Talking Hops with the Women of Craft Beer
It’s 2016, and while there’s still plenty of progress to be made, the world of craft producing (and enjoying) is treating itself like less of a boys’ club. As of two years ago, Nielsen research found that women make up 32 percent of this country’s brew-crushing population, with 21 percent of stateside craft breweries having women in top positions according to a study by Stanford. Here are five incredibly creative and talented female brewers and/or owners, who are responsible for some of the United States’ most exciting ales and lagers…
Kerri Dahlhofer, Co-Owner of B. Nektar (Ferndale, MI)
Your primary flavor is mead — what has it been like since B. Nektar acquired its brewing license to craft beer?
We like to make meads that combine interesting flavors in a magical way and we apply that same philosophy to our beer. It's a much bigger market to compete in and you have to differentiate yourself. Two of our best brews are the Sage Lime Wit and the Jasmine Green Tea Belgian IPA. They're a hit but it's hard to meet demand on a one-barrel [31 gallon] system. It feels like it did when we first opened. We were new, small and kept trying to keep up with the demand.
You’re responsible for B. Nektar’s idiosyncratic label artwork. How do you go about creating these designs?
It starts with a brainstorming session, usually over beer. Once we have a concept I take to the internet for inspiration. We love to parody movies, music, sub-culture, geeky stuff — so I usually end up with like 20 tabs open with quotes, images, et cetera. I want people to recognize a label, not only because it's B. Nektar, but also because it's something else they like — a favorite movie, for instance. Making an instant connection because now we have something in common.
Looking forward into the future, what do you have queued on the horizon?
Some fun new mead and cider flavors coming out for second quarter are Tuco-Style Freakout (Agave Lime Mead) and Stupid Man Suit (Dark Fruit Cider). Had lots of fun designing those. I also get the task of creating the branding for the beer line. We'd like to expand our beer production and put that into distribution eventually. So it looks like we're going to need to grab a beer and have at it!
Lauren Grimm, Co-Founder of Grimm Artisanal Ales (Brooklyn, NY)
Your hoppy releases have been getting noteworthy praise — what flavor profiles do you generally aim for with IPAs?
Our IPAs are juicy and plush with flavors of mango, guava, orange, and pineapple. We focus on hop aromatics with subdued bitterness.
Buying Grimm is almost like going to a record store, with beers named after Boredoms, Kate Bush and Steve Hillage. Do you know if any of the musicians you’ve referenced have been able to try their namesake brews?
I wish! Alas, our beer is pretty hard to get ahold of, so I think the answer is no. If Yoshimi [of Japanese rock group Boredoms] likes beer she is personally invited to come to our apartment and raid our beer stash.
New York is experiencing something of a craft production boom. Does it feel competitive or does it lean more collaborative?
The craft beer scene in New York is so new. I think that we're all still figuring out how to be a community and work together. Ideally it should be both collaborative learning and healthy competition. If another NYC brewery puts out a particularly compelling beer, we take that as inspiration and motivation to take ours to the next level.
Piper Corbett, Brewess & Co-Owner of Propolis Brewing (Port Townsend, WA)
Your beers utilize botanicals beautifully — what guides your process of foraging and growing various herbs?
It is the seasonal 'resonance' of each botanical that inspires the cultivation of each ingredient we use. If it is good for the bees…it is a gift for us…and that vitality is […] a vibration that calms the heart, inspires the senses and whispers “Taste me now.” And truly, how can we not?
What is the ideal context/setting you wish your beers to be consumed in?
[Our beers] are a sacred culmination of raw materials and careful time. And though we love our picnics, our potlucks, our pairings, our feasts…if you truly want to appreciate our ales, go enjoy it on a mountain top, visit an ocean cove, a desert expanse…or any place that gives you the space to pause, forget time and drink in the ceremony of the moment.
Congratulations on your tap room! What can one expect from a visit once it’s opened?
Our new taproom is a small, humble modern sanctuary balanced with the raw simplicity of metals, earth, plants, blown glass and sparkling herbal ales. We will be offering 8-12 taps, vintage and current ale flights, as well as a cellared bottle list of over 40 unique saisons. Our doors officially open February 20th.
Adair Paterno, Co-Owner of Sante Adairius Rustic Ales (Capitola, CA)
Sante Adairius’ Belgian-inspired brews are deeply revered by beer obsessives. What drew you to Belgian style rustic ales?
In general, we really just make the beer we like to drink. So, while we make a lot of Belgian-inspired beers (saison being our favorite), we also make IPAs, porters, stouts, and everything in between. Our love of saisons and other Belgian-inspired beers grew from drinking the classics, and we were particularly inspired by breweries doing mixed fermentations with various strains of yeast and bacteria. Our beers pay homage to those breweries, and, hopefully, push against style guidelines without diminishing their influence or import.
What was your personal craft beer epiphany?
I don't know that I can point to one personal watershed epiphany. I have been enjoying craft beer as a "beer geek" since the mid-90's, but it wasn't until around 2003 that my palate expanded to enjoy mixed fermentation beers. I have been lucky to live near Russian River Brewery since its beginning, and there is no question that the beers Vinnie and Natalie were making back then, and continue to make now, have had a substantial influence on me as a beer drinker and brewery owner.
Has California’s drought taken a toll on its brewing scene?
Because we are pretty darn small (we brewed just under 1,200 barrels last year), the drought has not impacted us as directly as much as it has impacted larger breweries in California. However, it has made us really take a look at how we use water, and has encouraged us to do our best to reuse water (for cleaning, et cetera) whenever possible.
Allison Huffman, Brewer at TRVE Brewing Co. (Denver, CO)
Heavy metal courses through the veins of TRVE. How do you view the relationship between metal and beer?
I feel like beer and metal both have very tight-knit cultures surrounding them. A vast majority of the people in either scene are super cool but they both have their fair share of snobs, haha.
What is happening over at The Acid Temple?
The Acid Temple is where we do our mixed culture fermentations. Our mixed [yeast] culture program is fairly new, so we're in the process of learning how to work with our house culture and getting an idea of how it behaves in various conditions. We are fermenting in both stainless steel tanks and oak barrels. We also just got two foeders [large oak vats typically used to age wine] in last week and we're excited to see what kind of character we get from them. We're also looking forward to getting local produce this spring and summer to use in beer.
Colorado has long been a craft beer mecca — what has it been like brewing as a relative newcomer?
I've been pretty busy with work and haven't really seen much of the Colorado beer scene yet, so I don't really know how it differs from Texas (where I came from). However, in my experience there's a strong sense of camaraderie in the industry as a whole and most people are happy to help you out, Colorado seems no different in that regard. There's always someone to reach out to when something breaks or goes wrong.