MANCHESTER, NH – When you’re Mary Gagne-Hall, Taproom Manager at To Share Brewing Company in Manchester, every Monday is Bring Your Son to Work Day. While the taproom is closed, you can find her doing inventory and watching over her 2-year-old son Finn, arguably the city’s youngest brewer’s assistant. He was sporting some green galoshes and a dinosaur print fleece while helping co-founder, Aaron Share, squeegee the floor.
Mary took a break from her Monday routine to talk about what it’s like being a woman and a mom in the male-dominated brewing industry.
How is it, balancing being a mom and a taproom manager?
It’s challenging but fun. I enjoy bringing him with me to work and I like that it’s such a family-friendly brewery that people have gotten to know him. He’s really comfortable here. It kind of has become his classroom. I’m really fortunate in this space because I have so much support behind me. I can bring him to work when I need to.
What is the brewery industry like in terms of working moms?
Women in the brewing industry are really kind of having a moment and are extremely supported. There is a lot of change going on, but in terms of people with children – women with children – it’s almost non-existent. Sometimes when I talk about motherhood things I get a little bit of a blank stare, because there’s nothing to compare it to.
But a lot of local breweries, especially the smaller ones, are super family-friendly. Even before I worked here, I was still nursing Finn, and Jenni (co-founder of To Share) would let me use her office. This is a neighborhood brewery so the Shares obviously wanted it to be family-friendly so people could just walk over, and everyone could have fun.
What are some of the reactions you’ve witnessed to children being in breweries?
On Oktoberfest someone mentioned a kid being behind the bar – Finn likes to run back and start the dishwasher – and before she said any more I said, “That’s my kid. He lives here – don’t mind him.” And she was saying it super positively. She said, “I wish there was a place like this when my children were young. My kid is 20 now, but this would have been the best thing ever, to be able to just walk over and grab a beer.”
What are some of the misconceptions you’ve experienced as a woman in the craft brew industry?
Here, I don’t have a ton of issues. It has happened to me at other breweries where my answer is not good enough or my explanation of the beer is not good enough. A lot of times people will say, “Hey, can you get Aaron (co-founder of To Share) for me?” and I’ll say, “Yeah I can grab him for you, but just curious: what’s up?” And they’ll have a question about a beer that I am completely qualified to answer, but they just don’t see me as that person.
When you’re a woman in this field, you do a lot of overcompensating. I just want to be smarter than everybody else just to prove my point – it shouldn’t be that way, but I’m up for the challenge.
Have you run into a different facet of that being a mom?
In the beginning, when I first started working in beer, a lot of it was that beer was my part-time job and that I wasn’t serious about it. I was just a mom with a side gig. I wasn’t taken seriously as an employee – which is not the case here. But in some of my previous employment, I was severely underestimated. I’ve been in the hospitality industry since I was 15. I do understand how the establishment works. I’m here because I enjoy the work.
You were talking about how the brewing industry is having this moment of change. I wanted to talk about Brave Noise, the collaborative pale ale that To Share recently brewed with Great North to advocate for safe, inclusive spaces. What’s the story behind it?
It came from Brienne Allan’s Instagram (@ratmagnet). (Brienne Allen, a former brewer at Notch Brewing in Salem, Massachusetts, asked “Have you ever experienced sexism in the beer industry?” on her Instagram story in May of 2021. The story went viral, and she received hundreds of stories, which she anonymized and shared.) It was crazy when we started seeing names of big breweries or even breweries we had enjoyed in the past. It makes you think differently about what breweries you support.
Everyone uses the same recipe and there’s a protocol that you have to follow. The can has a QR code on it, for both us and Great North because they collaborated with us on it. When you scan the QR code it brings you directly to our Code of Conduct that says this is what is not acceptable, we will not tolerate it, and these are the repercussions for bad behavior. We had to pick a charity to donate funds from the beer to – our pints for charity benefitted Heart of Hospitality in Maine (a collaboration between violence prevention nonprofits and service industry professionals that offers training on how to address identity-based harassment). The name of it too is about being brave and saying something, which is not easy to do, especially when you’re in the minority in your occupation.
What advice do you have for women and for moms who are looking to get into the craft brewing business?
Find what you enjoy doing, find what makes you happy, and do more and more of that. For me, getting into craft beer was what made me happy, but it wasn’t enough. I wanted to be on the ground level of it – I wanted to get more involved in decision-making processes and marketing. Also, don’t take “no” for an answer. If you’re not valued, and you feel like your ideas are falling on deaf ears, then get louder or move on.