Ladies Who Brew: Women in the Wine, Beer and Spirits IndustryAlthough beer and wine manufacturing has become a male-dominated industry --witness the fact that E. and J. Gallo doesnt stand for "Ernestine" and "Julia" -- itwasnt always that way. The Egyptian goddess Hathor ruled over love, beauty andbeer, an indication of just how highly the ancient Egyptians prized their brew.From Hathor to housewives who brewed ales for medieval inns and taverns,brewing was womens work. The Industrial Revolution and mass manufacturing inbig breweries and distilleries changed that.The resurgence of micro-breweries, artisanal distilleries and wineries is openingthe door for more women to claim that historic heritage. Beer and wine drinkersare re-learning the joys of terroir, the French appreciation for the micro-climatethat produced a particular vintage or brew, and factory-produced spirits are losingground to the upstarts. Sophisticated tasters want evidence of craftsmanship intheir snifters or pint glasses -- and if that craftsmanship is at the hands of a womanbrewer, thats fine too.Women have a unique perspective on matters of taste. Most taste actually comesfrom the sense of smell, and womens olfactory senses are keener on average thanmens. Nicole Nollette, the CEO of San Francisco-based No. 209 Gin, and her salesvice-president Wendi Webster specialize in creating artisanal gins and gin-centriccocktails. Their spirits have a subtlety that goes beyond the astringent flavor ofmass-market gin and almost verges on perfume. Nor are these women merehobbyists; they showcased their gin at New Orleans 2011 Tales of the Cocktail, adecade-old celebration of beer, wine and spirits that has become one of the mostimportant industry events in the country. Nollette, 34, and Webster, 27, also havesocial-media savvy on their side. Their gin might taste delicate, but their businessacumen is sharp.While some women arrived at their interest in spirits only after getting old enoughto drink them, others grew up in the industry. Shauna Rosenblum of Rock WallWines is 28, but her interest in the business of wines originated with her father,winemaker Kent Rosenblum. The almost exclusively male crew who created herfathers wines encouraged her interest and let her sit in on blends, then on tastingsonce she was old enough. She founded Rock Wall Wines in 2008 and recentlyexpanded the winerys tasting room.Beer, the most popular potable, benefits from a womans touch as well. SarahFenson and Regan Long founded the Local Brewing Company seven years ago and
originally worked from their own loft. The women take the name of the companyseriously, crafting brews that take advantage of the best regional ingredients andgiving them names that resonate with San Francisco locals. Long, 33, and Fenson,41, also teach brewing workshops that draw a mix of men and women interested inbrewing better beer. During recent classes, Long noted that "over 50 percent of thepeople in the room are women," so the next crop of beer entrepreneurs may includemore than a few women as well.Hathor would undoubtedly be pleased.