Fermenta, a Michigan Women’s Craft Collective, has outgrown its moniker. On the cusp of its fourth anniversary, this non-profit trade group committed to diversity and empowerment within the fermented beverage industries will be adding a new chapter in Wisconsin in 2019. Not only that, but the updated Fermenta: A Women’s Craft Collective, is adding fermented foods to its list of supported industries for women in 2019.
On the brink of all this additional coolness, we thought we’d catch up with Fermenta President and Cofounder Liz Crowe (also the Ambassador of Buzz for Northern United Brewing Co.) about what the collective is up to and what’s planned for this fourth anniversary bash.
Who is in the collective?
Currently Fermenta has 201 members, which includes 15 active corporate members. Many of the members are brewers but the ranks also include brewery/winery/distillery owners, students, sales people, media/bloggers and those simply interested in being connected and networking with others in the fields of brewing, wine-making, distilling and, of course, in 2019 fermented foods.
“We made an adjustment to our membership levels in January of this year to better reflect the fact that we don’t want to limit our active memberships to anyone directly involved in ownership or employees,” Crowe said. “We welcome anyone interested in full membership because with full membership you can apply for one of our scholarships or continuing education opportunities as well as vote and/or run for a board position. This was something I felt very strongly about when I became president at last year’s event. I don’t want any woman who might want to someday be employed by, own, sell or write about a craft product in Michigan to feel like she can’t be a part of what we’re doing.”
What are the goals of the group?
The membership numbers are key for the group’s core mission of offering educational and scholarship opportunities each month. This month, for example, includes:
- An online class through the Siebel Institute of Technology called the Executive Overview of the Brewing Process
- An Introductory Sommelier course and exam
- And (the most popular offering) reimbursement for classroom textbooks up to $200 for books purchased for a fermentation, distillation or similarly recognized craft beverage course in Michigan.
Scholarship money is raised via membership with $5 of every individual membership and $50 of every corporate membership going directly into the scholarship fund. The group also received over $1,500 from New Holland Brewing Co.’s charity tap this past June.
“While we are not a social group by mission statement, we are, as you might expect, very social. We merely want to focus on ways we can empower other women to join us in these industries or support them in their efforts to homebrew, write about homebrewing or in any other capacity we can,” Crowe said.
Fermenta is launching a jobs board on the website in 2019 (www.fermentamichigan.org) as well as a forum (also on the site, via a membership portal) where members can advertise supplies for sale or needed, talk about their projects in the craft space or other issues directly affecting women in our supported workplaces. Crowe said the most successful and well-attended events they have arranged are educational.
“We had a wildly popular Malting Workshop in early 2017 in conjunction with New Growth Associates and the MSU extension program,” she said. “We’ve also hosted and/or supported several off-flavor beer tasting sessions in conjunction with Cicerone. We ran a What Glass for My Beer workshop with Spigelau Glasses a couple of years ago.”
Fermenta’s most successful event was something called The Business of Craft, a half-day session held at Sanctuary Spirits that covered everything from running a successful family-owned brewery to purchasing and maintaining the right equipment to sales, distribution and marketing. This is something they plan to replicate in 2019 but extending it to a full day’s worth of education, fun and networking.
What’s going on at the anniversary bash?
The fourth anniversary celebration is planned for Sunday, October 7, 2018 from 12 to 3 p.m. at the Kalamazoo Valley Community College’s Culinary Arts Building where it will introduce the president of the new Wisconsin branch. The keynote speaker for the event is Sara Hagerty, Senior Global Projects Manager for Origin Malts. Hagerty has also worked for White Labs as senior midwest territory manager and is known throughout the craft brewing community for her understanding of raw materials, her attention to quality and a great passion for helping craft brewers optimize their supply chains.
There will be two workshops available to all ticket holders. Lucy Saunders, a cooking with beer cookbook author, clean water advocate and future president of the Wisconsin branch of Fermenta, will lead a beer and cheese pairing tasting. The second workshop is a comparative tasting of beer and wine, led by Brian Hay, master sommelier and head of the culinary education program at Kalamazoo Valley Community College.
Every event attendee will receive a ticket for an opportunity win one of several door prizes donated by breweries and brewing supply stores. Donations include free beer for a year from Old Nation, a home fermentation vessel from Adventures in Home Brewing, a Wisconsin gift basket from Lucy Suanders, off-flavor tasting kit from Cicerone.org. Plus there will be plenty of brewery wear and other swag from Shorts, Jolly Pumpkin, Saugatuck, Bells and several others to give away. There is also a trade expo during the event.
The $20 for members and $25 for non-members ticket includes tapas-style, beer-friendly appetizers made at the culinary school in addition to the above workshops and prizes. There will be a cash bar serving Michigan made beer, wine and cider. Membership is $30 for “active members,” which includes any woman connected in any way to a brewery, winery, distillery or fermented foods business.
If people want to get involved, what should they do?
Crowe said: “There are lots of ways. You can join us. Remember any woman who considers herself involved in or interested in the craft beverages or fermented foods industries can join as an active member which provides more benefits than as a supporting one. Men are welcome to join as supporters, and we have a fair number of them.”
“We would love to see members and others interested in membership at our annual anniversary party. This year will be extra special with two workshops, an amazing keynote speech, door prizes and more. Here is a link to purchase tickets. It’s Sunday October 7, 12 to 3 p.m. in Kalamazoo.”
Members can apply for our September scholarships here.