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Jonson Kuhn | North Forty News
Originally formed in 2008, The Pink Boots Society is a non-profit organization with an international membership that supports women working in the brewing industry, with a special focus on creating craft beer.
More specifically, the mission of the Pink Boots Society is to assist, inspire and encourage women and non-binary individuals in the fermented/alcoholic beverage industry to advance their careers through education.
The words “Pink Boots” are used as acronyms; Pink stands for Passion, Integrity & Inspiration, Networking, and Knowledge. Boots stands for Beer & Brewing, Opportunity, Open Exchange of Ideas, Teach, and success.
Kelly McKnight has been the head of the Pink Boots Fort Collins Chapter since 2021. As well as working with New Belgium as a brewer for nine years and lead R&D for the last four. Through McKnight’s involvement with both Pink Boots and New Belgium, she’s been instrumental in organizing countless donation drives and benefits in various forms, all centered around the idea of creating equal opportunity within the industry.
While Kelly McKnight has called many places home throughout her life, Fort Collins is where she grew up. McKnight started the Pink Boots Boston Chapter in 2010 before moving back home for good. When McKnight first started the Boston Chapter, she was the only female brewer in the entire state of Massachusetts. McKnight said that served largely as her inspiration to get involved with the non-profit and by doing so, McKnight said it opened many doors to networking with other female brewers throughout the New England area.
“There are a lot of educational opportunities through Pink Boots,” McKnight said. “I won some scholarships, and in general, the whole point of it is basically to empower female-identifying people in the industry. I’ve met tons and tons of people in the industry and learned a lot, but aside from scholarships and whatnot, the local chapters do lots of field trips and seminars and stuff like that, so it’s pretty cool.”
You might think that growing up in a place like northern Colorado, where brewing beer is so popular, inspired McKnight to follow the path, but as McKnight explained, it was all more a matter of coincidence.
“I went to undergrad at the University of Washington in Seattle, and my friend’s dad gave us a homebrew set, this was like 22 years ago, and we would brew in the dorms,” McKnight said. “I just thought it was a hobby until later I went to Harvard to study chemistry and go to medical school, and it like sucked, so I got out of that. But I knew I loved brewing, so I used that scientific background to get catapulted into the beer world.”
McKnight explained that she was so well known as a knowledgeable industry leader that she never had to apply to New Belgium. Still, the brewery reached out to her instead to invite her to return to her roots and do what she does best: brew great beer. McKnight’s position with New Belgium and the Pink Boots Society allowed her to start networking with the vast number of breweries throughout Fort Collins, much like she once did in the New England area.
“We basically work with every brewery in town, whether that’s through Brew Days, bottle shares, or other various events,” McKnight said. “I’d say we have an equal relationship with all of the breweries from around town.”
One of those breweries is Fort Collins’ Purpose Brewing and Cellars, which recently collaborated with local NOCO artist Monika Lea Jones. Jones is well known for hanging art pieces within local galleries and establishments and actively participates in the popular series Pianos About Town.
Jones explained that it was through mutual friends that she was approached to design artwork to be featured on Purpose Brewing’s latest imperial stout called Gravity Well. Much of Jones’ work often features space-like themes, which, as Jones explained, had much to do with commissioning her for the project.
“Ashely (Fueger) and her partner James (Lloyd), who bought into Purpose Brewing as co-owners, we’re all friends through our board game group,” Jones said. “So, they let me do an art show there, and eventually, James asked me if I could illustrate a can for them. They knew from my art show that I did a lot of space art, and since they already knew they were calling the beer Gravity Well (which is responsible for black holes in the universe), it seemed like a good fit.”
Jones explained that the entire process took roughly two weeks between discussing designs and putting the artwork together. While the project called for just one beer this time, she said she hopes to do more in the future.
“I’d say it’s been like an achievement unlocked for a Colorado artist,” Jones said. “I was really excited about the opportunity. It was one of the more fun projects I’ve been involved with.”
For more information or if you’d like to get involved with the Pink Boots Fort Collins Chapter, please visit pinkbootssociety.org for additional details and to stay current on all upcoming events. Additionally, to learn more about Jones’ work, visit instagram.com/artofmonikalea.