Content warning: Discussion of sexual harassment in the beer industry and the #MeToo movement.
In our first #WomenMakeSheffield post, we’re spotlighting Jules Gray (@beer_revere), owner of the award-winning beer shop Hop Hideout (@hophideout), based in Kommune at the heart of Sheffield’s city centre. SFA’s Jenny, Laura and Sophie joined Jules last month to chat all things: women in the beer industry; recording and preserving the female narrative in beer; Jules’ journey into beer; and how we can continue celebrating the positive stories arising out of Sheffield’s diverse beer industry, to counterweigh male violence against women. We learned so much from Jules about all of the incredible people who work toward achieving equity for women, people of colour, and the LGBTQ+ community (to name a few!), in beer communities up and down the country, and we hope to shed light on all of this amazing work in this post.
Jules founded Hop Hideout in 2013, one of the first ‘drink in’ beer shops in the UK. You can choose from over 200 delicious beers to either take away, or to drink inside the independent food/drink hall of Kommune. Jules is also the founder and director of both Sheffield Beer Week (@SheffBeerWeek) and Indie Beer Feast (@IndieBeerFeast), which have grown immensely in terms of popularity and attendance nationally (more on that to come!). Hop Hideout has won a number of awards and commendations; it was the winner of Independent Beer Retailer of the Year 2018 in the Drinks Retailing Awards, and since then has also been highly commended or has reached the final stages of multiple awards ceremonies. Jules also recently appeared on Channel Five’s ‘Summer on the Farm’, hosting beer tasting for Helen Skelton and Jules Hudson, and can be watched at around 45 minutes on this episode. Hop Hideout’s beers have also featured on Sunday Brunch, Jamie Oliver’s Magazine, and in the Telegraph, showing just how much national coverage the business has had. These are just a few of the things that highlight the success of Jules’ business, not least the wonderful reviews on Hop Hideout’s Facebook page.
Jules’ experiences in the beer industry have been incredibly varied, with many high points, as well as challenges, along the way. We asked Jules about what drew her to Sheffield in the first place. She was brought up in Durham and came to study at the former campus of Sheffield Hallam University at Psalter Lane in the late 90s, whilst also doing some volunteering for Sheffield’s International Documentary Film Festival in the early 2000s – she described Sheffield as a friendly and welcoming place to be yourself and to learn more about the stories of diverse people. There were also benefits to living close to the hustle and bustle of the city, while also being able to appreciate the outdoors in the neighbouring Peak District.
Jules moved away from Sheffield due to a lack of opportunities for her career, and began working in Leeds at Molson Coors brewery (who brewed the iconic Sheffield Stones Bitter, at a time when Wards Brewing Company had been closed down in Sheffield!). She also worked in technical support resolving issues in pubs, which eventually led to her working in sales in the North-East beer industry. Like the experiences of many other women at the time (and to this day), Jules was told she wasn’t ‘good enough’ for a sales job in the industry, but was able to work her way into the male-dominated sector as a result of her self-guidance and hard graft. The sales job allowed her to develop relationships with colleagues and customers in the industry; she enjoyed hearing about what others would like to achieve, and making it happen for them.
As Jules recognised, people often see bar work as transient; something to do on the side for extra money. However, Jules was excited by the possibility of gaining more and more knowledge about the inner-workings of the global beer industry, which led to her success today. She feels her journey has allowed her to run large-scale beer festivals today, and has given her the opportunity to connect with so many groups of people.
Recognising Women in Beer
It was clear to us that Jules has a passion for learning about, and documenting, the untold stories of women and marginalised groups in beer. As Jules said, women often don’t get the recognition they deserve until they’ve passed away, and that we should also be recognising and celebrating the achievements of women doing amazing work in the present moment. Jules is also interested in sharing the stories of the women who worked in the large-scale breweries dotted around Sheffield, such as Whitbread Exchange Brewery; such stories dispel the myth of a solely male workforce. Jules also highlighted the importance of women during war-time who took up roles in production. The names of women appear on the doors of many breweries today, for instance, Abbeydale Brewery was founded 25 years ago by not only Patrick Morton, but his wife, Sue Morton, who oversees so much of the production, IT and admin. Additionally, at Saint Mars of the Desert (SMOD) in Sheffield there is a husband and wife team, with Martha (Simpson) taking on just as much as Dann (Paquette) in terms of the brewing, artwork for the beers, events marketing, and more. Martha also has a PhD in microbiology from MIT in the US, and oversees the canning at SMOD, and is therefore a prominent figure in her field.
Jules also highlighted the work of Jaega Wise (@jaegawise), founder and owner of Wild Card Brewery in London, who recognises the importance of inclusivity in beer, and has done the groundwork in ensuring diversity is at the heart of the brewery’s message (see her incredible story here written by Beer52). Lily Waite (@LilyWaite_) also aims to raise awareness of LGBTQ+ people in the brewing and hospitality industries through The Queer Brewing Project. These are just a few of the stories and experiences by women that deserve recognition and celebration now, and beyond. SFA instantly saw a connection with the work that Jules is doing (alongside many other women in beer), and the aims of SFA, in telling and celebrating the untold stories of women in the Steel City and across the country.
Celebrating Diversity in Sheffield’s Beer Industry
Jules feels there’s work that’s yet to be done in Sheffield, but that there’s clearly an appetite for celebrating diversity. She recognised the need for representation across all communities in Sheffield, and that we should be collaborating on issues of equality, rather than communication about these issues being siloed to one area. Jules mentioned Migration Matters as one great example of this city-wide representation of marginalised groups, who celebrate the positive effects of refugees and migration upon Sheffield. Out And About also create and promote safe spaces for queer people and allies in Sheffield’s beer community. These types of events are necessary for sharing the stories of marginalised people, and Jules aims to build on the work of these projects.
Social media has been a powerful tool for Jules as a small business owner, and has given her the opportunity to find a voice as a woman in a male-dominated industry. She co-created Sheffield Beer Week with a friend, Clare Tollick (@FeastAndGlory). The yearly celebratory event has snowballed; starting as a Twitter and Facebook campaign in 2015, to collaborating with 10-15 venues to celebrate Sheffield beer and breweries for a week, to having 50-60 venues and multiple breweries signed up, along with the support of Sheffield City Council, and national coverage, in just six short years. Since then, she has continued to use social media to promote Sheffield Beer Week, particularly as a celebration of women in beer, with the festival falling in March (the month of International Women’s Day). The three key strands of Sheffield Beer Week are Beer and Food, Community, and Heritage, with the aim to bring together all communities of Sheffield to enjoy beer. Alongside this, Nicci Peet (@niccipeet), Freelance Drinks Photographer, has done so much work to capture diversity in the beer industry, with a photography trail up and down the UK of brewery owners. A result of Nicci’s work is that if women see people who look like themselves on the canning lines, delivering beer, behind pub counters, etc., then they are more likely to join the industry, making it a crucial project for celebrating diversity. During Sheffield Beer Week, Nicci’s work was exhibited as part of The People’s Photography Trail.
Every year, Sheffield Beer Week aims to foster different communities, and show that it is more than just beer. As Jules put it: “Beer doesn’t make itself; it takes people to make it!”, highlighting the hard work that goes on behind the scenes in the beer industry.
Male Violence & Male-Centred Marketing in the Beer Industry
In recent years, there has been a shift towards the awareness and recognition of violence against women in the beer industry. The #MeToo movement has extended to all sectors of work, including craft beer, with stories initially being shared in the US, and now in the UK too (see this article which highlights sexual harassment in the craft beer and brewing industry in the US). It began with Brienne Allan, a brewer from Massachusetts, who opened up her Instagram account to share stories of sexual harassment in the US beer industry (ratmagnet), leading to the launch of Brave Noise, a collaborative project working towards a safer and discrimination-free industry. To continue the #MeToo movement, Siobhan Buchanan (britishbeergirl), founder of Queer Beer Drinkers Edinburgh, opened up her Instagram DMs for people to share stories of sexual harassment in the UK. As Jules poignantly recognised, women take on a huge weight; not only are women taking on the brunt of violence and harassment from men, but they are also working to combat this. It is important to address such violence in the industry, whilst also spreading awareness of the positive stories arising from women in the industry – a powerful way to bring women to the forefront and celebrate their achievements.
Hop Hideout is part of the Know the Line campaign, which was launched by Safer Streets South Yorkshire in 2017 to address sexual harassment and violence in public spaces in Sheffield. The campaign has also received support from Sheffield City Council and local Labour MP, Paul Blomfield. Jules recognises the need for more training in the industry to make venues safer spaces. Currently, alerts about crime and unsafe spaces are spread by word-of-mouth in Sheffield bartending Facebook groups and through the Purple Flag initiative, but there is more to be done. Jules said that while there are positives arising out of beer, in its ability to spread happiness and joy, you must be aware as a licensed premise that people can be at risk, and that you have a responsibility of care for vulnerable people. Jules always ensures to challenge discriminatory behaviour, but as a woman this can be difficult.
Marketing in the beer industry is also male-centred. There is a lack of stories about women in day-to-day advertising, and as a result, male customers are more likely to go towards the male bartenders if they have a question about it. On the other side of the bar, Jules emphasised how women often feel uncomfortable in bars and pubs with the focus shifted towards male consumers; she recalled her experiences working in men-only spaces with the exclusion of women in bars, and despite the eradication of men-only bars in the UK, there is still a long way to go. Jules said it is not surprising that there are a low percentage of women in Europe that drink beer; Women On Tap Festival’s Nichola Bottomley (@Nichola_b1) created an online survey about sexual harassment in beer to better understand the statistics surrounding female violence. Some key findings, as reported in Beer Today, were:
- “More than 80% of respondents said yes, they had witnessed sexual harassment while working in a pub or bar”
- “More than 80% of women said yes, they had experienced sexual harassment while working a pub/bar (more than 30% of men said they had, too)”
- “Only 30% of women said they felt comfortable going to a pub or bar by themselves (compared with almost 80% of men)”
While the findings may appear shocking, this only provides a glimpse of what women face on a daily basis, in all sectors and walks of life. When chatting to Jules we all recognised that women are aware of such violence and almost expect it. Data such as this are vital for documenting the problem; yet it is the small, independent businesses (often led by women) that are tackling the root, and not larger institutions or the Government.
On a positive note, some years ago, if you were to type in ‘women in beer’ into a Google search, there were likely to be many images of women in beer through the male gaze. In recent years, the work of Jaega Wise, Nicci Peet, and Lily Waite are attracting more attention and are being spotlighted, and bringing women and marginalised groups to the forefront of beer marketing. This type of positive work is an important method of counteracting violence against women in the industry.
Advice for Women
Jules is more than happy for people to contact her if they are looking to get into the beer industry. Here is some detailed advice she gave us for if you’d like to make a start searching for a career in beer:
Use Indeed.com to search for terms such as brewing, beer sales, beer marketing etc. – it’s generally a wide pool for jobs around the country. Follow your local brewery or fave venue on social media, visit them, talk to the staff, network, go on brewery tours if they’re available, do beer tastings if available; all of this will help you to be one of the first to hear if a job comes up and hopefully put you in good stead, as you have made the effort to make a connection already.
There’s also various groups on Facebook that post jobs such as UK Craft Beer & Beverages Jobs. Your local area may have a craft beer group to join which could be a good reference point, e.g. Drinking Craft Beer in Sheffield, Manchester Craft Beer Group, Crafty Beery Girls. Obviously ensure you have set up your security settings across all of your social media accounts and use two-factor authentication; Glitch runs great courses here.
Follow people on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) in the industry. Many great names have already been mentioned in the post but there is also: Maverine Cole, Melissa Cole, Rachel Auty, Annabel Smith, Jenn Merrick, Daisy Turnell, Jane Peyton, Emma Inch (British Guild of Beer Writers), Tasha Wolf, Natalya Watson, Ladies That Beer, Miranda Hudson (Duration Brewing). Daisy Turnell has created a list resource about women in all areas of the beer industry.
Check out if you have a local Beer Week and attend events, for example there’s events such as Sheffield Beer Week, Norwich City of Beer, Harrogate Beer Week, and more.
If you have the resources, pay for courses from places such as Cicerone, The Beer & Cider Academy, you may want to do some more research as some may offer appropriate discounts or grants. Teach yourself and read up on the beer industry; there’s free online learning from a wealth of blogs such as Boak & Bailey (which do a good round up of reading material) Adrian Tierney-Jones (maltworms.blogspot.com), Good Beer Hunting, Burum Collective, Pellicle, The Brewery History Society, or Brew Your Own, which all allow some free reading online. Loan books from your local library, and some authors to check are: Garrett Oliver, Melissa Cole, Natalya Watson, Pete Brown, Jane Peyton, Adrian Tierney-Jones, Mark Dredge, Marverine Cole (print media – BBC Good Food), CAMRA books, Brewers Association books. There’s also information on local Sheffield historic pubs here. And finally, listen to podcasts such as Beer with Nat, Good Beer Hunting, Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine, A Woman’s Brew, Ferment Radio, etc.
Start homebrewing! Join an International Women’s Collab Brew Day in March. This is generally open to everyone, and is not just a trade event (https://unitebrew.org/) You can also volunteer at a range of beer festivals which will allow you to network with others in the industry.
And finally, join in the conversation! Sheffield Beer Week (@sheffbeerweek) has been held annually on 2nd March since 2015, and Indie Beer Feast (@IndieBeerFeast) has now been rescheduled to 4-5th March 2022. Be sure to check out their socials for updates on the events – it is a great opportunity to get chatting to other women in beer, find out more about the industry, and to socialise over a nice cold beverage!