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Women of the Craft (Beer) / BY BRIAN EDWARDS

Gilmour is at HopCat in downtown Grand Rapids, sipping on a Dragon’s Milk Ale brewed by New Holland Brewing Co. Eight other women sit around her, and they’re all sam- pling craft beers at what seems like a pretty good pace. The conversation is flowing and it’s about flavors, smells, ABV and brewery trips. This is the monthly meeting of the PussyCat Guild, a


loose-knit group of women who meet at HopCat to quaff quality microbrews. Started three years ago, it’s an ever- expanding group of regulars and semi-regulars that can be described in five words: Women who love craft beer. Turns out, that phrase describes a growing number of

Michigan women. “Some women love shoes, some women love beer,” says

Guild member Sheryl Rose, who drives in from Ann Arbor. As if to prove her point, she sticks up her feet to show

her decidedly unsexy Birkenstocks. Tonight, the group includes a graphic artist, a web de-

signer, a self-described anarchist/mom, a musician, and one of the area’s only professional female brewers. One member is attending her first meeting. Another admits she’s there despite battling pneumonia, letting others sample her beers before she sips them. The sick one is Stacey Faba, who may well be the iTunes

Genius of craft beer. Tell her about a craft beer you like – any craft beer from around the country – and she’ll reel off a few others you’ll probably like, too. Faba owns Pauly’s in Lowell, with her husband. The

store carries 650-plus craft beers, including tons of Michigan- made brews. Her husband, Paul, is the wine guy. She’s the beer girl. Don’t call it a role reversal. “She knows more about beer than five men,” says a

co-worker. Faba shares her knowledge openly with women, helping

beginners wade into the habit with “gateway” beers like stouts (“They can understand the chocolate and coffee fla- vors.”), before transitioning them to hop-heavy beers like IPAs. “Eventually, we turn a lot of them into hopheads.” Faba and the Pussykats aren’t the only ones targeting

beer-curious women for education. Schmohz Brewing hosts a once-a-year meeting of the Ladies Ale Society in the fall that draws close to 100 participants. It’s ladies-only, save for one guy: Brewer Chas Thompson, who takes participants through a tasting of more than a dozen beers. This year’s event is Nov. 12.

40 | REVUEWM.COM | OCTOBER 2011 Over in Ann Arbor, Wolverine State Brewing Co. had

similar success with a recent “Real Women Drink Beer” event in its tap room, where the ladies in attendance were treated to massages, pedicures, snacks and, of course, beer. Wolverine’s Director of Sales and Marketing E.T. Crowe (a.k.a. The Beer Wench) plans to host more events for women in the future. While Michigan’s microbreweries may be targeting

women to educate them about craft beers, don’t expect them to start making products like Chick Beer, which a Maryland company recently introduced, or the new Animee beer for women that Molson Coors debuted a few months ago. “I try to look at beer as being gender neutral,” says Laura

Bell, marketing director of Bell’s Brewing. She sniffs at the notion of catering to women with

marketing ploys like pink cans (“How insulting is that!”) and claims that one of her biggest pet peeves is when guys at festivals or the Bell’s taproom ask, “Do you have any girly beer for my girlfriend?” “If they like a certain beer or don’t like it, it doesn’t have

anything to do with being a man or a woman – it has to do with their individual taste,” she says. While more Michigan women are drinking craft beer,

only a handful of them brew it for a living here. Most are in metro Detroit, though Arcadia Brewing Co.’s Stacey Block, Founders Brewing Co.’s Laura Houser and Michigan Beer Cellar’s Rachel Holland make beer with the boys in their respective brew houses.

CRAFTY WOMAN: Stacey Faba provides guidance and education for craft beer drinkers of both genders. PHOTO: Brian Edwards

Is there a glass ceiling for women brewers in Michigan? “No, not at all,” says Arcadia’s Block, who has been

brewing professionally for a decade. “You can do whatever you want in this industry, it’s just demanding of your time. You’re pretty much married to the brewery, your yeast strain and the craft.” Block did take time off a few years ago to actually get

married to her husband, Tom. They tied the knot at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver and toasted their vows with Michigan microbrews: a Short’s Brewing Co. for him and a Jolly Pumpkin for her. When she first started drinking craft beer in the ‘90s,

Block used to hang out at the Michigan Brewing Co. in Webberville. “Most times, I was the only girl there.” Times have changed, she says. She sees it most at beer

festivals, where the number of women in attendance is grow- ing and their tastes are changing. “A couple of years ago we were getting women asking for

the lightest or fruitiest beer we had,” she said. “Now, they’re asking for our Hop Rocket Imperial IPA.” n

tefanie Gilmour got lots of good advice from her dad over the years, but it appears he totally failed her on one topic: beer. “My father always drank Stroh’s,” she

says, “so I thought all beer tasted terrible.” Fortunately, she’s unlearned that les- son. It’s the third Tuesday of the month, and


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