Women In Beer: Vicky Helsby

Vicky Helsby is responsible for sales and marketing at Bristol-based brewery, Wiper And True. Discover more about International Women’s Day and Women In Beer here.

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

We still have a long way to go in establishing global gender equality. Promoting awareness and visibility of women through a celebratory day is a positive, proactive and empowering way of making progress.

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

We’re incredibly lucky here in Bristol with the beers on offer from our fellow brewers. Left Handed Giant have been putting out some fantastic India Pale Ales, and Kokomo Weekday Session Pale by Good Chemistry is a tropical delight. My go-to beer is always Burning Sky Saison a la Provision; I can’t help but make an involuntary “phwoar!” whenever I see a bottle. It’s simplicity makes it a stand out beer for me.

What do you love about craft beer?

When I joined Wiper and True in 2015 I knew very little about beer. I enthusiastically embraced the advice that research (tasting) is the best way to learn about it. I love the endless possibilities of beer, my dedicated ‘research’ has only just touched the surface. But more than the beer, it was the passion and warmth of all the people I met in the industry and the sense of camaraderie and the friendships that I have forged that made me completely fall in love the world of beer.

If you were a beer, what style would you be?

Haha amazing question! I’m resisting the urge to give a Blind Date style answer to this one. I asked the team what they thought and despite several insisting that I had no style, we settled on our Small Beer. Although I may be small in stature, I’m still mighty.

Can you tell us more about the team at Wiper & True?

We’re a small team at Wiper and True with a good representation of women working across the company. We’re close knit – often if you see one team member in a bar it means that the others are nearby. It always makes me smile when I arrive and order a drink and the bartender asks ‘Ooo are team Wiper out tonight?’ We have three women who work day to day in the brewery itself: Flo and Amanda are brewers and Cynthia is an assistant brewer. On the office side, Claire deals with our finances and Lucy is on the front line, responsible for taking orders and generally ensuring the good ship Wiper and True stays afloat. Francesca has been with the brewery since the early days, she works on strategy, HR and individual projects. I organise and represent the brewery at events, manage our social media and online content and also manage our tap room. I also spend a fair amount of time staring at spreadsheets, working on sales analysis and I work with the brew team on product development.

Why did you decide you wanted to make the XX beer?

It was a conversation I had with a friend that set the wheels in motion for XX. She told me that by getting to know the team at Wiper and True, and by tasting beers with me on numerous occasions, her perception of beer and working in a brewery had changed. Seeing our female brewers at work and having to tolerate me constantly talking about beer had highlighted to her the positive role of women in brewing. With International Women’s Day around the corner, it seemed the perfect time to celebrate the fact that women brew, promote, distribute, drink, critique and enjoy beer. Producing a beer that is made from start to finish by the women in our team felt like a fitting tribute.

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

It surprises people that women work in beer. When people see Amanda or Flo working in the brewery or they come along to a tasting or tour hosted by myself or Cynthia, almost without fail someone will tell me how surprising it is to see women working in beer and brewing. I think this directly relates to a long-held perception, perpetuated by advertising, that beer is a masculine drink and brewing is a male industry. It takes time to progress from these kinds of stereotypes. I realised that raising awareness and visibility of women in the industry was the best way to challenge this misconception, and introduce more people into the world of beer – that’s the core motivation behind the XX beer.

Can you explain how women were involved in producing XX?

The women in our team got together last autumn to agree on the overall concept of XX. Everyone was really keen.

To develop the recipe, we began by thinking about what beers we’d like to drink in Spring. This resulted in a Gooseberry Wheat Beer: tart, refreshing and crisp – fresh characteristics that felt like a good fit for the time of year. We chose to add botanicals as a tribute to our alewife predecessors, the original makers and sellers of beer, who used botanicals to flavour and preserve beer.

Flo and Amanda brewed XX. Together with Cynthia, they also led on the packaging of the beer. Laura from our designers, Studio Makgill, masterminded the label design. The planning, online content and promotion of the beer have largely been my domain with support from Francesca. Lucy forklifted the pallets of XX on to the delivery lorry and will administer its sales. Claire will account for the whole process.

Beer selection for the IWD Mixed Case: Gipsy Hill x Fullers – Doyen

I chose Doyen IPA because George Young at Fuller’s is a huge inspiration to our team. It is George featured on the can itself! She is the first female head brewer at Fuller’s and we have high regard for her commitment to brewing fantastic beers and the work she does with SIBA to get more young people brewing beer.