‘Cheers’ to First Woman-Focused Program at Craft Beverage Expo

Author: Casey Gale       

Women in Craft Forum

Peggy Noe Stevens (far right) moderates a “Diversity in the Workplace” panel featuring Jeff Crowe (from left), Heaven Hill; Ralph de Chabert, Brown-Forman; Kathleen DiBenedetto, Beam Suntory; and Deborah Brenner, Women of the Vine & Spirit, at the Women in Craft Forum during the Craft Beverage Expo. (Courtesy Peggy Noe Stevens)

In recent years, women have become a stronger presence in the typically male-dominated craft beverage industry. While there are associations that provide education for women in segments of the industry — Pink Boots Society and Pomme Boots Society have created a space for female beer and cider producers, respectively — there has never been an educational program for women working across the craft beverage industry as a whole. Kellie Shevlin, executive director of the Craft Beverage Expo, recently filled that gap by organizing the first Women in Craft Forum, which took place on the final day of the approximately 850-attendee Craft Beverage Expo held Dec. 3–5 in Louisville, Kentucky.

Kellie Shevlin

Kellie Shevlin

“Now there are a lot more females that are getting into the business and succeeding,” Shevlin said. “But there isn’t really any formal [program] for them — that looks at the female beverage producer independently from the entire industry. We just thought it would be an interesting way to highlight some education specifically for them.”

During the one-day program, which hosted approximately 75 attendees this year with the intention of growing into “a much larger program” within the next few years, attendees heard from industry leaders like Rhonda Kallman, founder of Boston Harbor Distillery, and J. Jackson-Beckham, Ph.D., who founded for Craft Beer for All, a platform that aims to bring diversity into the craft beer industry. The program featured sessions that discuss the importance of building a network of meaningful connections, self-advocating, career planning, and more, according to Shevlin.

“We went out and did a lot of research prior to launching this,” she said. “We were really looking to see where the pain points for women in craft were, and what we realized is that on the business side, I don’t think women understand the impact that they have both as consumers and as producers.” Shevlin said the forum gave attendees an idea of women’s influence in this industry.

Women in Craft Forum

Peggy Noe Stevens

Peggy Noe Stevens, founder of the Bourbon Women Association and the first woman in the world to receive the title of Master Bourbon Taster, moderated the day of sessions. Stevens, a “dynamo,” Shevlin said, and the ideal person to lead a day of firsts that she hopes will motivate attendees to think bigger.

“I’m a big fan of going to conferences and being inspired. I wanted to make sure that we had a component in there that really left people,” Shevlin said, “ready to go out and do more, and feel better, and really conquer the world. I know that sounds a little melodramatic, but that’s for me my biggest part. I knew that we needed to have the business components to it because that’s why people are going, but I wanted people to leave inspired.”

Casey Gale is an associate editor at Convene.