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Niagara College brewmasters hop to it for Pink Boots Society
Niagara College students Melisa Quiverio and Lina Farfan work on their Pink Boots Pilsner that will be ready for International Women's Day on March 8.
Niagara College brewery students Aidan Hole and Cath Lear are all smiles as Hole shows off some fashionable pink boots during an open brew at the college.
Allison Findley, head winemaker at Niagara College's teaching winery, left, and assistant winemaker Emma Smalley, examine hops from Yakuma Chief hops that were being used in beers being produced by female students for International Women's Day March 8. Richard Hutton

Students in Niagara College’s program for future brewmasters are hard at work on unique batches of beer they’re brewing this winter – all to support the often-underrepresented women in the beer industry.

For Melissa Quiverio and Lina Farfan, their version of the Pink Boots Pilsner will pay homage to a brew from New Zealand, simply called the New Zealand Pilsner.

“We decided the recipe hops selected for the Pink Boots Pilsner were similar in aroma and flavour,” Quiverio said. “It’s got some notes of citrus with a raspberry flavour.”

She was one of a dozen or so participants in the open brew for the Pink Boots Society on Feb. 9.

All beers produced by the students will be available in time for International Women’s Day on March 8.

Quiverio is an international student from Colombia who is in the second year of Niagara College’s brewmaster and brewery operations management program at the Daniel J. Patterson campus in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Farfan, like Quiverio, is an international student who came to Niagara from Colombia for the brewery program.

This was the first-year student’s first time taking part in Pink Boots.

“There are not too many women in the industry,” she said.

The hops chosen for this year’s brew by the Pink Boots Society are a blend of HBC 638, El Dorado, Ahtanum and Idaho 7 varieties.

These will result in beers with berry and citrus notes punctuated with peppery earthiness and floral notes, the society said on its website.

All of the beers will use the Pink Boots blended hops supplied by Yakima Chief Hops, which donates $3 from every pound sold back to the Pink Boots Society to help women and non-binary people in the fermented/alcoholic beverage industry advance their careers through education.

“The whole idea of the Pink Boots Blend was meant to increase the involvement of women in the craft brewing industry,” said Sarah Casorso, Yakima Chief’s regional sales manager for Ontario and western Canada. “It’s intended to get women together.”

And Casorso knows a thing or two about the industry.

She spent four years at Bench Brewing in Beamsville, where she held several positions including brewmaster and director of brewing operations before joining Yakima Chief in 2022.

Before her time at Bench, she was the head brewer at Lock Street Brewing Company in St. Catharines.

“I think any time that we can promote women in brewing, it’s exciting,” she said.

Tammy Joho of the Pink Boots Canadian chapter said the initiative wants to help women seeking a career in the brewing industry through scholarships.

“The idea is to provide a network and mentorship for women as they head into a career,” Joho said. “We provide scholarships and focus on bringing visibility to women in the industry.”

While Pink Boots started to help women, Joho said the initiative has been broadened by also extending support to members of the non-binary and transgender communities.

“We are trying to be inclusive,” she said. “Cognizant of the fact there are non-binary and transgendered people in the industry.”

For Jon Downing, brewmaster for the college program, Pink Boots is a time for students to enjoy themselves and work together while continuing to learn the ins and outs of crafting a specialty brew.

“It’s always fun. For the college, it’s a great way to promote women in the industry,” he said. “It really is an interesting event,” he said. 

Downing noted that throughout history, it was women who took care of brewing beer and other fermented beverages.

Currently, 10 per cent of the students enrolled in the college program are women, he said, adding that in the past, participation by women reached as high as 40 per cent.

Punk Boots, he said, was a great way to expose a brewery career as an option for women.

“We’re trying to get as many (women) involved as possible and keep the movement going.”

In addition to the release of brews created by Quiverio and others, an additional open brew will be hosted for Pink Boots on International Women’s Day at the teaching brewery.

The beer has yet to be announced by students developing the recipe.

hutton@niagaranow.com

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