Esthela Davila got into beer thanks to her father and an uncle who worked at Carta Blanca beer. After volunteering and later working at beer festivals, she became co-host of San Diego’s Indie Beer Show. In 2019, she was tapped to host the Mujeres Brew Club, a series of educational sessions for women, started by Carmen Favela of San Diego’s Border X Brewing.
Attendees learned about all facets of beer: its history, ingredients and process, plus how to taste and brew it. The series sold out each month, and Davila and Favela sometimes had to expand its sessions to Border X’s second location in Los Angeles.
The group now has a permanent home in the Mujeres Brew House, a brewpub, taproom and educational space for women that Davila and Favela are opening in San Diego’s Barrio Logan neighborhood this year.
Davila, who grew up right around the corner, believes it’s important to make space for Latinx women in craft beer.
“I know how hard it was when I would go into a bar,” she says. “Everybody would stare at me because I wasn’t one of them.”
“My point is not for me to shove my culture in your face. The whole point is to have a sharing of cultures.”—Jessica Fierro, owner, Altrevida Beer Co.
Now, she tries to teach a little bit of what she knows to as many people as possible, especially women of color.
While the Latinx community makes up almost one-fifth of the U.S. population, and is predicted to have $1.9 trillion buying power by 2023, female Latinx drinkers and brewers are under-represented in craft beer. According to the Brewers Association’s 2019 Brewery Operations Benchmarking Survey of its members, brewery owners are 88% white and only 2.4% of respondents consider themselves Latinx.
Davila and Favela had to delay their planned summer 2020 launch of the facility due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, but they are excited for the day the Mujeres Brew House opens. Women will work every position at the bar, demonstrating to anyone entering the facility that the space is available to all, Davila says.
Other Latinx women in beer also aim to make the industry more accessible.
When you walk into Atrevida Beer Co. in Colorado Springs, the first thing you see is a sign that says, “Diversity, it’s on tap!” Jessica Fierro, the state’s first female Latinx brewery owner and the Season One winner of Viceland show Beerland, was intentional about making her brewery a space to have these conversations.
“Customers come in and ask, ‘Well, what does diversity mean to you?’ ” says Fierro. “These are questions that they don’t ask other people. They asked me because of who I am.”
The brewery makes beers with unique flavors that she says “challenge consumers’ perspective on craft beer.” From Boriqua Blonde to Lotus West Mexican lager, Atrevida’s beers are meant to initiate dialogue.
“My point is not for me to shove my culture in your face,” says Fierro. “The whole point is to have a sharing of cultures. What something means to me could mean something completely different to you.
“When people come in and want to talk about diversity, I say, ‘Well, who’s another Latina head brewer that you know?’ ” Inevitably, they can’t name another. “There’s your lack of diversity,” she says.
Fierro encourages women who want to learn about beer to reach out to her. “Come on in,” she says. “Let’s talk about what you know. Shoot me an email. I’ll answer your questions.”
“Not everybody has the endurance to wait several years for a full-time job and moonlight as a beer-tender… there’s plenty of opportunities to help women and people of color to try to get their foot in the door without it being so much of a hassle.”—Blanca Quintero, Assistant General Manager, Highland Park Brewery
It’s important to her to be available to other women because of her own negative experiences in the industry.
“I could see how easily a male can get in the industry and how hard a woman has to work to be back of the house and not just be serving beer, especially being a Latina,” she says. “Latinos account for less than 2% of the industry, which is insane to me.”
She advises women to have a thick skin and align with other women already in the industry. She advises to stay persistent.
“At some point, someone is going to give you a shot and will look at the skill that you do have,” says Fierro. “Unfortunately for us in this industry, it’s a lot harder.”
Blanca Quintero, the assistant general manager of Highland Park Brewery in Los Angeles, has worked in craft beer for almost two decades. A certified cicerone, she’s held many positions, including quality control and brewing. Her current role is in hospitality and beer education, which enables her to bridge the brewery and front-of-house positions like servers and bussers.
While she’s heard of others who’ve experienced discrimination and exclusion in the industry, Quintero says that she hasn’t faced those sorts of challenges. She attributes that to the progressive craft beer community in Los Angeles.
However, her experience as a beer consumer has been very different.
“When I’ve been a customer, or on the other side of things, I very much see people second-guess me,” says Quintero. “I could be there with another person, and the person that might not know anything about beer gets approached and thought to be a beer expert, just because they happen to be a man with a beard.”
Quintero is passionate about helping more women get into the industry.
“Not everybody has the endurance to wait several years for a full-time job and moonlight as a beer-tender,” she says. “A lot of people do it that way, but I think that there’s plenty of opportunities to help women and people of color to try to get their foot in the door without it being so much of a hassle.”
How should aspiring brewers get their foot in the door? Be present and persistent, Quintero says.
“Don’t be discouraged by people thinking that they know better than you,” she says. “There’s always opportunities. Every city has a brewery that’s hiring a beer-tender, so just go in and talk to people.”