The Who Behind the Brew: Pink Boots Society Erie & Pittsburgh Chapters

Assist, inspire and encourage: This is the stated goal of the Pink Boots Society (PBS), a collective of women and non-binary folks working in the fermented beverage industry. Pink Boots, named after the rubber wellies often worn by those working in brewhouses, was founded in 2008 by Teri Fahrendorf, an Oregon-based brewer who was inspired after a cross-country road trip where she met lots of other women working in craft beer who didn’t seem to be aware of each other. It has since grown into a national nonprofit organization, with chapters all across the US and in several other countries, as well. The chapters, which operate under local leadership, help connect women with mentors, create scholarship programs for brewing education, brew collaboration beers, host events and much more.

A handful of those chapters are here in Pennsylvania, and we’re excited to help share their stories. We’ll focus first on the two chapters in the Western part of PA: Pink Boots Pittsburgh and Pink Boots Erie.

Pink Boots Erie

The Erie chapter of Pink Boots is relatively new; it started in April of 2022 after a brew day that Bailey Penrod hosted at Erie Brewing Co., where Penrod is a brewer. The head brewer at the time encouraged Penrod to make a beer with the Pink Boots Hop Blend from Yakimah Chief [a hops brand], and because there wasn’t a PBS chapter in Erie yet, she opened it up to any females in the industry in Erie that wanted to come hang out and brew.

“So, I host the brew day, and along come Nikki and Jason Lavery who own an amazing brewery here in Erie called Lavery Brewing Co.,” Penrod remembers. “We started talking about Pink Boots and how there isn’t a chapter [in Erie] and Jason was determined to help us get it going by having the Lake Erie Ale Trail donate the funds for 15 women to get a membership. Fast-forward one month, and we had ourselves the very first Erie Chapter!”

Currently, there are 24 members, which Penrod notes is a great number considering that Erie is a small city compared to Pittsburgh or Philadelphia. They’ve also noticed that a lot of members are from surrounding areas.

“With Pink Boots, you can be a part of more than one chapter, which I think is great,” Penrod explains. “I’m personally a part of the Erie and Pittsburgh chapters and considering one more. It’s a good way to meet others in the industry and see what other chapters are doing.”

Most of the Erie chapter’s members are working across the beer sector in various roles, such as sales reps, bartenders, brewers, owners, aspiring owners, taphouse/pub managers and marketing. They generally meet up once every three months, and each meeting is different. Some meetings are casual, with everyone checking in and going over housekeeping over a few beers. Some meetings are educational, with tours of various breweries and facilities.

For instance, PBS Erie invited Jeff McCullor, the co-owner of Erie Ale Works to give a tutorial on how to set up, break down and use jockey boxes [mobile draft beer pouring systems].

“Since we pour our Pink Boots collab beers at some beer fests, we thought it would be beneficial for everyone to know how it should be poured!” Penrod says. “We do have a lot of educational meetings/events/workshops in the works and we’re super stoked about them.”

They’ve also done two Pink Boots collaboration beers so far. The first one was the fateful brew day at Lavery Brewing, and the second recently took place at Erie Brewing Co., led by Penrod.

“I would consider collaboration brews as an educational workshop, just because everyone brews just a little differently, so you’re always learning at another brewery,” Penrod notes. “It’s also super-beneficial for those that aren’t brewers, because they get to see and experience firsthand what goes into making beer.”

Pink Boots Pittsburgh

Pink Boots Pittsburgh

In Pittsburgh, the PBS chapter has been active for much longer; their story starts back in 2015. Krystle Eaton (the current Co-Chapter Leader), a the co-owner of Grist House, was one of the original members, along with Megan Seastedt, the head brewer at Rock Bottom Brewing, whom Eaton credits as the driving force behind the formation of the chapter. News of the chapter spread through word of mouth, and the chapter began with informal meetings and educational outings, like a trip to a local hop farm, Eaton remembers.

“When we started it was just us really getting together to know the other women in the industry and local to kind of talk to each other, make friends and just get to know one another,” Eaton remembers. “Pink Boots has always been about education, and we started to raise more money and funding, so we’d be in a good position to do a lot of education.”

PBS on a national level was set up just for people in the beer industry, but the bylaws were changed in 2021 to include women and non-binary folks working in any fermented beverage industry, including spirits, wine, cider and kombucha.

“Once they officially opened it up to all the fermented alcohol industries, our membership definitely grew,” Eaton says. “We’re probably the biggest now that we’ve ever been, about 50 members.”

That was right around the time that Brooke Franus (the other current Co-Chapter Leader) got involved. Franus, the founder of Stewards of Beer, a craft beer promotions/marketing company, says that she’d been a “lurker” of the group and admired the camaraderie among the members.

“But I didn’t really feel that it applied to me … eventually Pink Boots evolved and when they opened it up to everyone, not just production and ownership, I felt welcome and was able to put faces with names in real life.”

To sign up to become a member, they explain, you simply need to visit the Pink Boots website, pay the dues, and then you become part of the local chapter. They’re quick to mention that there are special rates for students, as well as scholarship programs to help cover dues.

PBS Pittsburgh has been quite active, making collaboration beers, as well as public-facing educational workshops around things like beer tasting and sensory analysis. Their group meets about once per month, which has built a strong community of support among the members.

“[As part of Pink Boots Society] You make really good connections and create friends, as well,” she says. “These are people you can trust that you can lean on when you’re struggling and need advice.”

To learn more about Pink Boots Society, visit its website; you can also follow PBS Pittsburgh on Facebook and Instagram.

This series is made possible by support from the Pennsylvania Malt and Brewed Beverage Industry Promotion Board and grant funding from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.

  • Photos: Courtesy of Pink Boots Society Erie & Pittsburgh chapters