Malta. She's 32 years old.
How did you get into the beer world? Around five years ago, I revisited an old friendship with this guy that lived in Morelia and who was then producing his firsts craft beers, and I started to learn with him. At the same time, I started to study Alimentary Culture at ENAH (National School of Anthropology and History), and there I discovered that I was not only interested in beer as a consumer but also as a subject for my anthropological study.
Has your work been harder in any way because you're a woman? In the beer world I haven't had any issues. There are some producers that usually offer me their lighter beer, like some kind of beer for women, and I've always had problems with that—with this idea of them needing to create "a sweet or fruity pinkish beer for women." I think it's absurd.
What do you say when they tell you that women don't drink beer? It's not true. I believe that to taste and enjoy the pleasures of life is not a gendered issue. I feel it's illogical to say that we don't like beer. It happens that if I go to have a drink with someone and the guy orders a lighter beer than me, they always end up serving it to me.
Has a beer ever made you cry? I remember when I first started tasting beer that I liked the red ales a lot, and I was also acquiring a taste for IPAs, which are more bitter and complex in flavor. Then they served me a red IPA and I almost cried when I first tasted it.
Which women do you admire? Ginger Johnson, founder of Women Enjoying Beer, a platform to promote craft beer in the US.
Rebeca Dovalí Galván
Cervecería Primus Galván has been an integral part of Primus since its inception, in charge of marketing, sales, promotions and PR. She's 26 years old.
How did you get your start in the beer world? I've been working at this company ever since it first started, since Jaime and Rodolfo Andreu (the founders) are my cousins and I've helped them for a long time. I love it because my job is to innovate. Ten years ago, when we first started, the problem was that people didn't know anything about craft beer, so all our efforts have been focused in creating a craft beer culture.
Has your work been more difficult as a woman? You can really tell that this is an industry dominated by men, but I've found many passionate and very knowledgeable women here too. I'm really not that focused on the technical part of beer making, but what I do is very important for the product and the business to thrive.
How would you respond to someone who says that women don't drink beer?
It's a cliché. In the US they did a study based on couples going to a restaurant. Women ordered beers and men cocktails, but they were always served the other way around. That happens all the time but I've noticed that women are now more interested in tasting different kind of beers with higher graduations.
Which women do you admire? Frida Kahlo. I don't really like her art but I loved her controversial and radical personality. I loved that she always went against the current.
Mexican Association of Beer Makers (ACERMEX) Austin is the General Director for the Mexican Association of Beer Makers (ACERMEX). She's 34 years old.
How did you get into the beer world? It was thanks to Paulaner's invitation. I was talking to some friend at a bar about my work as promoter of the tequila culture. At the table next to ours were Paluaner's owners, and they asked me if I could do the same thing for beers. I said yes, and it's been four years since then.
In Mexico there is still not a category that recognizes craft beer as such. This is a new industry and there are still no regulations for taxes or production for craft brewers. We are now trying to raise awareness for these tax and competition issues. This association represents a lot of young and passionate people that create a lot of jobs. I'm working to produce some changes and grow this industry. It a great challenge, but to be part of this evolution it's also very satisfying. I believe that that will be my legacy.
Has your work been more challenging as a woman? This industry is infamous for being dominated by men. I've always felt welcome here, though. I think that we need more women in charge of breweries, and I want to talk to the National Institute of Women to get scholarships for female brewers. I think that'd be a great way for this industry to become more professional.
What do you respond when they tell you that women don't drink beer? I think it's a cultural thing and it's also tied to the beer's image. Once, one of my aunts went on a date and she ordered a beer, and the guy didn't call her again because he considered it vulgar for a woman to drink beer.
Which women do you admire? My grandmother. She's an incredibly hardworking woman and when she was young she also had to fight her way in an industry dominated by men. She was a carpenter and a furniture maker. She had to manage factories and workers, and was a single mom of five kids. She bought a gun to scare off more than one of her male employees that tried to take advantage of her. She's now 85 years old and still works at her furniture factory.
Among those in the beer world, there are many women that I admire. Elizabeth [Rosas González], for instance, who is in charge of Calavera while being a formidable mom. Rebecca [Dovalí Galván], too—you have no idea how many times I've heard brewers say, "I need a Rebecca" because the work that she does at Tempus is incredibly important. She's a great negotiator.
I also talk a lot with Guille [Guillermina Gutiérrez Morales] about her work with Women Tasters, and it's true that we need more women to get to know this industry, because once you get to know it, it's very easy to fall in love with it.