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Beer Baroness Society having a pint to celebrate International Women's Day

'We wanted to create a comfortable space to extend that appreciation and education among woman because sometimes that’s hard. It can be difficult for women to feel comfortable in what is largely a male dominated industry'

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“Beer Baroness Society” is a passion and a side hobby for Shannon Grant.  

“It’s a social club for northern Ontario women who want to share our collective passion for craft beer in social settings and for now everything will be done on zoom, but when we can all gather together again we will be doing food and beer pairing events and so much more.” 

Their first virtual event is planned for Monday, March 8th on International Women’s Day, and Grant says their members are receiving “beer boxes” in anticipation of the event.  

“It’s been a couple of years in the making and it was set to start up when COVID hit,” she says.   

“It got put on hold but in November two ladies in town got a hold of me saying they had heard about what I was doing and they wanted to help. So we thought about what we could do in this ‘new normal’ life we’ve been living, and to kick-start it, we came up with this beer box idea, which is what a lot of breweries had been doing, especially those craft brewers that would have been holding different events and festivals They have all decided to go ahead with these virtual events.”  

The beer box is exactly what it sounds like with a couple of local beers mixed in with some goodies and treats from locally owned businesses.  

Grant grew up in North Bay and had worked down south for a while before coming back to the Gateway City. It was upon her return here that the idea for the Beer Baroness Society started to brew.  

“I’ve had my SMART serve since I was 19 and when I lived in Sudbury I was asked by a friend who owned a brewery if I would come help out at a festival. I enjoyed that aspect of getting to talk to people and so I started learning more about the hops and the brewing process and I had been talking to some friends in the industry about having some kind of beer society for women because we didn’t have that here.

"I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been behind the bar and a woman has come up to me and whispered ‘I don’t really know what beer I like’ and I don’t want women to feel like its unapproachable. Drinking craft beer is fun and it’s a very welcoming group of people and what we’re hoping is to create that idea among woman to be free to explore the many facets of what the craft beer industry is all about.” 

Memberships are $15 for the year and Grant says, “That membership will include early access to events that we will host or events that breweries around town might host. As well, you will get information on collaborations, new beer releases, beer education, exclusive merchandise and discounts and perks at breweries and establishments in town including Gateway City Brewery, New Ontario, and Lou Dawgs.”  

She adds they are also in talks with places outside of North Bay but are holding off on making those announcements until travel restrictions ease.  

Meantime Grant says, “What we are hoping to have set up is that anything you buy, a portion of those proceeds will go toward a scholarship to a woman who is looking at taking a brewing related or beverage industry post-secondary course. That’s one thing we really wanted to have as a focus for this club is to find some way to give back to the community.”  

Grant says along with the membership is access to their closed Facebook group which is just for women where those members can ask questions or give their opinions without being persecuted.  

“We wanted to create a comfortable space to extend that appreciation and education among woman because sometimes that’s hard. It can be difficult for women to feel comfortable in what is largely a male-dominated industry.”  

Grant says she feels that stems from the Macro-Breweries traditionally marketing their product only for men.

“We don’t think of beer as a woman’s drink because of marketing. You know we’ve got this juxtaposition that at events like Oktoberfest you have scantily clad women serving the beer. They aren’t drinking it. Or there are entire contests surrounding the prize being a mansion party with scantily clad women and so that’s probably where that stems from and that can be what makes women uncomfortable in approaching the product altogether.” 

Grant says she has already seen a change in the industry,

“I’m hoping that through our society and other baroness societies and through different organizations there is a push toward more diversity in the beer industry. Just from talking to the people I know who are in the production side of the industry, they have taken those notes and are urging themselves to do better and we’re seeing that change with logos or the style of the cans, and all of that will help make it more approachable for woman.”  

They also don’t want to miss out on the fact that they could be alienating themselves from potential customers.

“It’s a huge market,” says Grant. “I’ve had a handful of girlfriends who have gone with me to events who say ‘I don’t really like beer’ but I tell them ‘you just think you don’t like beer’ and even for myself, it was just a matter of realizing that not all of it tastes the same. If you move away from the macro-breweries you start to really see people using different ingredients and different processes of brewing their beer and then you discover a huge range of styles and I think that’s a nice thing to discover.”  

“It’s all a matter of trying them, you don’t know until you try. Just like anything else you can’t expect to just pick up one and say ‘I love or hate craft beer now,’” says Grant.  

Grant says they have sold out of all their beer boxes for their event on International Women’s Day and she’s hoping that all who attend will come away with something knew to love about the industry and more.  

She says, “There will be an introduction to our society and an introduction to International Women’s Day. The local breweries will be speaking about their beers. It’s going to be a day for us to get together to celebrate women and the achievements that we can make. This year’s theme is ‘Choose to Challenge’ which is all about challenging biases and misconceptions in the interest of creating a more inclusive and gender-equal world. So I hope they have an awesome day feeling great about themselves and are energized to come back and learn more and find a new community of people that share a passion they can rally around.”