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These 10 Women Are Changing the Craft Beer Industry in the United States

United States Food + Drink
by Michelle DeVona Jul 13, 2016

1. Teri Fahrendorf, Founder of Pink Boots Society

A pioneering badass in the craft beer trade, Teri Fahrendorf began brewing all the way back in the 1980s, and became the third female craft brewmaster in the USA in 1988. She started experimenting with home beer brewing, a hobby which soon landed her brewing jobs at Golden Gate Brewery, Triple Rock Brewery, and then Steelhead Brewery — where she became brewmaster.

That said, it was pretty much unheard of for women to brew beer back then. What made Teri so innovative was her vision to use local hops for her brews at a time when local sourcing was not quite the fad it is today. Her approach has quite possibly helped change the brewing landscape, as she was recognized for her unique brews, winning three Gold Medals at the Great American Beer Festival.

After nineteen years as a brewmaster at Steelhead Brewing Company, in 2007 Teri embarked on a road trip around the country during which she visited 70 breweries and participated in 38 brews. While traveling around, she met a number of women brewers who were looking to meet other women in the industry, which led Teri to found Pink Boots Society, an organization that she said aims to “inspire, encourage, and empower women as beer professionals through education.” Now with chapters all over the world, Pink Boots Society continues to help women succeed as beer professionals through support networks, scholarships, and educational programs.

2. Laura Ulrich, Small Batch Brewer at Stone in San Diego

When asked how she got started in the craft beer field, Laura Ulrich said it was “pretty much a fluke.” She landed her first gig pouring beers at a nightclub called The Starlight in Fort Collins after applying to an advertisement she saw while at a concert there.

While most brewers hail from a science background, which is, according to Laura, “ideal for understanding the theories behind brewing”, she came into the field with a degree in English. Determined to learn as much about the process as she could, she wasted no time working her way up the chain. Laura secured a position as bottle line operator at Odell Brewing Company before eventually leaving that to work at her current location, Stone Brewing in San Diego. A small batch brewer at Stone, Laura’s achievements include her role in the creation of The Smoked Porter with Vanilla Bean, as well as three collaborations with members from Pink Boots Society for International Women’s Day.

In 2011, Laura also launched the first ever all-female brew collaboration called Project Venus with fellow brew mavens Megan Parisi and Whitney Thompson. Together they made a Belgian Dubbel with Oranges and Saffron. If that weren’t badass enough, Laura now serves as President of The Pink Boots Society and hopes to continue the organization’s goal of advancing women’s careers through education and scholarships.

3. Jamie Baertsch, Wisconsin’s first female Brewmaster

“Dumb luck” is what Jamie Baertsch said propelled her into craft brewing. A biotech major, Baertsch confides that she realized her passion for brewing while attending a college course which, lo and behold, pretty much consisted of making beer.

“That’s all we did was make beer,” she said, recalling the bio-reaction course. In fact, she had no idea that beer brewing was even a job option until one of her professors told her she should become a brewer. Working with hops sounded a hell of a lot better to her than pursuing the biotech field, so she interned at Wisconsin Dells Brewing Co. for a few years before becoming the state’s first female brewmaster there.

Now managing the whole show, Jamie oversees the entire operation, all the way from brewing to canning and bottling. As the only woman in Wisconsin to run an entire brewery, Jamie has proven that she’s more than capable of handling what used to be deemed a “man’s job.” Although, she also concedes that if it weren’t for the men who supported her along the way she would not be where she is now. In 2008 she won a Silver Medal for her Rustic Red brew at the Great American Beer Festival and is a founding member of Pink Boots Society, which she has used to help influence fellow Wisconsin women to further their careers in the craft beer industry.

4. Corey Regini, Lead Brewer at KettleHouse Northside in Montana

One of the only two women brewers in the state of Montana (at least to her knowledge) Corey Regini graduated from the University of Montana with a degree in chemistry. Shortly after that, she started working on the canning line at KettleHouse Brewing Company.

“I wanted a job that I could wake up after twenty years and still want to come to work! I thought craft beer might be the answer and I haven’t been disappointed yet. After only six months at the brewery, I became Packaging Manager at the KettleHouse. I held that position for several years and learned how to brew. In April of 2014, after the KettleHouse won a Gold Medal at the World Beer Cup in the English-Style IPA category with our Double Haul IPA®, I was named Lead Brewer. I am still the Lead Brewer at the KettleHouse Northside. I am also the Pink Boots Society Montana Chapter Leader having started this Chapter in 2014.”

Corey adds that some of her favorite parts about brewing beer are creating new recipes and enjoying a pint at the end of the day. As a leading lady in craft beer, Corey said that she wants to share her passion for brewing with other women who might be interested in a career in the industry, and to empower them to follow their dreams.

5. Michelle Svendsen, Co-owner of North Jetty Brewing in Washington

Michelle Svendsen owns and operates North Jetty Brewing with her husband Erik in Seaview, Washington. While Erik initially did all the brewing, Michelle realized she wanted to learn the craft herself, so she took it upon herself to learn as much as possible.

“I started brewing commercially in November 2012. My husband had been a home brewer since college and I never really had an appreciation for beer until he was asked to be the brewer for a local restaurant that wanted their own beer on tap. I came with him to brew and immediately fell in love with brewing. All of my experience is hands-on, which involves reading and then also incorporating what my husband teaches me from his years of experience. I learn new things every day and still love the process, the science and the finished product.”

Michelle enjoys experimenting with flavors and testing out new recipes, which she sometimes discovers on accident. “One example of this is when we were at the Washington Brewer’s Festival in 2015 and I tried a Rye immediately after a Blueberry Wheat. I wanted to see what those two flavor profiles would be like together so we came back and did a Blueberry Rye.”

She has also contributed to North Jetty’s Yellow Kolsch, aptly named after the color boots she chooses to don while brewing. As far as badass moms go, Michelle is grooming her fifteen-year-old daughter Taylor for a craft beer career. While Taylor is still too young to actually handle alcohol, she is still learning about the brewing process hands-on from her mom and earns a paycheck by helping out around the brewery with sweeping, weeding, and cleaning up litter. Since she gets paid for working at her parent’s brewery, this has made Taylor the youngest member of the global organization Pink Boots Society.

6. Natalie Baldwin of Burnside Brewing Company in Portland, Oregon

Jump-starting her beer career bartending at a small Portland brewery, Natalie Baldwin took advantage of her time there to learn as much about brewing as possible from master brewer and mentor Alan Taylor of Zoiglhaus Brewing. Yet, brewing beer was not something Natalie initially sought out – rather, she said it came to her.

“I feel like I didn’t exactly choose this career, I was lucky enough to have found it. I love brewing because it combines the analytical and creative sides of my brain. I really like creating something from scratch. I have so much freedom to experiment with ingredients and have an impact on every single aspect of the beer that I make. It’s so exciting!”

While Natalie is still relatively new to the industry, she made an impression with her first commercial beer blend, Fifth Ellament, a cream ale named after its infusion of Ella hops from Australia and Fifth Element, one of her favorite movies. A brewer at Burnside Brewing Company, Natalie says she has never experienced any issues as a female in the historically male-dominated profession.

“I have had an interesting experience being a woman in a male-dominated industry. My brewer community in Portland is very large but very tight. These people are my peers and treat me as such. I feel very lucky for that.”

7. Kerry Thomas, Head Brewer at Edgefield in Idaho

One of the few female brewers in Idaho, Kerry Thomas said that she has “always been something of a tomboy.” A head brewer at Edgefield Brewery Company in Boise, Kerry has been cranking out yeasty delights for six years and said that it’s a challenging yet rewarding profession.

“The biggest challenge is the physical strength required to do many of the jobs at the brewery, from lifting kegs, bags of grain, hoses, and cases of beer to going up and down ladders and stairs. The reward is the happiness and satisfaction I get from doing a job I love, instead of a job I just do for the money.”

When she’s not hauling kegs and massive bags of grains around, Kerry maintains that besides the actual brewing portion, her favorite part of the job is pleasing the customers. “Nothing is as satisfying as watching a pub full of patrons loving the product that we strive so hard to make.”

8. Ashleigh Carter, Co-head Brewer & Co-owner of Bierstadt Lagerhaus in Colorado

Collab day with Hogshead brewing a Bohemian Pilsner aka Billsner! #lager #denver

Una foto publicada por Bierstadt Lagerhaus (@bierstadtlager) el

Like many university graduates, Ashleigh Carter didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life. A mathematics graduate of the University of North Caroline at Asheville, she coached a women’s soccer team before one day deciding she would move back to her hometown in Aurora, Colorado and try her hand at home brewing. When Ashleigh realized the limitations that came with home brewing, she sought to gain some professional experience and took a job at Brew Hut, a brewing supply store. From there she also started working at the neighboring brewery Dry Dock Brewing where she met brewer Bill Eye. Bill ended up becoming her mentor and future business partner.

After another short stint brewing together at Prost Brewing in Denver, Ashleigh is now the Co-Head Brewer/Owner of Bierstadt Lagerhaus, a German-style brewery set to open in 2016 with a focus on lagers. A passion for all things German, Ashleigh maintains that she only makes lagers and prefers the “laid back” nature of brewing lager that doesn’t come with, say, brewing an IPA. More so, she will be using traditional German brewing techniques for the full effect, which involves a flotation tank, something that isn’t too common in the USA. After coming a long way from her early days of home brewing, Ashleigh hopes to inspire other women to follow her lead. In 2014, she organized a women’s tap takeover in Denver, which showcased brews from local female brewers.

9. Tanael Escartin, Brewmaster at Palmetto Brewing Company in South Carolina

A Venezuelan native, Taneal has a background in chemical engineering and is brewmaster and Director of Operations at Palmetto Brewing Company in South Carolina. As of now, she’s the only female head brewer in the state. Before Palmetto, Tanael got her start at Empresas Polar, Venezuela’s biggest brewery. Quickly recognized for her knack for pairing yeast and grains, Tanael was selected to study Brewing Science in Germany, where she studied for four years before briefly returning to Empresas Polar and then landing her job in the US at Palmetto Brewing Company. Now Tanael is creating a new line of draft-only brews.

“My goals in the craft brewing industry are to share my experience and my knowledge with any brewer who is passionate about brewing, emphasize the importance of consistency in the quality of our beers and try to find balance between the freedom needed to create innovative beer recipes and the structure, given by process procedures and specifications necessary to run a healthy beer business,” she said.

10. Bailey Spaulding, Owner of Tennessee’s first female-run brewery

Proving once again that women are taking more ownership of the craft brew scene than ever before, Bailey Spaulding contributed to Nashville’s beer culture after opening up her own brewery,Jackalope Brewing Company in 2011, Tennessee’s first female-run brewery. While attending Vanderbilt University Law School, Bailey spent a lot of her free time home brewing and came to enjoy it.

“I spent a lot more time thinking about what kind of brewer I wanted to be rather than what kind of lawyer,” she confessed.

Mostly self-taught, Bailey learned how to brew by experimenting with different flavors at home. She studied brewing books and took an online course through Siebel Institute. Still, the fact that she pretty much mastered the art of craft beer on her own terms is badass in itself. Jackalope Brewing Company is now one of THE destinations for craft beer in Nashville, and has even been mentioned in Forbes Travel Guide, a pretty amazing feat for someone relatively new in the craft beer industry. And the name? Bailey admitted that the inspiration came from the mythical creature that she used to believe existed.

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