International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day was founded in 2014 by Sophie de Ronde—Head Brewer & Brewing Technologist at Burnt Mill Brewery—for women in the beer industry and those brewing at home.
The idea for International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day (IWCBD) came about when Sophie de Ronde, participated in Project Venus; a group of UK-based women brewers who regularly collaborated on brew days at their respective commercial breweries.
“I learned so much from those Project Venus brew days,” said de Ronde, when asked about how she initiated International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day, “my friend Sarah Barton of Brewsters Brewery started that group, and I just had so much fun and got a lot out of the networking opportunities on those brew days. It was a great way to highlight women in the brewing industry, and I just thought that it was an effort that should be taken global, so International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day was born.”
The first International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day in 2014 was a collaborative effort between de Ronde, her fellow Project Venus peers, and Denise Ratfield, who was handling the social media efforts for the Pink Boots Society at the time. The annual celebration is held on March 8 to coincide with International Women’s Day.
“Denise’s impact on the event is hard to overstate. Our first year of IWCBD was slow, but we have grown the event every year, and now it is an annual celebration that is observed in over 100 different places.”
The purpose of the event is driven by collaboration between women brewers. Each event is different and relies on the interpretation of each organizer to determine how they want to celebrate it. Though collaborative brew days featuring all women brewers are most common, many of the events feature open invitations to local women homebrewers to join in on the brew day fun.
“The best way to learn is by connecting with other women and sharing experiences” added de Ronde, “though March 8 is the big day, we try to make that a year-round effort.”
Even though March 8 is the big day for encouraging women to brew together, the IWCBD social media pages are full of examples of women in the beer industry and female-led homebrewing groups that have come together to teach, learn, and share.
Unlike other collaborative efforts to bring the brewing industry together, IWCBD does not utilize an official recipe to unite it’s participants, opting instead for an annual theme that is left up to interpretation by the site organizers. The theme for 2021 is “Compassion”.
The themes for each year normally come from something that has inspired de Ronde throughout the year, but it was difficult for her to get inspiration this year due to the recent turmoil brought upon by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The last year has proven that we all need a little compassion. The whole world needs a hug right now, and so we tried to reflect that in this year’s IWCBD theme” said de Ronde.
#UNITECOMPASSION 2021 Map
Even with the challenges of organizing an event of this scale in the pandemic, the number of people who plan to participate has not decreased from previous years. As of writing, there are 54 registered brew sites in 13 different countries and 8 U.S. states.
This year’s event will be quite different than previous iterations of IWCBD since many women who celebrate this event annually will not be able to gather for collaborative brew days. Instead, de Ronde and her team plan to live-stream some of the registered IWCBD events that are happening globally and encourages anyone interested in being involved to follow them on Facebook to receive updates on the day’s happenings.
Each IWCBD site is different and interprets the theme differently. Site organizers are responsible for determining how they want to participate in their own events. Details of how each site is interpreting the theme can be seen on the IWCBD site map. For example, a Williamsburg, MI hop farm, MI Local Hops is collaborating with Earthen Ales to brew a beer, with funds going to Fermenta, a Michigan Women’s Craft Collective.
“It is interesting to see the various interpretations of the theme every year. A few years ago, the theme was ‘Local’. Some women activated on that by dedicating to their local charity. Some women interpreted ‘Local’ to mean that they should make the beer 100% local, so they cultivated local yeast strains to ferment the beer, and used only local ingredients. Not one event is the same, and that is one of the things that makes this effort so unique.
“My favorite year so far might have been last year’s theme; ‘Tribute’. Many women used this opportunity to brew a beer in honor of famous women throughout history, or modern-day women that they admired. I learned a lot about significant women in history!”
Though many IWCBD sites are hosted by breweries, de Ronde encourages women homebrewers, women-led clubs, and women who work at homebrew retailers to get involved in the day.
“It’s all about women getting together to brew, share, network, teach, learn, and have fun.”