Women-Owned Beer Businesses to Discover, Support, and Love
March is Women’s History Month, with International Women’s Day falling on March 8. While we believe in celebrating the accomplishments of all those who identify as female all the time, March is a reminder to really stop and focus on how we can support, encourage, and honor.
The beer and beverage world is certainly no stranger to incredible women and inspiring success stories. By now, the history of beer has become well circulated: it was brewed primarily by women from its birth thousands of years ago, until men took control around the Middle Ages when they saw its potential for big business and big bucks. They continued to push women out of brewing as beer became industrialized, and in the 20th century, women found themselves having to fight their way back into a world they should have been credited with creating.
Today, as the beer industry heads down the road of improving inclusion and equity for all, we’re thankfully reaching a point when it feels outdated and irrelevant to ask a woman brewer or brewery owner, “So, what’s it like to be a woman in beer?” While men still outnumber women in brewing positions--systemic change takes time--an important distinction seems to be taking shape, which is that when we talk about beer, we’re talking about the people who brew it and how they brew it, not what gender they might identify as. It’s imperative that everyone working in the beverage industry (and everywhere, of course) is treated equally and given equal opportunities, and progress is happening.
While the odd bartender still might doubt that a woman really wants to order a double IPA over a rosé or a brewery customer might ask to speak to a female brewery owner’s husband, change is happening and so many amazing women are making sure that female-identifying people in the beer and beverage industries are visible and welcome, so that others who are considering similar careers realize their own potential. For just a tip of that iceberg, check out Hannah Kiem’s podcast, “Brews with Broads,” each episode featuring a different woman/non-binary person in beer. You can hear the motivating stories of Wild East Brewing Cellar Person Robyn G. Williams, Fifth Hammer Brewing Co-Owner Mary Izett, and New York City Brewers Guild Executive Director Ann Reilly, to name a few.
Speaking of those who inspire us, here are some of the women-owned and/or women-led breweries TapRm is proud and excited to work with every day.
Watching Japas explode in popularity here in the U.S. has been a thrill. Maíra Kimura, Yumi Shimada, and Fernanda Ueno are at the helm of this Brazil-based brewery that incorporates Japanese influences as an embrace of the trio’s Japanese-Brazilian heritage. When we interviewed Maíra, Yumi, and Fernanda last summer, they explained that “Japas” is what people call those of Japanese descent in Brazil, often without their consent; the name of the brewery is a way to take ownership of the term.
Maíra, Yumi, and Fernanda are all incredibly knowledgeable in the brewing, design, marketing, and business veins, as well as incredibly plugged into the global craft beer scene and amazingly creative. Together, through masterfully brewed beers that taste so unique and delicious (not to mention beautiful can art), they are introducing entire new audiences to traditional Japanese ingredients, odes to Japanese desserts, and the ways that a Brazilian brewery is interpreting in-demand beer styles. They’re even capturing history, like with the Kasato Maru New England IPA, named for the first Japanese immigrant ship to reach Brazil in 1908. We can’t wait to see what Japas does next.
Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery
Lickinghole Creek’s CEO and co-founder Lisa Pumphrey is a renaissance woman. Having studied environmental law, she didn’t just set out to make amazing beer, which LCCB certainly does, but also to incentivize conservation and help build a farm brewing system in Virginia. Talk about thinking big. Back in July, Lisa walked us through her role in guiding Virginia on the path to a booming and growing network of farm breweries, where great beer is brewed, farming is made profitable, land is protected, and visitors and locals alike can appreciate the state’s natural beauty.
Lisa hasn’t stopped there. She invested in a water filtration purification system for the brewery, and LCCB has access to 100% untreated well water that naturally filters through granite, so their beer is made with pure water and all the brewing process’s spent water goes back to the water table and fertilization. Lisa even works to provide increasing access to clean water in regions around the world, like Nine Mile in Jamaica--an effort you can help by drinking one of LCCB’s tasty brews.
Jackalope Brewing Company
Jackalope CEO and co-founder Bailey Spaulding is another game-changing visionary. When she opened the brewery with Robyn Virball in 2011, Nashville’s craft beer scene was small. In fact, there was only one other production distribution brewery in town. Bailey was one of the founding members of the Tennessee Craft Brewers Guild and served as president for a couple of years, where she helped initiate and push for all kinds of changes that would encourage breweries to open up in the city, and that would make it easier for them to do so.
About 20 more breweries have since opened in middle Tennessee, and under Bailey’s leadership, Jackalope has remained an inspiring leader. They were Nashville’s first brewery to can its beer, and they’ve implemented a CO2 recapture system to make brewing significantly more sustainable. Bailey remains dedicated to environmental causes and Nashville’s beer scene all while brewing pitch-perfect brown ales, pale ales, and more that have become hits all the way here in New York.
After falling in love with tea for all of its healthful and delicious properties, Jennie Ripps went on to create tea programs for some of New York’s hottest restaurants. Eventually, she teamed up with fellow tea expert Maria Littlefield, and the two helped revolutionize how tea is perceived and enjoyed in the contemporary food and drink scene. From their love of tea plus their love of cocktails, an epiphany--a.k.a. Owl’s Brew--was born: tea was a purely perfect base for alcoholic beverages. Jennie and Maria were tired of seeing canned alcoholic beverages boasting “natural flavors” that may have cut sugar and calories but actually contain just as many chemicals as artificially flavored drinks. By using tea, there are truly no chemicals in their tipples, just simple, beautiful flavors and aromas that harmonize well together and can be enjoyed sans hangovers or health concerns.
Jennie and Maria are using their platform leading a growing beverage brand for good with an initiative they call Wise Women. They recognize the need for greater inclusion and diversity in the beverage and business world, and are striving to help achieve that goal by mentoring other women who are planning their own professional paths.
Wild East Brewing Co.
Wild East has earned the admiration of New York beer lovers by not only brewing fantastic beer across styles, but by opening their doors during the pandemic, a nearly unimaginable feat. Before even outdoor seating was allowed, Brooklynites were entering one at a time to safely secure crowlers of everything from hazy IPAs to something that makes Wild East unique: a selection of classic, European-inspired styles that built the very foundation of beer, from saisons to dark lagers.
One of Wild East’s three co-founders is Lindsay Steen, who honed her serious skills as a staple member of New York City’s vibrant, talented homebrewing scene. Coincidentally, you can also catch Lindsay on a Brews with Broads episode, where you can hear about her craft beer journey. Lindsay is a mother, which is a perspective we don’t hear enough in the alcoholic beverage industry.
Fellow Brews with Broads guest Robyn G. Williams is Cellar Person at Wild East. She has been a beer buyer in the city, recruited for her an instantly recognizable, super tuned-in knowledge and intuition for what people will like. Williams has mastered so many different aspects of the beer and hospitality scene, from working front of house at beer-centric bars and restaurants to working production at fellow Brooklyn favorite Interboro. She also had the genius idea of fusing her passion for sneakers with beer and founded Kicks and Kegs, a series of pop-up events (and seriously awesome Instagram account).
TALEA Beer Co.
Speaking of inspiring new moms in the beer industry, amazing beer, and recent Brooklyn additions: Tara Hankinson and LeAnn Darland have just opened the doors of their beautifully modern taproom in Williamsburg to rave reviews. Both bring a world of experience with them to the beer scene--LeAnn is a veteran, Tara has worked in wine and media, both have MBAs--and their dynamic, multifaceted POV is on full display from the beers, themselves, to the taproom space.
Inclusivity is at the forefront of the brewery, and an expert balance of quality and accessibility is brewed right into bright goses that burst with fruit flavor and hazy IPAs that blend notes of tropical hops and gummy candies. TALEA’s beer seamlessly wows the seasoned beer fan but also welcomes the total newbie, a bridge into the beverage category for people who thought they didn’t even like beer.
The taproom, meanwhile, employs a staff with a female majority, and everyone gets to rotate roles to try different parts of the business, from hosting to brewing. It opens early, at 8am, serving coffee and tea, just emphasizing its appeal as an all-day hub for moms, remote workers, friend groups, and beer enthusiasts alike.
We loved getting to hear Makku founder Carol Pak’s story earlier this year. After visiting Korea in 2017, the New Yorker was inspired to revive the country’s first alcoholic beverage. Ever since, Carol has been successfully growing makgeolli as both a delicious go-to and its own beverage category here in the United States.
With experience as “entrepreneur in residence” at a division of Anheuser Busch InBev, Pak got to work creating a product that celebrates makgeolli’s traditional sweet, milky rice-beer-ness, yet in a fresh and modern way. A clean design on cans as well as crave-worthy flavors like blueberry and mango have put makgeolli on a serious trajectory to craft favorite-dom here in States, with Makku at the forefront and, naturally, Carol at the helm.
We can’t get enough of Montclair Brewery. The New Jersey purveyor brews highly creative iterations of classic styles, brought to life by a culinary focus as well as an interpretation of the owners’ cultural backgrounds, and both the beers and the entire business, itself, celebrate Black history and culture as well as the local community with every step.One of those owners is Denise Ford Sawadogo, who founded and runs the brewery with husband Leo. With an MBA and experience making magic in the marketing field, Denise brings the Montclair vision to life every day. She even still works for a global corporation, all while helping dream up the ingredient combos that make Montclair’s beers sing, thinking of perfect taproom touches, running community fundraisers through the brewery, tying together different brews with inspirational Black icons through the beers’ names and stories, and more. From her giving spirit to her creativity to her multitasking, Denise is truly #goals.