Women have played a pivotal role in the Massachusetts craft beer scene since its inception in the early 1980s, when Jim Koch and his partner Rhonda Kallman were schlepping cases of Sam Adams Boston Lager to bars all over the city. Kallman, who Koch has described as his best hire ever, went on to become just the 2nd female brewery owner (Janet Egelston, who co-founded Northampton Brewery in 1987 was the first) in Massachusetts when she opened New Century Brewing in 2001. Her contract brewery poured its last beer in 2010, but that was hardly the end for talented, influential women on the local craft beer scene.
Today, women make up a third of all craft beer consumers, and fill nearly as many jobs in the brewing industry, and both of those trends are on the upswing. When considering the impact women have had on the craft beer industry it should come as no surprise that the Bay State has been ahead of the curve all along. In fact, you’ve likely noticed a significant female presence at a number of your favorite breweries around the Commonwealth.
Some are owners or co-founders, others are head or assistant brewsters cranking out your favorite beers, and many are the brains behind the business: managing the finances, running the taprooms, directing the sales and marketing departments. Close to half the staff at Sam Adams’ Boston brewery is female, including brewery manager Jennifer Glanville, who started shortly after Kallman left the company. Koch was so impressed with Glanville that he sent her to the a prestigious brewing school in Germany and let her take a greater role in the development of new beers when she got back. These days her brewery team creates as many as 60 new beers for release every year.
In the summer of 2015 master brewer Megan Parisi joined the brewing team in charge of R & D at the Jamaica Plain brewery. She arrived after seven years at Cambridge Brewing Co., and then a year as head brewer at Wormtown, where she worked alongside Ben Roesch. Parisi was quick to jump in, introducing both Hopscape and Fresh as Helles into the rotating seasonal program, and reworking the recipe for Rebel IPA, especially the hops. She also helped create two new varieties: Rebel Juiced and Rebel White Citra.
It Takes Two to Make A Thing Go Right
Sam Adams certainly hasn’t cornered the Massachusetts market on talented women with a passion for craft beer. Breweries all over the state feature females in prominent roles. Beth Marcus at Cape Cod Beer, Melissa Goldfarb at Lefty’s, and Caitlin Jewel at Slumbrew (all co-founders) are just a few examples. All three married men who turned out to be great brewers who needed someone to run their breweries, so while their counterparts brewed beer, they were busy brewing up successful business plans.
Marcus and her husband Todd started their business back in 2004, brewing small batches at the old Hyport Brewing Company in Hyannis and delivering them in her mini van. Two years later they opened their own brewery and Beth took on the role of business manager. In the ensuing decade she secured a pouring license for the brewery, opened a taproom and started giving tours, initiated a canning effort, and oversaw a number of expansions including the recent installation of a new 30-barrel system. No job title could do justice to the myriad of responsibilities she has at the brewery.
Likewise, Goldfarb and Jewel both wear any number of hats for their flourishing breweries. Goldfarb helped grow Lefty’s, which still self distributes, from a 2-barrel nano in 2010 to a 15-barrel micro brewery with a new taproom. Jewel has nurtured Slumbrew from its humble beginnings as a contract brewery to its current status as one of the major players in Eastern Mass., and on the verge of opening its second brew pub in Somerville. In addition to their good business sense, all three women probably know more about beer and brewing than you do. Jewel predicted the current tsunami of new craft brewery openings a couple of years ago, and both Marcus and Goldfarb continue to be ahead of the curve in marketing, sales, and distribution of their growing brands.
Two other women with admirable foresight are Suzanne Schalow and Kate Baker, co-founders of the highly regarded Craft Beer Cellar, a family of retail beer stores. They noticed craft beer’s rapid ascent while working as managers at Cambridge Common, a beer centric restaurant and music venue. In need of a break from the restaurant business, they decided to take a year off, during which they concocted the idea of opening a bottle shop that would showcase craft beer. “No one else was doing it at the time,” recalled Schalow, “We thought, why not give it a try.”
It turned out to be the best decision they ever made. As good as the idea was, their timing certainly didn’t hurt either. In the six and a half years since they opened the first store, the number of breweries in the U.S. has nearly tripled. Massachusetts alone jumped from 40 or so to well over 100 during that time. “The industry has come a million miles from when we started,” remarked Schalow, who along with Baker now oversees more than 30 franchised stores in over a dozen states, many co-owned by women. “It’s been mind blowing.”
Dude Looks Like A Lady?
“Beer used to be more of a dude thing,” says Kristen Sykes, a BJCP certified beer judge who was the only woman in her home brew class. “But it’s almost become genderless now,” she contends, especially within the younger craft beer generation. She started home brewing in 2001, after her husband bought her a kit, and got pretty good at it. Good enough that when Will Meyers from Cambridge Brewing Company tasted one of her brews, an unhopped beer made with Japanese Knotweed, it inspired him to brew his own version, which has since become a CBC seasonal called Olmsted’s Folly.
Just as Schalow and Baker had, Sykes noticed that something big was happening on the local craft beer scene, so in 2011 she founded a social group called the Boston Area Beer Enthusiasts Society (BABES). Intended to explore craft beer, as well as to support women in the industry, the group was an immediate hit. To date, nearly 2,000 women, and men who support women who love beer, have liked the Facebook page, which shares news and posts an array of events centered around craft beer.
The craft beer boom in Massachusetts has spawned an array of opportunities within the industry, and women have wasted little time seizing them. Katrina Shabo, Wormtown Brewery’s director of sales and marketing, got her first opportunity when the owner of her local packie put her in charge of the store’s beer selection. After a few months of tasting and touring, she knew she wanted to work at a brewery. Her first gig was in sales at Night Shift, followed by a stint at Bad Martha, until eventually she took the distribution reins at her favorite home town brewery. She’s one of a growing number of bad ass women who sometimes surprise unsavvy and unsuspecting men with their impressive level of craft beer expertise.
Jordana Starr, co-owner of Beerology in Northampton, is another. Co-founder of the premiere home brew shop in Western Mass., which sells supplies, offers hands-on classes, and even conducts flavor seminars, she’s also the libations writer for Edible Pioneer Valley and serves on the Western Mass. Beer Week (June 9-16) committee. There’s also Liz L’Etoile, who helped turn her family’s passion for beer and farming into one of the state’s truly unique agricultural businesses, Four Star Farms in Northfield and its 17 acres of aromatic hops. They also grow barley, but it would probably never have ended up in anyone’s pint glass if it hadn’t been for another ingenious woman, Andrea Stanley, co-founder of Valley Malt in Hadley. Recognized by Fortune and Food and Wine Magazines as one of the most influential women in food and drink, she and her husband opened their micro maltster operation in 2010 after realizing it wasn’t possible to make a truly local beer because there wasn’t a single maltster in New England. Now, breweries from all over the state contend for their malts.
If You Build It, They Will Come, And Drink
Maureen Fabry met L’Etoile and Stanley when Valley Malt hosted its first Farmer Brewer Weekend, an immersive conference for aspiring farmers, brewers and maltsters. A 20-year brewing veteran with spells at Brew Moon, John Harvard’s, Beer Works and Berkshire Brewing, the realization that a beer could be brewed with local ingredients inspired her to open her own brewery, one that would focus on just that. In 2014, she opened a 1/2-barrel nano brewery in her garage in Milford – Craft Roots Brewing, a play on the term grass roots, meaning of the local people – becoming the first woman to open a brick and mortar brewery in the Commonwealth in more than two decades. Tired of constantly selling out of beer, she recently moved into a new space with a taproom, and graduated to a 7 barrel system.
Fabry isn’t alone: a new wave of young female brewsters with high aspirations appears to be taking the Bay State by storm. The list includes Lee Lord at Cambridge Brewing Company, Anna Jobe at Night Shift, Lia Olsborg at Aeronaut, Kate Tellman at The People’s Pint, and Brienne Allan at Notch. Allan recently founded the Boston Chapter of the Pink Boots Society, a national organization of female movers and shakers that assist, inspire, and encourage women beer professionals through education.
A handful of women have started their own breweries in the last two years, like Bev Armstrong, recent winner of the “Brewing and Business Experienceship” part of the Sam Adams Brewing the American Dream program. Her brewery, Brazo Fuerte (the name is a nod to her days as a premiere rugby player, and also a play on her name), launched in 2015 and was an immediate success: “Beyond my wildest dreams” she told a reporter in a profile ESPN did on her last month. She currently contract brews her beers, but hopes to open a brick and mortar brewery in or near Watertown sometime soon.
“Consumption of craft beer among women has been on the rise for some time,” says Tanzi Cannon-Eckerle, who founded Brew Practitioners in Northampton in 2015. “It’s only natural that more will start to consider a career in the industry.” She took the leap after a trip to Europe that featured one great beer city after another. She returned inspired, but then suffered the loss of her sister, just 45, to cancer only a few weeks later. It lead to some soul searching, and ultimately the decision to leave her career as a practicing attorney and pursue her dream of opening a brewery. Majority owner, and occasional brewer, she’s most proud of the communal environment at the brewery’s taproom, shared by both staff and patrons alike.
Cayla Marvil has also been inspired by the community that surrounds craft beer, both in Cambridge and in the industry as a whole, which she says “kicks ass.” Just over a year ago she co-founded Lamp Lighter Brewing, an endeavor she described as “both stressful and awesome.” One of just two women in her brew school class, she’s too busy running the business to do much brewing these days, but says she’d like to be more involved in the brew house some day. She’s noticed a transition from a once male-dominated industry to a more inclusive one that now features a number of highly qualified women, including several of her own employees. “I hope we see more and more women entering the industry,” she explained. “More beer, more ladies, more fun!”
If you’ve had the pleasure of visiting Bone Up Beer in Everett, you’re well aware that Liz Kiraly is all about fun. Co-owner, brewster, taproom beer slinger, she and her husband Jared debuted their nano brewery and their quirky slogan, made from ingredients, to much fanfare earlier this year. A graphic designer before getting into the beer business, she also designed the brewery’s logo, a mustachioed skull drawn with simple line work, but featuring a complex facial expression, which she says is indicative of the beer they make: “there’s a little more goin’ on there than first meets the eye.”
A Guy Walks Into A Craft Beer Bar
It’s fair to say there’s more going on than meets the eye at breweries and beer bars all over the Commonwealth these days. Just ask Liz Melby, Communicator in Chief at Harpoon. She’s seen a major shift in the two decades since she started, just out of college and impressed by the brewery’s culture as well as its IPA. “There are a lot more women in the industry now,” she observes, “and in more visible roles. It’s great to see more of them being recognized.”
Women who drink craft beer, now the fastest growing segment of the market, are gaining more recognition these days as well, though it often requires an initial awkward exchange. Jocelyn Bartlett, who first became a craft convert 10 years ago after trying a Hoegarden while in Paris, has since become a regular at breweries, festivals, and some of Boston’s best beer bars. She recently had an encounter that most women can likely relate to. While enjoying a stout in the special liter mug she earned at The Lower Depths, a bar near Fenway, the guy on the stool next to her remarked how he wasn’t used to seeing women drinking dark beers like stouts. She thought for a moment, then seized the opportunity to engage with him. Reflecting on the exchange later, she observed, “maybe our friendly conversation that followed opened his eyes a bit.”