Beer scene out of balance

At Bootstrap, we ask: Where are the women?


Boulder breweries have a gender problem.

From the brewers to the bartenders to the beer drinkers themselves, craft breweries are dominated by males. My estimate on the crowd at Niwot’s Bootstrap Brewing on Jan. 24 was 90 percent male. And that’s really not out of the ordinary for Boulder County taprooms.

I know of exactly one female professional brewer in the county, Reva Golden of Twisted Pine. Out of 25 breweries, almost all employing multiple brewers, just one woman who isn’t part of a founding married couple. (Bootstrap is one of the few that were founded by a husband-and-wife team.)

Of course, taproom ratios can vary throughout the week. But by and large, craft beer is a men’s sport.

There are some groups working to change that. Left Hand Brewery’s Ales4Females women-only beer classes meet twice a month, covering each topic twice because they don’t have the capacity for 100 or more attendees.

Lindsey Wohlman, president of the Boulder homebrew club Hop Barley and the Alers, says she thinks most women decide they “don’t like beer” and stop trying new kinds. That’s why she appreciates “gateway beers,” beers that are “palatable and not too complex,” to introduce women to the beer world.

Both ideas bring us back to the fledgling Bootstrap. It’s got so much going for it, from strong execution of the standards to several very creative taps that could serve as great gateways, that it’s in perfect position to bring more women into its taproom. But it had better get to work.

“There are two women in here and that’s it,” Elizabeth says on a crowded Thursday evening. “Bootstrap needs a women’s drinking night.”

It also needs a couple more taps. On a second visit, I found that one of my favorites, the pumpkin ale with a perfect spice finish, had been replaced. While the replacement, pineapple golden ale, also kicked ass, I wanted both.

Other inventive creations at Bootstrap are the pitch-perfect gingerbread ale and the Raspberry Gold, sweet and tart and good enough to earn a highly prized comparison to Portland’s McMenamin’s Ruby Ale from Elizabeth.

Then there are the chili beers. As at Avery, hot peppers meet stout in Bootstrap’s Chili Stout, a beer with pleasant burn tempered with maltiness. The other chili offering, Backfire, isn’t as kind.

“You need a chaser for that beer,” Jeff says. And make sure it’s close at hand. The golden-ale-based Backfire gives the pepper free reign. Backfire brings a sharp, back-of-the-throat burn that does not go away. I confess to nearly getting hiccups 60 seconds after swallowing.

Alongside a standard brown and a pleasantly hoppy amber, Bootstrap’s gloriously malty Worthog Stout is a standout. The Insane Rush IPA, which the bartender calls Bootstrap’s most popular beer, is a seriously hoppy affair with a full, rounded finish.

“This could be worth the trek,” Elizabeth says.

We’re hoping more women feel the same way.

Next: Boulder Beer Company.