We’re celebrating Women’s History Month with a giveaway! We invite you to nominate a woman who has made a difference in your life. Nominations open March 1, 2023, and our promotion runs through March. To nominate someone special in your life, tag her on our social channels – Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
The winner, drawn randomly, can bring a group of up to 10 people for a behind-the-scenes tour of Peace Tree’s Knoxville, Iowa brewery. They’ll meet our founder, Megan McKay, and our dynamic team, sample our beers, and walk away with a 12-pack of our gold medal-winning Blonde Fatale and an amazing prize package featuring local woman-owned brands. Thank you for supporting female-founded Peace Tree!
Read on to learn more about the history of women in brewing and the ladies of Peace Tree.
Goddesses, Brewsters, and Alewives
What do you think of when you think of a brewer? In today’s world, it’s usually a bearded dude, right?
However, women are known to be the first brewers and played a significant role for most of history. In the first written history of beer, dating back to 1800 BC in Mesopotamia, it was women who were the brewers, and even in this patriarchal society it was goddesses of brewing who were called on for protection. This continued for centuries, and making beer was seen as primarily a domestic chore to preserve grains, offer uncontaminated beverages and provide needed nourishment to families. Women brewers, also known as alewives and brewsters, sold excess beer at the market, which was a great way for women to earn a living whether they were single, widowed or in business with their husbands. By the 1800s more scientific knowledge of the brewing process was developed and women were increasingly pushed out by enterprising businessmen with more capital to brew on a larger scale, building commercial breweries and setting up distribution.
The modern beer industry has seen rapid change and growth from small breweries gaining regional appeal in the late 1800s to shrinking numbers due to prohibition, to mammoth international breweries owning most of the brewing market share in the last century. In recent history, we have seen the number of breweries in the United States increase from around 1000 in 2009 to nearly 10,000 today. However, we have not seen a mass return of women as brewers and brewery owners. It’s estimated that only 2% of breweries are headed solely by a female owner/founder and only 4% with a head brewer who is female.
Brewing beer is a physically demanding job but still an exciting career choice for many women. It’s artistic and technical, fun and physical. Not to mention the wide variety of other jobs within the industry such as marketing, sales and management. We still have to continue to invite more women into the trade and make it a comfortable environment. Pink Boots Society, founded by pioneering brewer Teri Fahrendorf, supports and encourages women in the brewing industry with educational seminars, scholarships, networking and resources. Barley’s Angels focuses on empowering women through education and appreciation of beer.
We’re Iowa’s first 100% woman-owned brewery
You don’t have to look far to see that women are strongly represented at Peace Tree. It’s unique for the brewing industry, no question. And it starts at the top.
Megan McKay, founder and CEO of Peace Tree, served as vice president of her family’s thriving insurance business when she recognized an opportunity to revitalize Main Street. Megan and her business partners launched Peace Tree Brewing Co. in 2009. In 2015, she took full ownership, making Peace Tree Iowa’s first 100% woman-owned brewery.
Megan has made her mark in this male-dominated industry. Peace Tree holds steady in the top 10 craft breweries in Iowa. Our beers have won gold medals at World Beer Cup and Great American Beer Festival, and Peace Tree has earned awards in innovation and business.
Women of Peace Tree
Being woman-led, it’s no surprise that Peace Tree has attracted women to fill key roles at Peace Tree. If you’ve stopped in our Knoxville taproom, you’ve likely met Amanda, our Knoxville taproom manager. Amanda joined Peace Tree last spring and has brought some fun and unique events to the taproom. She and her team of bartenders are focused on providing an excellent Peace Tree experience. Amanda is getting to know Knoxville and enjoys building relationships with our neighborhood businesses and customers!
Did you know that women make up the majority of our production team? Our cellar person and assistant brewer, Ashley Hynick, started out with Peace Tree as a bartender before showing interest in brewing. She began on the packaging team then moved to the brewing side of production to do cellar work. She had an interest in learning to brew, so she was given the opportunity to attend brewing school. Ashley completed her coursework at the end of last year and is learning to brew independently. She is being mentored by our head brewer, Dave, and lead brewer, Bryan. Ashley is in the process of developing her first original recipe, which she’ll brew next quarter. Watch for that to tap in May 2023!
A lot goes into brewing beer, and our brewers take great care in ensuring the highest quality beer that upholds the Peace Tree reputation. After our beer has been brewed, fermented and filtered, which can take anywhere from 10 to 40 days, it moves to the brite tanks to be chilled and carbonated. Then the beer is ready to be kegged or put in cans. That’s when our packaging team takes over.
Laney Sytsma, our packaging supervisor, has been with Peace Tree for almost five years. She started as a packaging tech and transitioned to her supervisor role soon after. Laney is not only responsible for getting our products packaged, she also facilitates the fulfillment of orders for our distributors. Getting her working start with her dad at Cushman Excavation, Laney was no stranger to big equipment and can run a forklift better than most. She expertly unloaded our new canning line last year!
Laney supervises our packaging technician Kelly Blackman. Together this team of women get the beer moved from the brite tanks into kegs or to the canning line for packaging and labeling. They organize pallets of packaged beer in our cooler space, where they group kegs and cases by orders. Laney schedules shipping, and once the shipper arrives, loads the beer on the truck. Some serious forklift skills are required.
There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes as well. Inventory of materials and labels and the cleaning of kegs and equipment are critical to keeping the process moving smoothly. And beer cannot get packaged and invoiced in our beer management system until everything has been entered appropriately, so there is also a software component to packaging our beer. In every facet of production, communication and scheduling are vital to the process.
So how does our beer make it out to the market? That’s where sales and marketing come in. It starts with an annual production plan. What beers are doing well? Where are there gaps? How is our product mix doing with both on-premise and off-premise accounts? We do our best to lay out a production plan for the year. And for every new beer, we determine a packaging plan and distribution strategy.
Beth Speltz, our senior brand manager, helps to get our beers to market. Need a label? First we’ll need all the details for the beer, including the formula, the ABV% (yes, before we make the beer we need to know the ABV!), the description that will go on the label, a name for the beer and a UPC. When the label is designed, we submit our formula and label to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau for approval, then order our labels.
We get marketing and point of sale materials designed and printed, including sell sheets our sales team can take into retailers so they know about our upcoming beer. We enter all of the new beer information in multiple computer systems, and we share all the details with our distributors so they can place orders when the beer is ready.
Our distributors have many suppliers, so we work closely with them to educate retailers and help drive sales. Our sales team of two is led by Megan, who manages distributor relationships and key accounts (just one of the many hats Megan wears at Peace Tree!). Back to breaking barriers, the majority of buyers in charge of deciding which beers to purchase are men. Megan continues to forge our path so you can buy your favorite Peace Tree beers all across our great state.
We also market our beers to consumers through social channels, newsletters, festivals, samplings and more!
How do we know which beers to brew? Forecasting sales is imperative to ensure we are able to fulfill orders. We count on past sales to predict what we’ll need. Megan’s business sense and industry knowledge enable her to steer our Peace Tree ship, so we can continue to grow our brand and build relationships.
In addition to our full time staff, we have a number of women bartenders in our taprooms. They are always happy to describe our Peace Tree beers and help you find something you like. Additionally, we recently welcomed a merchandising intern, Emma Peterson. Watch for our new line of Peace Tree merch coming this spring!
These are the women of Peace Tree. The thing is, you may not have even known Peace Tree is a woman-owned business, or that we employ mostly women. We don’t say a whole lot about it, because to us, it shouldn’t matter. But the truth is, it does matter. Women are significantly underrepresented in our industry. So we recognize our uniqueness. We stand together, and we hope to encourage other women to forge a path of their own. And we are so lucky to have great men around who encourage, support and challenge us!
Thank you for supporting our woman-owned and -operated brewery. Cheers!