Food, Feminism, and Fermentation

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The BTBT Entrepreneur series continues with a profile of Alex Ketchum, a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at McGill University. The California native who’s spent the past six years in Montreal, Quebec happens to be an avid fan of craft beer and a home brew hobbyist.  We spent some time with Alex to talk about her work with the Food, Feminism, and Fermentation Conference and of course craft beer.

Tell us about the Food, Feminism, and Fermentation Conference?

"Leavening the Conversation": Food, Feminism, and Fermentation will be held at the Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies (IGSF) of McGill University on September 29 – October 1st.

This three day, bilingual event will bring together scholars and makers with the goal of integrating the thinking and doing of fermentation. Fermentation is actually part of every panel, workshop, lecture, and event. Fermentation plays such a huge role in our daily lives and yet often it goes ignored. We will be eating fermented foods, drinking fermented drinks, and discussing fermentation all day long.

For a full list of events and to register, you can visit

Who are the key note speakers?

Dr. Stefanie Fishel is an assistant professor in the Department of Gender and Race Studies specializing in political theory and global politics. She earned her doctorate from The Johns Hopkins University in 2011 with specializations in International Relations and Political Theory.

Alissa Overend is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at MacEwan University in Edmonton Alberta.

Lauren Fournier is a writer, artist, curator and fermenter currently based in Toronto. She is a PhD candidate in the Department of English at York University, where she is completing her dissertation on auto-theory as contemporary feminist practice.

Really interesting stuff, and there’s an exhibition related to the conference that you curated?

As a compliment to the conference I curated an exhibition titled "The Gendered Cultures of Beer and Cheese: the Regulation of Human and Microbial Bodies on the Home and Industrial Scales.” This exhibition comprised of medical texts, cookbooks, training manuals, and industry documents, showcases the ways in which advice about best fermentation practices has changed over time.

The exhibition will take place at the Osler Library of the History of Medicine which runs from September 11th- October 2nd (here is the link).

How did craft beer inspire the conference?

The original idea for this conference actually happened when I was hanging out with a group of my friends that all are home-brewers/ home-fermenters.

I thought, how cool would it be to get all of my friends and a group of professionals and scholars all together to hang out, discuss what we are passionate about, and enjoy these foods and drinks?!

My apartment was too small to throw this kind of party, so my friend and conference co-organizer Maya Hey (a brilliant researcher at Concordia University whose PhD research is directly on fermentation) decided why not make it an academic conference!

Do you have any favorite beers and/or breweries that you’d like to recommend to the BTBT Goons?

For sure! Quebec has an awesome brewing scene! The city of Montreal, alone, could satisfy any beer lover-- not to mention all of the wonderful breweries throughout the province. I'm a regular at Reservoir - their IPA Citra is great to sip while kicking back with friends on their terrace- plus it's only two blocks away from my apartment (bonus points)! Dieu du Ciel is a fantastic brewery that packs in the crowds every night of the week. Their Ultra Mosaika is divine! For the Gaspesienne touch, head on over to Pit Caribou for their great rotating selection.

St. Ambroise is a solid go-to. Their terrace on the Lachine canal is infamous and they provide great beers for every season with their apricot in the summer and pumpkin in the fall. One of the first breweries I came to love in Quebec was actually La Barberie in Quebec City. Montreal also hosts Mondiale de la Biere-- a huge beer festival that happens downtown, every summer since 1994.

What do you enjoy most about home brewing?

Honestly, probably making the labels! And sharing my brews with my friends! I have a background in graphic design that I rarely get to utilize. Brewing gets to be both a social and creative outlet for me. I love crafting my own recipes and then designing the labels and logos.

What is your current favorite beer (or favorite new beer that you've tried)?

Ah!!! That's too hard of a question!

Yeah that was a loaded question; it’s not one I can readily answer myself. Do you foresee any expanded beer/fermentation related studies in your future?

Yes definitely! I'm not 100% sure how that will look, but I'm excited to be influenced by this conference.

 Where do you see yourself 5 years from now? 10 years from now?

Have you been talking to my mother?  Jokes aside currently I am near completion of my work on The Feminist Restaurant Project. The project is the public history component of my doctoral research. I write about the history of feminist restaurants, cafes, and coffeehouses in the United States and Canada that were founded primarily in the 1970's and 1980's. For the purposes of my dissertation these spaces were self-defined as "feminist" in their business name, advertising, documentation, and/or publicity materials.

The project website is

After that, well I love teaching, researching, and writing so whether I am doing that inside or outside of a university setting, I think I will be happy. I'd love to adopt a second dog, have some chickens, and keep experimenting with fermentation. These days I am trying to focus on the present- finally finish my dissertation- and enjoy all that Montreal has to offer.

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Upcoming Events

Second Annual Beer In The Gardens – Sunday Oct1st The Community House 15 Borage Place, Forest hills, Gardens – TIX STILL AVAILABLE!

The Brew Hop 5K  at Randall's Island Park, NYC on 10.21.17 – We will be onsite rain or shine! More details (plus a blog post with a special offer!) to come.

More Show Dates are on the way! Stay Tuned!








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