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Thursday, October 19, 2017

UPDATE: South Carolina, once again, has no female head brewers

And then there were none

Posted by Kinsey Gidick on Thu, Oct 19, 2017 at 1:49 PM

Tanael Escartin was the state's only female head brewer - JONATHAN BONCEK
  • Jonathan Boncek
  • Tanael Escartin was the state's only female head brewer

Welp, it was nice while it lasted. After almost a year at Palmetto Brewery we've confirmed that certified brew engineer and South Carolina's only female head brewer Tanael Escartin has departed Palmetto. Escartin told us in a Twitter message that she left earlier this year to accept a position with Uinta Brewing.

According to the Venezuela native, Uinta's offer was too good to turn down. "They have been in the industry for 25 years. We are aiming to hit the 100,000 barrels this year," she said.

So where does that leave us?

In 2014, a study by Stanford University found that out of 1,700 active breweries surveyed, only 4 percent had a female head brewer or brewmaster. Meanwhile, according to winebags.com, American women make up 37 percent of total craft beer consumers. That's 37 percent chugging brewskis at the roughly 49 breweries in the state — 23 of those now open in Charleston. But of the 402 people employed by South Carolina breweries, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics March 2017 data, we have no women leading the actual brewing.

In contrast, states like North Carolina have at least three women working in brewing positions. According to Fawn Pattison, interim executive director of N.C. Craft Brewers Guild, Alexa Long is the head brewer at Legion Brewing, while Sasha Gibb is the co-founder, -owner, and -brewer at Gibbs Hundred in Greensboro, and Nicole Dexter is the co-owner and brewer at Sylva, N.C.'s Innovation Brewing.

Meanwhile, in Georgia, as of last year the state had at least two female head brewers — Lindsey Kingry and Sarah Green at SweetWater.

Sara Gayle McConnell (right) founded BREWSTERS and here gives a check to Elmira Raven, director of the nonprofit My Sister's House. - JONATHAN BONCEK
  • Jonathan Boncek
  • Sara Gayle McConnell (right) founded BREWSTERS and here gives a check to Elmira Raven, director of the nonprofit My Sister's House.
That's not to say Charleston doesn't have an active female brewing scene and many breweries very much in support of it. The BREWSTERS (Building Relationships and Empowering Women Striving To Exist Responsibly) group, organized by Tradesman co-owner Sara Gayle McConnell, continues to be involved in local craft beer.

In May the women brewed Madam Basil in partnership with Holy City Brewing to support One80 Place. Each dollar from every glass of the saison sold went to support the nonprofit. And in the process, the women got to take part in every step of the brewing.

McConnell says that in the BREWSTERS eight seasons of quarterly brewing, they've not only brewed a variety of different beers with partner breweries like Low Tide, Frothy Beard, Cooper River, and Two Blokes, they've also donated $10,000 to local women's organizations like Florence Crittenton and Habitat for Humanity, from the sales. And interest in the BREWSTERS continues to grow.

"There are actually quite a few women home brewers that come to try to brew," says McConnell. "We're getting some traction. I've seen a lot of repeats and faces at other breweries that are typically at mine."

And now as a member of the SC Brewers Guild Board of Directors, McConnell is spreading the BREWSTERS good word across the state hoping to get other women and breweries interested in starting their own BREWSTERS offshoots in South Carolina.

With any luck, maybe a former BREWSTER will one day claim the title as the next South Carolina head female brewer.
UPDATE: After many calls to breweries and local brewery leaders, we've discovered that River Dog Brewery's Amelia Keefe was promoted to head brewer six months ago, which means we do have a female head brewer. More to come in an interview with Keefe next week.

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