The Empowerment Project documentary, produced by Heartfelt Productions, was in McMinnville filming Teri Fahrendorf and the Pink Boots Society in 2013. The organization was at Heater Allen Brewing doing a collaboration brew with Lisa Allen, the assistant brewer and daughter of the brewmaster and owner, Rick Allen. Photo courtesy of Teri Fahrendorf
By Patty Mamula
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The day I caught up with Teri Fahrendorf, she was fielding phone calls, filing reports, handling customer requests and troubleshooting right and left -- a typical day in the life of the multitasking female beer pioneer. When we finally connected after a day of phone tag, she talked freely and fast -- so fast I struggled to keep up.
Ever the trailblazer for women and beer, Fahrendorf took on a new role about six years ago as a sales rep for the Country Malt Group. She handles nine different malt brands as well as hops and other beer supplies for the company, a subsidiary of Great Western Malting.
Recently business has been hopping (pun intended), so her territory of Oregon and Washington was reduced by about half to Washington only. Fahrendorf sees herself as a good malt ambassador and consultant in the brewing process. After spending nearly 20 years as a brewer, she has plenty of credibility and experience to draw from.
She was the first female craft brewmaster who was not an owner, hired in 1989 at Golden Gate Brewing in California. The two women craft brewers who preceded her were Mellie Pullman, a brewer and partner at Schirf Brewing Company in Park City, Utah, and Carol Stoudt, brewmaster and owner at Stoudt’s Brewing in Adamstown, Pa.
Fahrendorf’s interest in beer grew out of homebrewing. Tired of working as an analyst, she decided to go to the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago to see if she could get a job as a brewer. Of the 24 people in her class, she was one of two women, the only microbrewer and one of the few who weren’t working for a large, domestic brewery.
“The first day of class, they asked what brands do you brew? I didn’t brew brands, I brewed styles. I looked up all the breweries in Chicago and organized brew field trips -- a beer of the world tasting tour with all different styles,” said Fahrendorf. She also organized a class brew. Her classmates recognized her initiative and selected her as the first female class president.
Once she got her start, she was off and brewing, working 17 of her 20 years at Steelhead Brewing in Eugene. Then she shifted gears to take a brewing road trip, allowing her to visit women brewers around the country, before launching the wildly popular nonprofit Pink Boots Society with the sole purpose of supporting women in beer. To become a member, you simply have to earn some income from beer and membership is free.
In its eighth year, Pink Boots is growing faster than ever, with chapters all around the globe. At the beginning of the year there were 1,350 members and now there are 1,700. That’s about 100 people joining each month. The networking benefit of Pink Boots is huge, but other pluses are educational seminars, meetings, the Craft Brewers Conference gathering and scholarships. “We award one new scholarship a month in the United States. We have two selection teams of volunteers that review the scholarship applications,” said Fahrendorf. ” Often the scholarships are for residence-based brewing courses. “We try to cover at least $250 a day, “she said.
In exchange for the scholarship, recipients are expected to “pay it forward.” This payment can take many shapes, from writing an article to giving a talk at the Craft Brewers Conference. “We are creating women leaders. Many of these gals haven’t been in that role before,” said Fahrendorf.
The organization is all-volunteer with the exception of the executive director Emily Engdahl. As the founder and executive director, Fahrendorf is the face of the organization, even though she is always trying to “get it off her plate.” The more it keeps growing, the more she is called in to help put out the fires.
One of the recent fundraising events for Pink Boots was a collaborative brew in conjunction with International Women’s Day on March 8. More than 100 breweries participated in making the same recipe. This year it was the 2015 Unite Red Ale. A portion of the sales from the beer go to Pink Boots.
In Oregon, the participating breweries were Lompoc, Green Dragon, Fort George, Chetco and Wild River. The brewing was open to any Pink Boots member, not just brewers. Breweries interested in participating in 2016 should check the Pink Boots website this fall.
What comes next for Fahrendorf? So many adventures await. “I feel like my whole life has been a Joseph Campbell ‘hero’s journey.’ I love what I’m doing right now, my job with Country Malt,” she said. Still, she would like to cook and homebrew more and wants experience with barrel aging and sours and, of course, she is always ready to help emerging people in the beer business.
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.