By Katie Foote, Epicure & Culture Contributor
Despite the fact beer is often thought of as a “man’s drink,” in ancient Sumerian and Egyptian cultures it was the woman’s job to brew — a task thought to ultimately have led to the creation of civilization. Beer truly is a girl power story, though one that’s often forgotten. Luckily, modern-day craft breweries are helping to rapidly expand beer’s appeal to both genders. While the industry is still largely male-dominated, an increasing number of women are making a name for themselves.
Meet the inspiring females who have turned their passion and skills into a profession. Whether they entered the industry because of their scientific backgrounds, family businesses in hospitality or to support their partners, these ladies took risks to follow their dreams. Read about their favorite beers and find out where you can enjoy their hard work at breweries around the United States.
1) Allison Lange
Old Ox Brewery (Loudoun, Virginia)
Allison Lange worked with yeast a lot when studying biochemistry in graduate school. Back then, she would have never guessed she’d be a brewer at Old Ox Brewing. It wasn’t until she moved to DC with her husband and started to pursue a career in photography that she realized that craft beer might be a fun way to put her scientific background to use.
Allison started calling breweries and landed a part-time job at Port City working on the bottling line. She was soon able to put her microbiology skills to work by helping the brewery set up a lab, adding an analytical twist to brewing. In the process, she learned how to brew and became a member of the brewing team.
“A faulty process can ruin a great recipe and a well thought-out process can improve any beer,” Allison explains, emphasizing the importance of the planning phase.
At Old Ox she’s focusing on hopping protocols to capitalize on the hotness of hops lately. Allison was also instrumental in starting and leading the Delaware/Maryland/Virginia chapter of the Pink Boots Society, an organization that promotes the advancement of women in the brewing industry.
Allison recommends Old Ox first timers try one of their tasting flights to try samplings of a variety of beers. If she had to choose a favorite one, she’d go for “Hoppy Place” — a hop-forward West Coast IPA that won a bronze medal in the Virginia Craft Brewers Cup. For those who prefer malty brews she recommends “Black Ox,” a robust rye porter with hints of coffee and chocolate, perfect for heading into cooler temperatures.
2) Felonice Merriman
Accomplice Brewery & Ciderworks (West Palm Beach, Florida)
Women may not be dominating the brewing industry (yet), but there’s probably even fewer celiac (medically gluten-free) participants. Felonice Merriman, co-owner of Accomplice Brewery & Ciderworks in West Palm Beach, is both. Felonice started South Florida’s first commercial cidery almost three years ago. She had already started two companies (graphic design and a regional publication) and encouraged her partner Matt to follow his dream of opening a brewery. Because of her gluten allergy, they decided to focus on ciders.
When Accomplice first opened, the couple worked side-by-side. Felonice worked in production as Matt’s assistant, as well as being the lead kegger and taste-tester. Felonice and Matt continue to work together and next year they’ll launch a gluten-free brewery, one of the only on the East Coast.
Felonice enjoys the camaraderie with a small group of female brewers in Florida. Together with co-owner of Devour Brewing, Trish Breighner, she is currently in the process of launching a South Florida Chapter of Florida Women in Brewing.
She recommends her favorite Accomplice cider: “Cidewinder,” a cinnamon double cider made with real ceylon cinnamon sticks that tastes like apple strudel in a glass.Meet the #inspiring #female brewers who are revolutionizing the craft #beer #industry. Click To Tweet
3) Carole Kennelly
Historic Brewing Company (Flagstaff, Arizona)
Historic Brewing Company co-founder Carole Kennelly was born into the hospitality industry through her parents running restaurants. This served as a stepping stone for her and her brother to start their own project three years ago, incorporating and intersecting their love of wine and craft beer.
Carole and her brother founded the Grand Canyon Wine Co. in 2011, which inspired the creation of Historic Brewing Company two years later. Carole loves wild and barrel-aged beers, especially brews that use retired wine barrels. She’s also passionate about spreading the message that “craft beer is for the people, brewed by people, men and women alike.”
Carole has helped create a Girls Pint Out chapter in Northern Arizona, which focuses on educating women on craft beer and showing them why it is definitely not a man’s drink. Finally, she advocates for positive change in the community for all by all. She’s helping with a new video project highlighting local change makers/history makers in their community. Watch the pilot episode of Joy Rye’d — named after one of their more popular beer styles.
She’d recommend Historic Brewing Company’s “Avant-Chard,” a chardonnay barrel-aged Berliner Weisse that recently won a Silver Medal at the Great American Beer Festival. This beautiful straw-colored ale brilliantly combines two wildly different beverages. It boasts a strong white head with tart fruit and vanilla oak aromas and flavors of gooseberry.
4) Meghann Quin
Bale Breaker Brewing Company (Yakima, Washington)
Bale Breaker Brewing owner Meghann Quinn grew up in the hop industry, with her great grandparents first planting Yakima Valley hops in 1932. From a young age she worked on the family farm, helping with all aspects of harvesting. She, her husband (Kevin) and her brother (Kevin Smith) wanted to create a place where friends and family could enjoy the Valley with great beer, and ended up building a brewery on their family’s working hop farm.
What started out as a business plan assignment for a college class is now one of the only breweries in Washington State located on a hop farm that goes back five generations. Meghann attributes this to having “hops in her DNA” and is very proud of her hometown.
The brewery has recently finished an expansion of the production area, which includes the creation of Imagination Station — a small brew house where small batches of experimental beers can be produced, including some exclusive to their own taproom.
5) Lisa Miller
Natchez Brewing Company (Natchez, Mississippi)
Natchez Brewing Co founder and owner Lisa Miller is a British expat who launched a successful brewery in her husband’s hometown, crediting him for her affinity for craft beer. Since Lisa had owned a dog grooming business in Connecticut she wasn’t afraid to open a brewing business — although she admits to encountering a few challenges in the brewing industry. “What I have noticed the most being a woman in this industry is that most people — men and women — assume I must work for the owner, or that I’m the owner’s wife, and quite often direct themselves toward my husband if he is present. Mostly I find it amusing, especially when my husband turns to them and says he needs to run everything by the boss!”
Lisa has a hard time picking just one beer to recommend, with their aim being to have something different for everyone. As her husband Patrick says, “Not every beer is for everybody, but there is a beer for everybody!” Personally she’s really enjoying their current “Natchez Tricentennial” brewed in celebration of Natchez’s 300th birthday. The beer is a light colored Belgian Triple reminiscent of a dry white wine. It has a fruity flavor that hits you with the first sip, then quickly vanishes into a dry clean easy drinking 9% ABV beer — truly representing Natchez in a glass.
6) Laura Bruns
Factotum Brewhouse (Denver, Colorado)
Laura Bruns co-owns Factotum Brewhouse with her brother, head brewer Chris Bruns. Her interest in craft brewing started when she moved to Colorado in 1996, where she explored “microbrews” while the rest of her friends drank big brands. Luckily, a change in the state’s beer culture led to a push in the craft beer movement, allowing her to take her passion from tasting to supplying small batch brews in a social community space.
Along with managing almost every aspect of the brewery — from financial to marketing to janitorial — Laura finds time to hold Women Only Craft Beer Classes throughout the year at Factotum. During these she books women to brew their own beer alongside the head brewer in an attempt to equip her ladies with the confidence and knowledge to change the perception that brewing is a man’s job.
She elaborates, “The impetus for starting my women-only craft beer classes was to help women find their palate, feel comfortable speaking the vernacular, and create a non-intimidating space to ask questions and clarify the material they already knew. I wanted women to be able to look at any craft beer menu and have a good idea of what they would like based on what they learned in my class.”
In the midst of football season Laura recommends “Oatmaha Pale Ale,” which tastes like “a touchdown in your mouth.” This beer pays homage to revered retired quarterback Peyton Manning, and is a collaboration with Indianapolis’ Tow Yard Brewing Company. Oatmaha features sage to represent Colorado, corn to represent Indiana, and oats to represent the two horse-themed teams for which this beer’s honoree played.
7) Meg Gill
Golden Road Brewing (Los Angeles, California)
President and co-Founder of Golden Road Brewing Meg Gill began her career in craft beer after graduating from Yale University, where she was a record-breaking collegiate swimmer. Her rigorous academic background honed her thinking and decision-making skills, while her experience in sports gave her the determination and hard work necessary to take big risks.
In 2011 Meg founded the operation with a mission to bring fresh, delicious craft beer to Los Angeles. In just a few years her business has expanded from a one-woman shop headquartered in LA to an operation with 200 employees, an additional brewery and tasting room in Anaheim, and a beer and food counter in the historic Grand Central Market, with their brews available up and down the West Coast.
Meg recommends Golden Road’s “Heal the Bay IPA.” She explains, “Not only is it one of my favorite IPAs, full of bright citrus and juicy tropical hops, but you can feel good while drinking it. A portion of all proceeds are donated to keep Southern California’s coastal waters and watersheds safe, healthy and clean, in partnership with Heal the Bay non-profit organization.”
8) Alisse Cottle & Jessica Borrayo
BREW Coffee and Beer (Santa Rosa, California)
Alisse Cottle and Jessica Borrayo fell in love with coffee, then with each other, and finally with craft beer. They now own Brew Coffee and Beer, serving coffee, beer and even coffee-infused beer in a welcoming space vs “a sport centric beer bar or a sterile coffee cafe.”
Alisse notes, “We believe the industry needs to evolve and grow into more places that open their doors to new concepts, wider audiences and more personality. We definitely have had to prove ourselves a bit more in the beer industry than we originally anticipated. So of course, we always try to support more women in our industry whenever possible, like by sourcing coffee from female-owned Ritual Coffee Roasters.”
Of the beers you can find at BREW Alisse recommends “Two Weeks Notice” from local Moonlight Brewing, a specialty grain beer crafted without hops featuring intoxicating aromas of lemon and sage, with a malty sweetness on the finish.Love craft #beer? Check out these #delicious and #innovative #beers brewed in the #US. Click To Tweet
9) Andrea Stanley
Valley Malt (Hadley, Massachusettes)
Andrea Stanley addressed one of the major challenges in creating truly local beer by opening Valley Malt, which she dubs the “first artisan malthouse on the East Coast.” Prior to starting a malthouse she was a social worker, helping people to improve their lives. Not wanting to give up aiding others, she created Maltsters Guild, which includes over 40 small maltsters. The Guild brings together resources, help other maltsters get started and include more women to drive diversity in the industry.
Andrea has been fascinated by the science and history of malting and brewing, which “went from being domestic chores — mostly performed by women — to what are now huge industries dominated by multi-national corporations getting bigger by the day. Beer is, after all, an agricultural product and when only a few companies dominate it, farmers ultimately get squeezed.”
Andrea elaborates, “We are not interested in growing Valley Malt exponentially, and so supporting the growth and success of other small maltsters and brewers makes sense to me. If I want to see farmers succeed and more land being farmed, I feel like I need to help support a more robust, diverse supply chain for malt”.
She recommends the “Bohemian Pilsner” from Throwback Brewing, which really highlights her malt.
10) Emily Parker
Schlafly Beer (Saint Louis, Missouri)
Schlafly was the first craft brewpub to open in St. Louis after Prohibitionin 1991. And the brewery is still going strong, thanks to its talented team spearheaded by Director of Brewing Operations Emily Parker. The 30-year-old is a UC-David graduate in food science with an emphasis in brewing.
“I was really into science and the intersection of food and science intrigued me. I took a course called Intro to Brewing and Viticulture, and the brewing aspect won me over.”
She started with Schlafly over six years ago as a lab intern in the Quality Assurance Lab, and moved up the ladder from there. Now she keeps track of Schlafly’s 70 different beers which, in 2016, involved 102 hop varietals, 77 malts and grains, 59 difference spices and fruits, and 10 different yeast strains.
Schlafly offers weekly Small Brew days where consumers — including women interested in brewing — can be a part of the brewing process and try different experimental beers.
Emily says, “Some brews are not worth exploring further, but with our talented team, several are. A beer may develop into a special tapping for one of our big festivals, like HOP in the City, and then maybe roll out as a special release in bottles, and perhaps even develop into a year-round beer.”
Are there any other inspiring female brewers that you would like to add to the list? Let us know in the comments below!
Raise Your Glass To The Wonderful Women In Beer [Blog Inspiration]
The Beer Bible [Great Reads]
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