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As Buffalo's brewery scene keeps booming, more women are getting involved

A growing number of Western New York women are leaving their careers in other fields for the fun and flexibility of the brewery business.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — When you're looking for a new job, dinner party appeal is something to strongly consider. 

"It's a really great card to play socially. Nobody was ever excited to hear about my job when I was a chemist, and that's not the case with brewing," Kim Reynolds, Big Ditch Brewing Company's Quality Control Scientist told 2 On Your Side. 

Reynolds was the second brewer on board when Big Ditch Brewing Company opened about seven years ago. She left her old job as a development associate analyzing chemicals at Praxair, for something that offered more flexibility for her growing family. 

"This brewery was hiring part time, and we had been recreational home brewers for a decade and a half at that point, so it kind of made sense to slide my resume this way," she said. 

Kim is now fulltime at Big Ditch, and she's part of a growing number of Western New York women leaving behind other careers for beer, including her co-worker, Assistant Brewer Devin Carman.  

"I had been home brewing for about ten years at that point, it was a good hobby," Carman told 2 On Your Side. "I was in the insurance industry and just decided maybe I can make this a professional thing." 

Not far away at Flying Bison, Christina Killourhy used to work in environmental sciences. She started as a seasonal, part-time, front-of-house employee at the taproom, before the role evolved into a fulltime career on the brewing and operations side of things. 

"People drink year-round, so the job's year-round," she told 2 On Your Side. "I jumped at the opportunity for a full-time job instead of trying to just make it from summer to summer. 

In the seven years she's worked in the industry, she's seen an influx of women become brewers. 

"There's plenty of other women brewers now around town," she told 2 On Your Side. "I think I used to be one of the only ones, but now there's quite a few." 

The executive director of the New York State Brewers Association says this is a sign of progress when it comes to diversifying the craft beer world, which is largely made up of white men. 

"It's not a thing anymore to say, 'oh my gosh there's a woman brewer,'" Paul Leone told 2 On Your Side. "You don't identify them as women brewers, you identify them as brewers. They're just brewers."

Leone says women have been playing a strong role in the success of the industry across the state, which added 26 breweries in the last year, despite the pandemic. 

 "There's still room to grow for sure, but women in the brewing industry isn't so uncommon as it used to be," he said. 

More women are owning and operating breweries, too. Like Jennifer Newman, C.E.O. of the Young Lion Brewing in Canadiagua - one of the largest breweries in the state. 

"We can do about 11,000 barrels a year, and we're one of the few truly women owned and managed breweries in the country," she told 2 On Your Side. 

Before she followed her taste buds to the craft beer scene, Newman owned software companies and worked in accounting. She says one reason why brewing could be attracting women from other fields is because of how accepting it is. 

"This is the first industry that I felt that I came to the table and I was truly treated as an equal, so that was lovely. And encouraged." 

And for the female brewers of Western New York - it's a hometown pride thing, too. 

"I think Buffalo has a certain affection for beer and the brewing industry and it's fun to be a part of that and be able to call that my workplace," said Reynolds. 

To read more about the inclusivity and diversity initiatives of the New York State Brewers Association, click here