Roxy Boubis of the Junction Beer Hall in Newport dishes on life as a woman in the beery boys' club - and why you won't catch her in a dirndl
Roxy, it’s the second year of Good Beer Week. Can you give a little background on how you got involved?
Last year, it sort of happened by default. They started organising the festival, and I’d been running weekly tastings at the venue I was at. It just kind of happened that one of my tastings, Beer and Chocolate, fell during Good Beer Week. James Smith (one of the Good Beer Week founders) said, “I’ve got this event, do you want to jump on?” And I said, “definitely.” So we listed it as one of the events. This year came up, and James said, “You’ve got to do this again.” We’ve just opened a new venue as well (The Junction Beer Hall), so it’s given us a great opportunity to jump into it again.
What are the two events you’re hosting?
I’m running Beer and Chocolate at Sabroso, and the second event is Women in Beer. It will be the afternoon of Mother’s Day – which I didn’t plan, but which works out well – run by women, for women. Just a really nice, informative but informal tasting where we’re meant to feel comfortable to drink beer and taste beer and talk about beer.
You have some other female guests who will be presenting. Can you give a little sneak peek as to who they are?
Yes, I can. Jayne Lewis, from Two Birds Brewing, and Clodagh Harris, from The Fox Hotel in Collingwood. [Clodagh]’s actually who I learnt all of my beer knowledge from, and really inspired me. She keeps inspiring me throughout the years.
You’re pairing beer with pizza, is that right?
There will definitely be a pizza involved – that’s a huge part of what we do, we’ve got the wood-fired pizza oven. We’ll do a few other dishes as well, just to kind of open your mind. Beer goes so well with food as well. We’ll have four beers matched with four dishes, little snacky things to keep it interesting.
Are men excluded from the Women in Beer event?
Unfortunately, yes. I’ve had a few men going, “Can I dress up as a lady?” But I really want it to be somewhere that we can feel really comfortable and taste [the beer].
You said that Clodagh was your mentor, in a way. How did you get involved in the beer industry?
That was the initial place, she was the venue manager at Transport, and she has a very strong beer influence. I had beer tastings there every week, and I slowly learnt and learnt, and built up to eventually running the beer tastings. It just kind of went from there. I increased my knowledge by learning on the job, going to tastings, going to events.
How long have you been involved in beer?
That was five years ago. I’ve been involved in the beer industry in different ways, and it’s been really great to watch the Victorian beer industry grow. From these tastings, watching more and more women attending as well. In the Transport days, we used to have two-thirds men, but as it went on, I found that the tastings I was holding would be 50-50 men and women. It really inspired me to see that happening. It was really cool. Now I can run an event just for women.
You’re the beer hall manager at the Junction Beer Hall. When you tell people that, do they automatically think of you in a lace-up beer wench dirndl?
[Laughs] It’s really funny, because my partner runs the wine room, and when we say we run the beer hall and the wine room, and he says, “I look after the wine room” and I say, “I look after the beer hall”, we often get that, “Oh, okay.” My assistant manager is female as well, which shows where [the industry] is at.
What is it like as a woman in a sort of boys’ club?
Yeah, it’s a very male-dominated industry, obviously. I think, more and more, women are respected in the beer industry. I think that women tend to be more open-minded at tasting different beers and trying different styles, and don’t shy away from anything, which is really cool. Always having the double-take, and being taken seriously, was hard at the first instance; but I think I’m well-respected now.
What advice would you give to young girls – who are of legal age, of course – who are thinking of entering the beer world?
I always say to keep trying something different, keep trying different things. People always say to me, “What’s your favourite beer?” And it always depends on where you are, who you’re with, what the weather’s like. Just thinking outside of the box when it comes to tasting beer. Just give it a go. It’s fun to learn about beer and taste beer.
It certainly is. Obviously, we love knowing about different venues. Where are your favourite places to drink beer when you're not in Newport?
Well, Beer Deluxe. Cookie. Josie Bones. Mrs Parma’s for my parma hit. I used to be the bar manager there, so I always get cravings for parmas a few times a year, so I have to go in and get my fix. Penny Blue always has something interesting to try. The Local Taphouse.
Where do you think the popularity of beer is heading in Australia?
It’s amazing. It’s been great – like I said before, I’ve been in the industry for five years – watching it grow and change. I don’t know that 10 years ago you could open a specialty beer venue in Newport and have it be so well-received. People look at it and get excited, and want to try something different. The quality is definitely increasing all of the time. The consistency of the quality is great now: we have new brewers opening now with quality products. Five or so years ago they would start and slowly make their way in, and it would be a while until they got their consistency right, but now they’re entering straight in, and I think it’s really fantastic. We talk about it all the time at work, about how exciting it is to be in the industry now. Victoria especially, but the Western Australia boys have it going on, too.
For someone who’s just starting off getting away from the big brands, which breweries, or style of beer, should they try first?
I would say either way, just try anything. Don’t be put off by the style, or the darkness even, of the beer. Just keep trying little bits here and there. Even sharing beers, just to try stuff, I always find that’s a great thing to get people to try. Even a 330ml stubbie, just to try it. There are some excellent options out there, I couldn’t even name one over the other.
Aside from your events in Good Beer Week, what are the events you wish you could go to?
There’s another beer and chocolate tasting, and that looked amazing. We’re going to get a team together for the Fox Hotel’s scavenger hunt. Of course, the Beer Awards I’m going to. I’d love to do one of the beer dinners, sit down and do a beer degustation that someone else has organised.