Beyond the brewery
The teamwork doesn’t end in any one brewery. The industry has a vast network across the state and the country.
“I don’t know too many industries where you can sit next to your competitor and tell them what you’re working on,” Wilkie said.
Independent brewers get together for conferences, collaborations, festivals and expos like the CT Craft Beer Fest, held at the Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford last year.
Part of the network is specifically for women, including the national non-profit, Pink Boots Society, of which O’Neill is a member. It was founded in 2007 and the Connecticut chapter was formed a few years ago.
The Pink Boots Society provides resources, training and money for scholarships.
“We all get together and we share our own experience and teach the other women,” O’Neill said.
The field is very competitive, O’Neill said, with the number of potential workers outnumbering the number of openings, even though new breweries are always opening.
According to the Brewers Association for Small & Independent Craft Brewers, there were 87 craft breweries in the state in 2018. O’Neill and Wilkie said they think the 2019 total is closer to 110.
“A lot of people want to get into (the industry),” O’Neill said.