There’s a certain image that craft breweries have cultivated as they’ve become popular places to hang out in the past couple of decades: that of bearded white dudes in flannel working behind the scenes to produce the beers their customers love.


Without question, breweries today have a diversity problem. It’s something the Brewers Association, the nationwide trade organization for independent breweries, has admitted. The association released jarring stats last year about the number of women and people of color in the beer industry. According to data collected from an optional survey sent to breweries, only about 7.5% of brewers are women. About 22.6% of brewery owners are female.


The only area in the beer industry where women reach a majority, according to the 2018 data, is in nonmanagerial service staff. And it’s a slight majority, at 54%. (As for race, a shocking 88% of brewery owners are white.)


Austin’s beer scene is emblematic of these trends, with only a few women in official brewer roles. But the women who are involved in the local industry have mostly positive things to say about their experiences, highlighting camaraderie with male peers, who they say treat them as equals.


In honor of Women’s History Month, here’s a look at some of the defining women in Austin’s ever-growing craft beer industry.


Whitney Roberts, co-owner of the Brewtorium Brewery & Kitchen


The co-owner, along with husband Chris Rauschuber, of the sprawling German-style beer hall and beer garden off Airport Boulevard, Roberts is the CEO — "chief everything officer" — although she doesn’t do any of the brewing (that’s Rauschuber’s main job). Despite that, she has been part of the Austin Zealots homebrew club for the last 12 years and worked for the Austin Brew Bus and at Adelbert’s Brewery to figure out if running a brewpub was really something she wanted to do.


Also a cicerone-certified beer server, she found the answer was a resounding yes. The Brewtorium opened in the spring of 2018 with a German fusion food program and a versatile beer list. The two-year anniversary party for the brewpub is in April, when it will release "a really complex sour golden in bottles that we're pretty excited about," she says.


Roberts says everyone in the Austin beer industry tends to be supportive of each other, no matter how crowded the field gets. There’s camaraderie, not competition. And as a woman, she gets respect, not derision.


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"Of all the industries in which I have worked throughout my career, the craft beer industry is by far the most inclusive," she says. "I'm never treated differently for being a female when I'm among my fellow brewery owners, and I know that I can talk to any one of them and be treated with respect."


Sheila Garcia, marketing and events manager for Hold Out Brewing


Next door to Better Half Coffee & Cocktails, Hold Out is a sibling project (the Wright Bros. Brew & Brew team is behind both) that has been in the works for a while. Once it’s open — potentially sometime this spring — Garcia’s gig officially will kick in. She is well-versed in the business, after working at Hops & Grain for four years and rising to the position of chief communications officer while there.


Garcia believes that as a front-of-house employee versus someone behind public view in production, she has a slightly different perspective being a woman in the beer industry.


"Sadly, it is still assumed that women should work in the front and our male counterparts handle the back-of-house needs," she says. "However, even though sales is considered a front-of-house position, that too is (or can be) a tough place for a female employee in the craft beer industry. Most of my instances dealing with ’mansplaining’ have come from customer interactions."


But Garcia has no plans to leave the craft beer scene, which she says otherwise is supportive. She loves how involved beer-makers tend to be with their communities. In 2018, for example, breweries across the country made the same beer, the Resilience IPA, to raise money for California wildfire relief. On a local level that year, they supplied clean water to Austin businesses during the boil water order.


Meike Rossman, head brewer at Blue Owl Brewing


Beer recipes are frequently a collaborative effort at Blue Owl, Austin’s only brewery focused exclusively on sour beers. But Rossman, who became head brewer at Blue Owl when the original brewer left to open his own beer project in the Texas Hill Country, gets to create some that are all her own, too. She’s proud of last year’s Plum de Plume and recent release Limetastico.


Plum de Plume, a fall and winter seasonal, is a sour harvest ale with plums and spices to which she pushed to add sage, adding "complexity and interest beyond the ripe plum flavor," she says. Currently available is Limetastico, a sour Mexican lager with lime and salt. As you sip it, "corn suffuses through the clean lager character, which is then followed by a light saltiness that brightens the whole beer." It was the first lager she developed from start to finish.


Rossman knows her stuff. She always has felt comfortable at Blue Owl, where a fairly balanced number of both men and women work thanks to the efforts of co-founders Jeff Young and Suzy Shaffer.


"I hope people see me, other women and minorities working at breweries and know that places exist for them in this industry," she says. "We want to include everyone and hear everyone's ideas and work. Listening to others and allowing our work to be challenged and tested will only make us better."


Pam Catoe, owner of Craft Beer Austin and southwest regional editor of Porch Drinking


A longtime craft beer drinker — she used to frequent Independence Brewing, just after the 15-year-old brewery opened, with friends who were original investors — Catoe began to write about beer in 2015, first for Craft Beer Austin. She purchased the site earlier this year and has now become one of the foremost authorities on the local beer scene. Most recently, she broke the news that Buda’s first and only brewery, Two Wheel, is up for sale.


Both the writing and editing gigs are side projects for Catoe, who has a day job in a completely different industry. But she finds the time to learn the ins and outs of the beer industry, whether that’s going on a day trip to explore Marble Falls’ boozy offerings or helping to brew Pink Boots collaboration ales this month at a handful of local breweries. The Pink Boots Society is a nationwide organization that assists and encourages women in the beer industry.


Generally, she’s found that Austin is a more progressive city when it comes to gender equity — though not always.


"Nothing irritates me more than someone offering me the wine menu at a beer bar or staring at me blankly when I ask for the ABV of the pale ale they have on tap," she says. "The worst is when my husband orders a cocktail and I get an IPA, and they just hand me the cocktail. That happens frequently."


Caroline Wallace, deputy director of the Texas Craft Brewers Guild


Until last summer, people were unable to walk into production breweries in Texas and walk out with six-packs of beer to go. Our state was the last one to allow for such sales; opponents feared erosion of the three-tier system that rules the sale of alcohol across the country. That’s where an advocacy organization like the guild comes in — working with legislators to change the law.


Wallace had an integral role in helping to bring about the beer-to-go allowance last year. Making moves at the Capitol, however, is just one small task involved in her everyday duties. She started at the guild in 2015 as events manager (after discovering "craft beer was my favorite hobby-turned-side hustle") and has found her job evolving in the years since.


"Events (such as the Texas Craft Brewers Festival) are still a major part of my job, but I also oversee our PR, social media, online store, a lot of digital advocacy activity related to our legislative work, serve as boots on the ground at the Capitol, and whatever else needs doing," she says. "We're a very grassroots organization with a small staff of three and a board of brewers who still have all their responsibilities in their own businesses, so we all wear a lot of hats."