When Maree Shaw took over the president’s role at the Society of Beer Advocates last month, she made history in at least three different ways.
She’s the Society’s first president to live in Auckland; its first female president; and its first president to have run a marathon.
Maree was elected unopposed, and has served on SOBA's committee since 2013. She joined in 2011 and decided to stand because “there’s no point in complaining if you don’t get involved. I also thought we should have some more Auckland representation on the committee.”
Auckland’s craft beer scene has certainly matured since Maree made that call in 2013. Brewers, established venues, new venues, and now the GABS festival, have all combined to make for one of the most dynamic Beertowns in the country. But Maree says the Society still has plenty of work to do in Auckland.
“Our membership has still got a lot of room to grow. Nationwide it’s over 1000 but in Auckland it’s just over 150, so considering the size of Auckland there is a lot of room for growth there.”
Maree’s reluctant to play up the significance of being the Society’s first woman president. “I’m told it’s significant. I think it is but I don’t want to make a big deal of it. It’s definitely about time we had a woman president, so from that aspect it’s significant, but we’re all beer lovers so at the end of the day does it really matter?”
An avid Facebooker, Maree regularly posts about her near-daily runs, sea kayaking trips and other exertions. She’s completed a marathon, and had already run 16km before Beertown’s call on Saturday morning. “It gives me balance. It’s great having a nice beer at the end of a run and running means I can actually indulge in a few beers.”
With craft beer consumption increasing at more than 25%/year in New Zealand, Maree sees a lot of potential for the Society to grow in Auckland and in regional centres.
“A few of us have had this conversation – has SOBA accomplished its goal and do we need to do anything more? We have succeeded to the point where you can go out and quite easily get a good beer in Auckland now, it’s not a challenge. But we can still do a lot more to encourage people to get out.
“There’s a lot of work we could still be doing in the regions, and I think that’s where a lot of our focus needs to be. We have started to add more regional coordinators, which is good but we could do more. We’ve had Bay of Plenty come on board. It’s good getting some new blood in there. Some of the local liquor stores are getting involved. So we need to look at putting on those bus trips and getting people together.”
Maree cites Taranaki’s popular Mountain Ales Festivals as examples of SOBA successfully organising regional events to introduce good beer. “We have to work really closely with the regional coordinators, making sure they’re on board, and a lot of them are doing great things, and we are keen to put on more festivals.”
As the Society’s Auckland coordinator, Maree played a crucial role organising this year’s Auckland Beer Week in the days leading to GABS. Inspired by Melbourne's Good Beer Week and Wellington’s Road to Beervana, Auckland’s craft beer community put together the events at short notice and zero budget. Next year will be different.
“GABS are already in touch with me and Auckland Beer Week’s probably going to be a very big deal next year. It was bit last-minute this year but there was just so much support from all the bars and I’m looking forward to see what we can do next year with a bit more time and with GABS helping us out.”