Wine Making

Friends from Utah launch Instagram to feature women of color working in the brewing industry

Melissa Diaz smiled as she looked at the photo of four craft beer loving friends. Although Utah’s beer industry is dominated by white males, none were present.

“I was like, ‘Oh man… look at this layered one,” Diaz said, admiring the skin color of each of the women. And that gave him an idea.

She and her friends launched the Brown Gradient Beer Wenches Instagram account (@bg_craftbeer_wenches) to highlight that there isn’t a lot of diversity, or a lot of women, in the brewing industry as a whole and in especially in Utah.

The four share their beer adventures on Insta, shouting out beers and events they enjoy.

Diaz, 37, works at Bewilder Brewing Co. in Salt Lake City, “serving beer” and “laughing” with Shyree “Ree” Rose, 29, said Rose.

Melissa “Mel” Dahud, 33, works at Level Crossing Brewing Co. in South Salt Lake. And Stephanie Biesecker, 44, works at Red Rock Brewing Co. in downtown Salt Lake City.

The women, who met in old jobs and tasting local brews, revel in their shared passion and different backgrounds.

Diaz, who has her last name among friends, is Mexican and her “family has Aztec blood,” she said. Rose, her colleague, is French and Scottish Creole, she says.

Dahud is Palestinian, Ecuadorian, Native American and Nicaraguan. And Biesecker is half Samoan “and half white honky tonk farm girl,” she laughs.

Diaz, Rose and Dahud published their first post in July of last year; Biesecker will join them later.

“Yooon! Utah, what’s good ?! We are the brown gradient, ”they announced. “A trio who love everything to do with craft beer. We all love hiking and usually have a great beer on our backs [p]ack for drinks at the top. We each work in local breweries in SLC and love to spread the joy through craft beer.

Looking at the three other women sitting next to her at Bewilder in early December, Diaz said, “Our friendship has kind of grown stronger over the past year, but [I had] instant connections with all of them.

Diaz also owns Sweet Vinyl Bakeshop, where she creates cupcakes infused with craft beer and local spirits. They all agree that she is the “mom” of the group.

The name Brown Gradient Beer Wenches “was 100% that chick,” Rose said, referring to Diaz. “Because we are,” Diaz said with a laugh.

Women who love beer

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Left to right: Stephanie Biesecker, Shyree Rose, Melissa Diaz and Mel Dahud, all members of The Brown Gradient Beer Wenches – women of color who work in local breweries – talk about their love beer and how they entered the industry at Bewilder Brewing Company on December 8, 2021.

After moving from Las Vegas to Utah a few years ago, Diaz said, “I felt a little alienated because I don’t look like a craft beer drinker, but I really am a craft beer drinker. ” She felt that people weren’t expecting her interest in the industry just because “I’m a woman and I’m a brunette,” she said. “This stereotype is what bothers me the most.”

Nationally, women make up about 7.5% of brewers and 88% of brewery owners are white, according to data released in 2019 by the Brewers Association. Staff are diversifying into service and support roles, according to the report.

With the Instagram account, Diaz said, “I wanted to say it: look, here we are.… We are not going anywhere. We are going to drink all the beer. So, go quick.

Their talent, Rose said, “is very much overshadowed.” A woman who shows interest in beer isn’t taken the same way “like a brother walks in,” Rose said, “and thinks to herself, ‘Buddy, I want to know more.’ They are immediately like, ‘Oh, this is great. You can lift a barrel, my brother.

Rose pointed to Dahud and said, “Did you see that fucking girl lifting barrels?” Dahud, who enjoys exercising outdoors and running on trails, smiled and said she has never lifted dead at most 315 pounds.

“’Don’t judge a book by its cover’ is the epitome of the beer industry and women,” Rose said.

Like Diaz, Dahud said she was used to being surrounded by more diversity when she lived in New Jersey and was underestimated by male patrons in Hive State.

“They’re just going to go over the menu, look through, then I’ll try to go over to them, ‘Hey, have you been here before?’ Can I suggest something to you? ‘ “

Some men act “like they don’t think I will know,” Dahud said. “But then I surprise them and give them some suggestions” that “they end up liking.” “

“It’s really fun to blow people away that way,” Rose smirked.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Mel Dahud, Stephanie Biesecker and Shyree Rose talk about their love of beer and how they entered the industry at Bewilder Brewing Company on December 8, 2021.

Support and models

While some customers may question their beer knowledge, Rose and her friends say they’ve received a lot of support from men and women working in the industry.

“As much as we fight these two battles… being women we are brown, there is a sense of community,” Rose said. “I feel so safe at Bewilder. I really like it here. [The owners] Cody [McKendrick] and Ross [Metzger] are probably some of the best owners I’ve worked for. They listen to the comments.

Recently, McKendrick asked Rose, “What do you think we should do for our little bundle? “

“I got into my head,” Rose said, “and started to come up with different styles of beer. And he was just like, ‘… we totally should do this.’ So the fact that we are heard here does us good.

Biesecker said she admired Erika Palmer, sales manager at Red Rock, whom she described as a “global beer rockstar”.

“I can talk to her about anything,” Biesecker said, “and I always feel welcome.… She always makes me feel included in things.

Dahud is also a member of the Pink Boots Society, “a group of women who work in the beer industry,” she said. Lauren Lerch, one of the Utah Chapter leaders, is the Brewing Supervisor at Uinta Brewing. Lerch was “super helpful to me in learning more about beers as well,” said Dahud. “She’s an amazing brewer,” Rose added.

Rose also pointed the finger at Jacquie King, head brewer at Roosters Brewing Co. store on 25th Street. “She’s phenomenal,” Rose said. “I admire him so much.”

“Just watching the brewing process and watching a woman do it… it’s empowering,” Diaz said.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Melissa Diaz, who works at Bewilder Brewing Co., pours a Raspberry Sour beer on December 8, 2021.

Find the right beer for you

Biesecker’s fridge “is overflowing” with bottles and cans, and Rose jokes that the copious amounts of beer she keeps on hand makes her “look like a bachelor.” Diaz, meanwhile, has “three different coolers” at home that are “temperature controlled for very specific beers.”

But the women of Brown Gradient haven’t always liked beer.

Rose remembers going to the Beerhive Pub in downtown Salt Lake City with a friend. When he walked away from their table for a moment, Rose stared at her beer for a moment before deciding to try a sip.

“It looked like chocolate milk,” Rose said, laughing with the others.

The more sips she took, the better she tasted. “By the time he came back… I had finished most of the beer,” Rose said. “He looked at me and said, ‘So, do you like beer? “”

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Left to right, Stephanie Biesecker, Shyree Rose, Mel Dahud and Melissa Diaz, all members of the Brown Gradient Beer Wenches pose for a photo Bewilder Brewing Co., December 8, 2021. The four friends organize bottle sharing together, where they drink and discuss different beers.

Biesecker worked in an allergy and asthma office. When the doctor retired a few years ago, “I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do with my life,” she said. She applied for a job at Red Rock.

“I feel like selling beer and taking care of patients is the same thing,” she said, “because… you just make people happy or make sure that they get what they need or want. “

To anyone who thinks they don’t like beer, Rose has this advice: “I don’t think you don’t like beer. I think you just haven’t found the right beer, that’s what it is. Because there are so many different styles of beer, it’s ridiculous.

Dahud compares developing a taste for beer to learning wine preferences.

“Right off the bat, someone isn’t going to want to go get a chardonnay or a cab,” Dahud said. Instead, a wine newbie should start with “something sweeter,” she said, like a Riesling or a Muscat.

“Your taste buds mature over time,” she said.

Diaz said his friends and colleagues in Vegas “all made fun of me when I moved to Utah. They say to me ‘Oh, good luck finding some good beer.’ “

“Because everyone else sleeps on Utah,” Diaz said. “Not everyone believes there is good beer here, just because we have such weird liquor laws,” such as requirements to purchase food under certain circumstances.

But, she says, that’s just not true.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Beer Pulls at Bewilder Brewing Co., December 8, 2021.

Advice to other women

Once, while working at TF Brewing in Salt Lake City, Diaz and Rose were recognized on their Instagram page. Diaz was surprised as they don’t have a lot of followers and they are running the account just for fun.

“These two guys came over,” Diaz said, and asked, “Are you the BG Gradient?”

The men told them which beers they had just drunk and asked what to order next. Diaz and Rose started to ramble.

“We were like, ‘Oh wait, we’re probably overwhelming you,’” Diaz said. Instead, Rose said, the men told them, “This is great. This is what we needed.

“It was pretty cool,” Diaz said.

To all the other women who want to get into the brewing industry, Diaz suggests, “Do it. Do it now.”

“Do it yesterday,” Biesecker added. “Make your way like we’ve all done,” she laughed.

“Give us a call,” Rose said, saying they would be ready to speak to anyone interested in beer.

It’s an industry they plan to stay in, and the four friends said they dreamed of someday opening their own brewery. For Diaz, it would probably be a combination of a bakery and a bar.

“I’m going to have four stools, and they’re all going to have your little names on them,” she told the others. “And if someone is sitting in your chair and you walk in, I’m going to say, ‘Please move. “

Becky Jacobs is a Report for America member of the body and writes on the status of women in Utah for the Salt Lake Tribune. Your matching donation to our RFA grant helps her continue to write stories like this; please consider making a tax deductible donation of any amount today by clicking here.



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