Biere de Femme Festival celebrates women in N.C. beer

SMITH SYSTEMS: The third yearly Biere de Femme Festival will be held March 2 at Highland Brewing Co.'s Event Center. It's presented by the N.C. Pink Boots Society, an organization of women working in beer. Pictured is Katie Smith, a Highland brewer and co-leader of the Asheville chapter of Pink Boots. Photo courtesy of Highland Brewing Co.

Beer festival season is kicking into high gear around Asheville. Among this spring’s offerings is the third yearly Biere de Femme Festival, a statewide celebration of women in beer that takes place Saturday, March 2, at the Highland Brewing Co. Event Center.

Almost three dozen North Carolina breweries will take part in the festival, which is presented by the state chapter of the Pink Boots Society, an international organization representing women working in breweries.

This will be the first year for Biere de Femme to be held in Asheville. The inaugural 2017 festival was held in Shelby, and the 2018 edition was in Raleigh.

According to Katie Smith, a Highland brewer who co-leads the Pink Boots Asheville chapter with Highland President Leah Wong Ashburn, when Pink Boots launched in North Carolina in 2012, there were only 40 members. Today, there are 150 in five regional chapters.

“The first year, no one knew what [Biere de Femme] was about,” says Smith. “Now it’s getting a lot of traction. We filled all the brewery spots in 48 hours this year.”

Smith figures Biere de Femme will attract about 350 men and women who will have plenty of local festival options this February and March. The Brew Horizons Beer Festival will be held Saturday, Feb. 23, at the U.S. Cellular Center exhibition level, and Hi-Wire Brewing hosts the N.C. Small Batch Festival on Saturday, March 9, at its Biltmore Village Big Top location.

The AVL Beer Expo, held in February since 2016, will not take place this year, but Asheville Brewers Alliance interim Director Mike Rangel says elements of that will be folded into the 2019 AVL Beer Week.

The organizers of Biere de Femme, however, stress that the festival is unique because of its focus on women working at breweries. “There is beer specifically made for this festival,” says Smith, who brewed a red wine rye saison. “And we have bartenders and people who work in sales who get to go in the back and brew beer. That’s the coolest thing about this festival.”

Each brewery at Biere de Femme is asked to bring at least one beer brewed for the event by women on staff. They’re also asked to bring one or two other beers from their lineups.

Biere de Femme tickets are $45 general admission (2-6 p.m. access) and $75 VIP (entry at 1 p.m., plus snacks and special bottled and canned beers not available in the main area). The event is open only to ages 21 and older.

Proceeds will go to scholarships for women in the brewing industry. Tickets are available at www.bieredefemmefest.com.

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About Tony Kiss
Tony Kiss covers brewing news for the Xpress. He has been reporting on the Carolina beer scene since 1994. He's also covered distilling and cider making and spent 30 years reporting on area entertainment. Follow me @BeerguyTK

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