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International Women’s Day

I’m sitting here at 8PM on International Women’s Day trying to figure out what to write. Truth be told I was sitting at 8PM last night and 10AM this morning and then again at 6PM trying to figure out how to put on paper (or internet fake paper) how much I appreciate the women in my life.

So although disjointed and likely grammatically incorrect I’m going to start at the beginning and just let it flow…

Steel & Oak wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for my Mom.

I was born in 1983 and growing up as an only child in our household I only knew one thing about women. They were bad ass. My Mom Karen was the epitome of an ass kicking women in the 80s and to be entirely honest through the 90s, 2000s and as I write this she still kicks ass on a daily basis.

Karen didn’t break through a glass ceiling or two, she destroyed them all.

My reality growing up was that all the women in my life (which was basically just my Mom) were at the top. Her hard work, tenacity, and kindness helped her become who she was in business and in life. With those traits she became a top executive and eventually the President of the largest magazine publishing agency in Western Canada. That was Karen’s reality, that was my reality. I understand this was unique in the grand scheme of things, but probably didn’t appreciate it enough until later in life.

Steel & Oak wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Karen’s ability to not only make sure she raised an empathetic, honest and (I like to think) kind kid while still showing that kid what hard work and not taking no for an answer can get you in life.

She’s my hero. I look up to her, and I look for her advice daily as I try and chart my own journey at 33.

Steel & Oak wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for my wife Alissa and my partner’s wife Diana.

In 2012 my business partner Jamie and I had a silly idea to open a brewery in our hometown. If it failed it would strip us of everything we had, it would eliminate the comfortable lifestyle that we had both come accustomed to, and more importantly, it would affect the lives of the two women we loved the most.

When you look into opening your own business it’s hard not to think of the worse case scenario. You plan for success, you prepare for failure.

I’d lay in bed at night talking out loud about “what ifs”. What if this goes wrong, what if this fails, what if no one shows up, what if no one drinks the beer? Alissa would lay beside me and say, “This isn’t going to fail. The four of us will succeed. We have what it takes. You have what it takes.”

If it wasn’t for Alissa’s encouragement, practical thinking and ability to put things in perspective, I would have quit the beer biz before we even started. I know Jamie would share the same sentiment about Diana if he was writing this post. (He’s likely hiking with the dogs while I write this).

Every day I relay ideas and situations that have happened to Alissa and she advises me on the correct way to handle things. She gets paid nothing, but she’s the real brains behind how I operate day to day. If it wasn’t for her I would have fucked this up a long time ago.

Steel & Oak wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Agata, Kat, Heather, Jamie, Rosa, Kristina, Natalie, Enry and Lizz.

If you ask any brewery owner I’m sure they’ll tell you that the most important part of their business is the Tasting Room. It’s the first impression. It can be the last impression. You don’t get any “do overs”.

We are so incredibly lucky to have a team of strong women who run the most important part of our brewery. Your beer can be great, but none of that is relevant if someone has a shitty time while drinking it. Not only is our team of women well versed in beer but they make sure that every experience of a Steel & Oak customer is a great one.

Alissa always reminds me of how incredible the women of Steel & Oak are. I’m sure I don’t tell them near enough. I hope they know how much I appreciate them and how much they are valued. I’m definitely going to tell them after I finish this post.

As a white, 30 something male I sometimes struggle with writing things like this. Who the fuck am I? I literally fit the exact demographic of who (statistically speaking) has it the easiest in life. What I do know is that when I travel to the Craft Brewers Conferences around the United States it’s a bunch of heavy set white dudes with a sprinkling of women. A light sprinkle. In BC it’s a bit better but still not good enough. This is our industry and it needs to change. We know it does. So let’s do better.

Happy International Women’s Day to all the amazing women in our lives. Now let’s act like we do today for the remaining 364.






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