Philippa Wood from Darling Brew on the SA beer scene and what the future holds for women in the industry
Welcome to the third edition of our Women in Beer series. This week we’re chatting to Philippa Wood, the co-founder of craft beer veteran and heavy hitter Darling Brew. She’s been all hands on deck since their early market days and knows better than most just what it takes to build a successful craft brewery in South Africa.
Who are you and what is your involvement in the beer world?
I am Philippa Wood, co-founder of Darling Brew. I’ve been involved since day one when we had this crazy idea to open a brewery, knowing very little about brewing or what we were getting ourselves into. Fast forward many years, beers and a couple of grey hairs later, and I couldn’t be more proud of what we have achieved with Darling Brew.
When did your love for beer begin?
My love for beer began on one of my many road trips through Africa with my husband Kevin. Cold water was never guaranteed, but somehow there was always cold beer!
What’s your favourite beer right now?
Right now I am drinking our brand new Cherry Bone Crusher, which is a variant of one of our most popular beers. It’s the newest chick in our stable and we are loving her.
Beer has long been a male-dominated industry – do you think things are changing and, if so, how?
South Africa got hard hit by the culture of ‘beer is for men’. In America and Europe, the industry and culture seemed far more open to females both as consumers and industry players. I grew up very much with a perception that beer was drunk by the rougher female folk. This general attitude, unfortunately, has had a huge impact on the industry, but slowly females are gaining ground and stereotypes are being broken. Nothing makes me happier than seeing a female-only table at the brewery drinking beer and enjoying the ambience of our beautiful brewery. I believe local breweries would snatch up the chance to have more females on their brew teams but unfortunately, lady brewers are few and far between. We have seen some progress thanks to a few key role players and, hopefully, we’ll see more female brewers in the future. It is a very rewarding industry if a challenge is your game.
What has been your most encountered difficulty as a woman in beer?
Listening to people give all the credit to my husband for building the brewery and the Darling Brew brand. ‘Kevin’s Brewery’, gets me every time, but those on my team and who know me, know the sacrifices and work that has gone into the last 10 years. It really has been a group effort all round, with some amazing team members that we could not have done this without.
If you could change one thing in the current industry, what would it be?
For a brewery to be efficient, it needs to be running at capacity but, unfortunately, you can’t do that unless you have the sales to back it up. So I would say more sales would be nice, but the industry is facing a lot of challenges right now both internally and externally with the economy. We are some distance away from the craft brewery industry in South Africa being a stable environment. I foresee a lot more blood, sweat and tears before we get there.
What advice would you give to any young woman starting out in the beer industry today?
Get experience with a reputable brewery and you will have employment for life. We have a female assistant brewer who started off behind the bar in our tasting room. Her interest and passion shone through and she was given opportunities that she grabbed with both hands. We are super proud of what she has achieved and how she has been able to grow since joining the DB team. I really believe that whatever path she chooses for herself, she will always find employment due to the foundation that she has achieved.
What do you think the future holds for women in beer in the next five years?
Every brewery wants females as part of their team, but it has to be for the right reasons. Does a brewery become sexier or more inspirational because a woman is behind a brewhouse? I’m not entirely sure, but I do think that female consumers might give beer more consideration if they see more females behind the tanks, and that is good for both women and beer.
What one thing in the South African craft beer scene really gets you mad?
That we are so scared of dark beers, especially us lady beer drinkers. Get out there and try them, you won’t regret it!
Where can people find you or follow your journey?
Most days people can find me at the brewery in Darling (www.darlingbrew.co.za). Personally you can find me on Instagram @pipswood, juggling momhood and the busy beer industry life. The pics don’t do the juggle any justice.
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