As it currently stands, the beer industry is still dominated by men. This isn’t too shocking — men also drink beer way more than women. According to a 2016 Gallup Poll, 54% of men consider beer their go-to alcoholic beverage while only 23% of women would choose beer over wine or cocktails. But the latter number is on the rise and it’s time for brewing’s boys club to throw open the doors.
In recent years, women have made a strong mark in the world of beer, while fighting stereotypes in a male-heavy industry. They’ve taken roles as brewers, tasters, and marketing directors — adding fresh energy into the scene. One of these women is Anne Becerra, the first ever certified female Cicerone in New York City. Becerra’s title makes her the beer equivalent of a wine sommelier and she also maintains a role as Beer Curator and Director at Treadwell Park.
This week, she was gracious enough to answer a few questions about her history, the pressure of being the first female Cicerone in NYC, and how women can continue to make an impact in beer.
What is your history with beer?
I’ve always loved all things culinary — food, wine, spirits, you name it. But when I first tasted Belgian beer a whole new world of flavors opened up. The beers were some of the best in the world, and for the most part they cost less than some of the worst wines I was probably drinking at the time.
Trying new beers became a fun hobby, one that I brought with me on a road trip cross country. Whenever we’d get to a new state, or town I’d do my best to get a taste of the local beers, try new things and get to know a little about the breweries. I realized craft beer was about more than just the liquid inside, it was a peek into the culture, people and stories of these places. When I got back to New York I decided to try my hand at a job in beer. I started working at a beer bar in Manhattan and never looked back.
What made you decide to become a Cicerone?
By the time the Cicerone organization came around, I was already working in beer — taking notes, reading everything I could, visiting breweries, etc. But there were a few elements that weren’t part of my day to day that I wanted to learn about too, like the brewing process and draft systems. Signing up for a test, paying for it and committing to it made me buckle down and study subjects that I may have put off otherwise.
How difficult was it to get this certification?
The test itself is no piece of cake, it requires in depth knowledge of a range of subjects, and an ability to explain them both technically and conversationally. But I was genuinely interested in the subject matter, so studying and learning was more exciting than stressful. By the time I signed up for the test I felt comfortable and prepared, and it paid off.
How do you feel about being the first woman in New York to reach this level?
I don’t think much about it as far as my work goes, but there have been great opportunities that have come from it. If I’m able to bring attention to my profession by highlighting great beers, showcasing our beer program, or even encouraging people to try new things then great! If the fact that I’m a woman doing it helps to reach new audiences or expose people to our fantastic industry that may not have known about it otherwise then I’ll take it.
Tell us about being a woman in an industry that has historically been dominated by men.
Luckily, it’s something I rarely, if ever need to think about. I think the craft beer industry specifically is pretty advanced. Of course, I’ve encountered silly comments or dismissive attitudes here and there. But the collaborative, intelligent, creative people I work with on a daily basis far outweigh the small-minded ones. In my position, particularly as a buyer when I see sexism in any form- I simply don’t let it slide. Sure, you can brew a beer and name it something chauvinistic, or have people on your sales team with similar attitudes but guess who will never buy your beer? There’s simply too much competition out there and our community is too tight to put up with anything that’s not fully inclusive.
What advice do you have for people interested in the brewing/beer industry?
Probably the same advice I would give for any industry — listen, learn and work hard. There are so many options and paths in the beer industry that I’m not sure people realize. There are chemists, technicians, graphic designers, accountants, logistical coordinators… the list goes on and on. Don’t worry about “competing” or lack of experience, just find what you love to do and go for it.
Tell us a little bit about the beer program at Treadwell Park
It’s a constantly rotating, constantly evolving combination of styles from all over the world. So much care and attention to detail goes into every aspect of our beers and it’s really important that there’s something for everyone.
In addition to our 20 rotating draught beers and 50+ bottles, we also just introduced the Treadwell Reserve List. This is where we keep the rare, vintage and specialty bottles. While it’s geared towards connoisseurs, it’s really important that it be accessible to all. Each beer has its own detailed page giving info on the flavor profile, brewing process, special ingredients, and more. This educational component has been really helpful in introducing people to specialty beers as well as converting non-beer drinkers.
What advice do you have for beer novices?
Even as craft beer gets bigger and bigger, people still may not realize how diverse the flavors and styles are. There’s truly a great beer out there for every preference and palate and the best way to find yours is to try and try again.