Women In Beer: Riina Lääts

Riina Lääts is Signature Brew‘s Lead Brewer. Discover more about International Women’s Day and Women In Beer here.

What are you enjoying drinking at the moment? What is your go-to beer?

Right now I’m really enjoying our own Backstage IPA. We’ve been tweaking the recipe recently and it’s banging, even if I do say so myself! Otherwise I don’t have a specific go-to beer, usually it’s something hoppy and light with a low ABV. I’m normally looking for something that packs a punch without actually being lethal.

Why do you think it’s important that we have a day that celebrates women?

We should celebrate diversity in general, be it gender, race, age etc, as I believe it’s the different experiences and points-of-view that drive change and development in any area. Despite the fact that women make up for half the population, we still experience inequality in a lot of areas. I’m glad to see that is changing quite rapidly these days and that is largely due the fact that we are talking about the challenges we’re facing and that we are celebrating who we are.

What do you love about craft beer?

It’s the relaxed and friendly attitude of the craft beer industry that I’ve always appreciated. Most of my brewer friends come from completely different backgrounds but we all share the common interest in producing good beer. Getting together at festivals and events is always good fun, but most of all I love that I can shoot anyone a message if I have a missing ingredient or a random brewing-related question, and vice versa. Despite being ‘competitors’, everyone’s always ready to help each other out.

What (if any) is the biggest misconception you’ve had to face in the craft beer world?

I’ve been very lucky in this industry to always have been surrounded by people who are open-minded and supportive so I’ve never felt like I’ve had something to prove. If we’re talking about misconceptions concerning my gender, I’ve never really been made to feel inferior or less able or taken less seriously because I’m a woman in the beer industry.

If we’re talking about beer in general, there’s two misconceptions that I always love to discuss. Firstly, cans vs bottles – for a long time cans were considered inferior to glass and a bit cheap (mostly associated with poor mainstream lagers), though that is changing now. Cans are brilliant! They don’t allow the beer to be damaged by light or air; they weigh less than glass so they’re more portable and you can have them at music venues and festivals; aluminium is the most recyclable material so it’s good for the environment, provided people chuck the cans in the right bins and they actually get recycled!

Secondly, that craft beer only means ridiculously high ABV and the most random ingredients. While it’s great to experiment and we definitely need those types of beers as well, it’s as much of a challenge to make interesting flavourful beers that are actually drinkable.

If you were a beer, what style would you be and why?
This is a tough one. Perhaps a Saison – quite easy-going in general but can be quite punchy and dry at times. Not everyone’s cup of tea but nothing too outrageous either.

How do you feel the role of women in craft beer has evolved?
Like in a lot of other industries, women have been the minority for a very long time. It is slowly but surely changing, though, as you see more and more women in craft beer. When I started brewing three years ago, there was an occasional moment where people assumed that just because I’m a woman, I must be from the sales department or running the office. Now, when I say I’m a brewer, very few are surprised – women get involved with all sides of the brewing industry, be it in the office, the pub or the brew house and it’s becoming more and more common. I think the industry needs that balance.

What has been your biggest accomplishment in brewing beer?
When talking about beer recipes, I’d say Anthology, our 10% Imperial Stout we released at the end of last year. It really pushed our brew kit to its limits which was a fun challenge.

Why did you originally want to get involved in brewing beer?
Coming back from New Zealand where I worked at a winery/vineyard, I knew I wanted to keep learning about beverage-making. I was looking for ways I could get my foot in the door with brewing as it seemed like a great industry to be a part of. And as luck would have it, a start up brewery in Tallinn, Estonia was looking for people just as I moved back home. Timings couldn’t have been more perfect.

Beer selection for the IWD Mixed Case: Signature Brew – Nightliner