Beer is one of the oldest beverages in the world, and while it often seems like a boys' game, made by and for men, in ancient civilizations the brewers were traditionally women. The world of craft beer is welcoming more and more women, both as drinkers and as beer makers and professionals. Here we talk to three women representing breweries across the United States, who share how history, community, and heritage have shaped their perspectives on the world of craft beer.
Katherine Telesca, General Manager, Coney Island Brewery (Brooklyn, NY)
Telesca found her passion for the beverage industry while working at a local winery in Red Hook, New York. After moving to New York City, she met a bartender from the Coney Island Brewery and took a summer gig there. Having worked in wine, she was curious to learn about craft beer, and she says, "It was love at first sight: I fell in love with Coney Island and the brewery and I've been here ever since." She became general manager of the brewery this spring and feels lucky to have had a series of enthusiastic teachers along the way. Now she's trying to share her knowledge and passion with others. "My favorite part of my job is that I get to educate people about beer, like the connection between women and witches and beer. Women beer makers kept cats to keep mice from their grains and had broomsticks that they would put outside their shop to show that the brew was ready," says Telesca. At the time the belief was that "these women were doing magic in their basement, but actually beer was kept in basements or cellars because these were the coolest places before refrigeration. That's one of my favorite stories to tell.”
Telesca initially questioned how inclusive craft beer would be but found "this industry is super inclusive and there's been women paving the way in craft beer for years." She hopes to extend the conversation to diversity: '"I think there's a bigger community out there that also loves and appreciates craft beer," she says.
Annie Rainey, Brewer and Trainer, 21st Amendment Brewery (San Leandro, California)
For New Zealand native Annie Rainey, a brewer at 21st Amendment Brewery for two years, beer is for all. "It's the least snobby drink you can get," she says. Rainey started home brewing seven years ago and moved to the United States in 2015. "The Bay Area, and California overall, is such an amazing place for beer. It's an absolute frontier of ideas and positive energy towards craft beer," she says. There were 7,346 craft beer establishments, which includes regional craft breweries, microbreweries, and brewpubs, in the U.S in 2018. "People get worried that we've reached saturation but there's still lots of unique paths that breweries can take," Rainey says. "If you think of a brewery as a watering hole for the community, I think you can have a brewery in every neighborhood and not be oversaturated," she adds.
As the number of breweries and other craft beer establishments grows, how they interact with surrounding communities and their ability to bring more women into senior roles and people of color in to any role, is an area for growth. "Beer has always been an everyone drink and we really have a responsibility to open it up to more diverse communities especially since pubs and tap rooms can be such cool meeting places for people," Rainey says.
Missy Begay, Co-Founder, Bow & Arrow Brewing Co. (Albuquerque, New Mexico)
When Missy Begay started Bow & Arrow Brewing Co. with her partner Shyla Sheppard three years ago, the goal wasn't to be the only Native American, women-run brewery in the United States. Begay grew up on the Navajo Reservation two hours outside of Albuquerque. Sheppard was born in North Dakota, raised on the Fort Berthold Reservation, and is a member of the Three Affiliated Tribes. The two met at Stanford and it was in the Bay Area that they discovered "German-style lagers that were like nothing we'd ever tasted before, sparking our curiosity," says Begay.
They established their craft brewery in Begay's home state, she explains, because "New Mexico is a great place for beer. It's such a unique state not only because of the high desert landscape but also from the mix of Native American, Spanish, and European cultures that create a kind of microclimate that’s based on creativity and innovation." At Bow & Arrow, Begay and Sheppard's Native American heritage influences everything from the long communal tables in the tap room that encourage getting to know those you are seated beside, to the artwork on their labels, to flavors they use in their beers: "We really try to highlight the American southwest in our beers and part of that means using local ingredients whenever possible." Their flagship beer is a blue corn, gluten-reduced lager called Denim Tux. "It's named that way because everyone wears denim out here," Begay says.