Brewing with a female touch

Some may view working in a brewery as man’s work, but don’t ever say that to Fred and Georgia at the Cayman Islands Brewery.

Fredrique Cloutier (who prefers to be called "Fred") and Georgia Hollis come from Alberta, Canada, and Ireland-and-the-U.K., respectively. They are two female professional brewers who were recently added to the mix at the Cayman Islands Brewery in Prospect.

Between them, the two women bring a lot of qualifications and experience to the table, or more accurately, to the brewing vat.

Cloutier and Hollis both studied chemistry at university, before going back to take the extra step of earning a master’s degree in the science of brewing.

Although brewing beer is certainly a science because it’s based on thoroughly understanding and applying the principles of fermentation, it is also an art form. It's an art because of the creative judgements and subtle nuances needed to develop particular tastes, aromas and colours in brewed beverages like beer, stout and ale.

For these reasons and more, women have an accepted place in breweries, Hollis said.

“Most brewing was done by women in historical times, but in the Industrial Revolution, it became more of a male career,” she said. "Today it is more men than women, but there are a good few women in the brewing industry. I don’t think there are any differences; we can do exactly the same job that a man can.” Cloutier agrees. Although it is still a mainly male-dominated industry in Canada, where she had several years’ experience working in a small brewery in Banff, Alberta, times are changing.

“It is still more men, but there are females who are brewing now," she said. "At the last brewery I was at there were two females. It’s starting to be more common, but sometimes somebody is still shocked: ‘Ah! A female brewer.’”
Hollis’ interest in brewing began while she was still studying for her first degree, she said.

“I did a lot of home brewing and reading brewing textbooks," she said. "Then I started going to women’s brew days and open brew days at different breweries in the U.K. I realised that that’s the path I wanted to take after my degree, so I also did a master's in brewing.”

In contrast, Cloutier’s interest in brewing didn’t begin to ferment properly until after she finished her first degree.

“I worked in a lab for a couple of years after I graduated, but then I decided I wanted to challenge myself ... so I began looking into going back to school. Then one of my teachers from the university I graduated from started a new program, a master’s degree in the science of brewing. He messaged me seeing if I wanted to give it a shot, and I said, ‘Why not? I like science and I like beer.'”

Cloutier came to Grand Cayman to work at the Cayman Islands Brewery partly because of worry over the job situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic back home in Canada, she said. But both women are interested in seeing and experiencing new places and things, which is something they've learned they can do if they brew.

“The advantage of being a brewer is you can brew at different locations, and fun locations,” Cloutier said.

Varieties

Different locations also allow brewers a chance to make different beers. The Cayman Islands Brewery produces more than a dozen beers, including popular choices like Caybrew and Caybrew Light, Ironshore Bock, White Tip, 345 Lager and Mango Tango.

Cloutier said all of brewery's products have the same basic ingredients — water, malt, hops and yeast — and creating different styles and flavours is where the science and art come in.

“Starting at the beginning of the process, we can change the water chemistry first to give it a more round and smooth mouthfeel, or give it a sharper, hoppier mouthfeel. And then we use different types of malt to make it roasted, caramelly or quite light."

Using different kinds of hops also creates different flavours. "American hops are very fruity," she said, noting the Cayman Islands Brewery uses a lot of German noble hops.
Different kinds of yeast also make a difference in flavours, Cloutier said.

"We can tweak any part of the process and make a different beer.”

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This article appears in print in the July 2021 edition of Camana Bay Times, written by Christopher Tobutt.

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