The Pink Boots Society is a non-profit organization that helps to assist, inspire, and educate women in the beer industry to further their careers and network for future development.
For the past three years, we have been honored to participate in the Pink Boots Society collaboration brew day. This brew day is around International Women’s Day and is one of the organization’s biggest fundraisers. Every year Yakima Chief Hops selects a unique hop blend sold to every participating brewery ($3 per pound of hops sold are donated to the Pink Boots Society). The breweries can brew their own beer with the hop blend and sell that beer, they are then encouraged to donate part of the proceeds to the organization.
Two years ago, Blanca Quintero, a former Firestone Walker Market Manager and certified cicerone, and Valerie Hicks, the only female Firestone Walker Brewer, restarted the LA chapter of Pinks Boots. They held the first meeting at the Propagator, and continue to work with the organization, including brewing the Pink Boots Collaboration. This beer is intended to fundraise for both the local LA chapter and the national organization.
We managed to get a few moments of Val’s time to ask her some questions about her career in beer.
How long have you been a brewer with Firestone?
Val: I was hired at Firestone in March 2016 as a bartender and began apprenticing part-time in the brewhouse in February 2017. I slowly started working my way into more shifts in the brewery and fewer behind the bar until I began brewing full time in January 2018.
What made you want to get into brewing?
Val: I have always been a creative person and have always had a strong passion for food and beverage. After college, I found myself working as a bartender to make ends meet. At the same time, I pursued various creative outlets, which is where I really developed my love for beer in particular. This led to me bartending at numerous breweries until it finally occurred to me that I should combine my professional skillset with my passion and turn beer into my career path.
What is your favorite part about brewing, in general?
Val: I find every part of my job as a brewer to be personally gratifying on so many levels. I love that brewing provides me with a creative outlet that is both physically and mentally challenging (I was never cut out for a desk job). At the end of the day, I feel like my hard work pays off in a real, tangible way. Not only do I enjoy the fruits of my labor, but I also get to share that enjoyment with people when they drink the beers that I brew. I think that is a special kind of pay off that doesn’t come along with every profession.
Biggest accomplishment in your career so far?
Val: I would have to say that is a toss-up between receiving a scholarship for and successfully completing, Siebel’s Advanced Brewing Theory course, and winning a silver medal at the Great American Beer Festival.
What beer are you brewing this year with the Pink Boots hops?
Val: I’ve been having a real love affair with pilsners and lagers lately, so we are brewing a hoppy lager that I hope will really compliment the specific varietals that are in the Pink Boots hop blend this year.
Tell us more about being part of the Pink Boots Society? What is it? Why is it important?
Val: The Pink Boots Society is an organization created specifically for women in the brewing industry. Our scholarship program helps women in the industry educate and advance in whatever their focus is, be it production, marketing/sales, taproom management/service, etc. It also provides us with excellent networking opportunities and a safe space to learn, develop, ask questions, and give moral support to our peers, which can be hard to find in a very male-dominated field.
As our only female brewer, what do you have to say to other women interested in becoming a brewer/joining the industry?
Val: Being a female in this industry can definitely feel lonely and challenging sometimes. It takes a blend of confidence, humility, and work ethic. Be your own advocate; speak up for yourself when you feel disrespected but develop a thick skin and realize that MOST people are not intentionally disrespectful. They are simply a product of their conditioning. Never let someone else compromise your confidence in your ability to successfully do this job. Be humble; asking questions, admitting you don’t know something, or admitting when you’ve made a mistake can make you feel vulnerable. Lastly, let your work speak for itself; this job is not glamorous, actually quite the opposite, but it’s extremely rewarding. In this industry, you get out what you put in. If you’re really willing to put in the work, your beer will show it, and regardless of gender, it’s hard to disrespect quality.
Though the brew day for the annual Pink Boot Collaboration was on International Women’s day, the beer is just now ready. Brewella DeVille is a California Pilsner, a dry, crisp, and hoppy pilsner brewed with the Pink Boots Society 2020 hop blend. This year’s blend has Azacca, El Dorado, Idaho Gem, and Loral hops, giving the beer notes of stone fruit, citrus, and melon. Visit our locations to get your today.