Certo's interest in beer started when she began making beer at home because she wasn't happy with what was available domestically at the time. She started Dock Street in 1985 and remembers in the early days going to make a sales pitch to a distributor and being the only woman in a room of more than 50. "I remember not being bothered by it," she recalls.
She sees the craft segment as generally having a different approach to business. "I think it's easier for women to enter the craft industry only because the craft industry is different to begin with," she says, pointing out that most people don't go into the labor-intensive craft beer business with dreams of piling up a fortune. "It's an industry that is born from a lot of love."
Firmat also started in beer about 25 years ago, a time when there were about 20 craft breweries nationwide compared to today's 2,000. Back then, it was considered more outlandish to be challenging the big domestic producers than to be a woman in the beer business, she says.
As far as operating in a man's world, she says, "the thing that I always focused on, and it's what I always tell women in our company, is really focus on being competent. Focus on being good and doing your job and don't go in expecting to get a reaction."
And, of course, there's always a silver lining. "You can always tell when you're at a beer conference because there's a line in the men's room and there's none in the women's room," she says with a laugh.
One of the things that Firmat sees as a challenge is keeping craft beer accessible to women, which means guarding against the snobbery that can creep in when consumers become very enthusiastic about a product — think wine.
"Our responsibility is making sure that the way we communicate is very respectful to men and women," she says.