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15 Craft Beer Breweries Run and Operated by Women

PHOTO: Simon Shiff

Women are making a splash in the beer-making business.

When the first beer was concocted around 7000 B.C., it was a woman at the helm, gathering the grains and brewing the grog. Brewing remained a woman’s job until just 150 years ago or so, when men took over during industrialization. Well, women are returning to the brewing room with a vengeance, pushing through the (pint) glass ceiling. They’re making craft beer and heading the business in microbreweries around the world, adding a certain je-ne-sais-quoi that’s blowing up the craft beer scene in exciting new ways. See for yourself how history is coming full circle at these women-run breweries around the world.

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River Watch Brewery

Not only does River Watch have great brew, it’s also the first locally owned and operated brewery to open in town since Prohibition (explaining why one of its marketing slogans is “About damn time”). And that’s not all. It also has the only mother-daughter brewing team in the U.S.

INSIDER TIPDogs are welcomed here with open paws and can enjoy homemade doggie snacks made from spent grain—best enjoyed on the outside deck.

 

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PHOTO: Steven L. Sorensen
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Cabinet Mountain Brewing

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. With that Helen Keller motto in mind, Sarah Sorensen and Kristin Smith opened a brewery in the remote Kootenai River Valley town of Libby, in northwest Montana. Housed in a century-old building, their brewery has become a beloved community gathering place, with a reading nook by the fireplace, artwork by locals, and a family-friendly patio dubbed Libby’s Living Room. House beers have a local flavor, including the award-winning Yaak Attack IPA and Ross Creek Red.

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3 OF 15

Scarlet Lane Brewing Company

CEO and head brewer Eilise Lane learned to brew beer in the Northwest, and she’s brought her passion and talent to her native Indiana. Not only is Scarlet Lane a female-run brewery, it’s female-backed as well. Their four flagship beers—Asteria Australian IPA, Laughing Water Australian Sparkling Ale, Lenore Dry-Hopped Ale, and Dorian Espresso Stout—are highly touted (and if you’ve noticed a theme, yes, most beers have literary references). But this endeavor is more than beer. Scarlet Lane has become a community mainstay, hosting concerts, movie nights, and cook-offs in its historic building. The bottom line: Beer cultivates wisdom and friendships.

INSIDER TIPThe mug club membership (called Legion of the Ale Drinkers) is a lifetime program that earns you a 22-ounce Legion mug whenever you visit for $5.50, the same price for a pint.

 

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PHOTO: Minoh Brewing
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Minoh Brewing

WHERE: Minoh, Japan

In the land of Asahi, Kirin, Suntory, and Sapporo, the Ohshita sisters run this hugely popular craft brewery near Osaka with subtle, carefully crafted beers that are unexpectedly innovative. Minoh Cabernet, for example, is part beer, part Cabernet grapes. Minoh WIPA is one of Japan’s few double IPAs, winner of myriad awards. They’ve even brewed Hemp High (which is exactly what you think it is). The brewery is small, but a minute from their factory they operate a bottle shop and 52-seat pub. And you can find their beer in many, many bars throughout Japan.

INSIDER TIPDowntown Osaka has two popular pubs that sell draft Minoh (Beer Belly and Beer Belly Edobori).

 

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3rd Wave Brewing Company

Long-time pals Lori Clough and Suellen Vickers played around with beermaking, even studying the process at Xtreme Brewing in Laurel, Delaware. Then, in between hanging out at the beach and catching waves, they decided to take the plunge. The result is 3rd Wave, a hometown brewery established in 2012 near the beach—which explains the surfer-name brews, like 1st Wave IPA and Big Reef Porter. “Third Wave” refers to the fact that waves come in sets of three, and the third is always the best.

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PHOTO: Bombshell Beer
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Bombshell Beer Company

The only female-owned brewery in North Carolina, Bombshell opened in 2013 and hasn’t looked back. Their microbrews continue to garner praise, especially the Dirty Secret Stout, named one of the state’s best stouts. The Bombshell Girls, as they call themselves, aim to make beer approachable for everyone—that it’s not just a boy’s club. And they’ve succeeded. Just look at the taproom—it’s filled with families and dogs.

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PHOTO: Courtesy of Lost Coast Brewery
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Lost Coast Brewery

Back in 1990, when Barbara Groom decided to quit her pharmacist job to make craft beer, microbreweries were few and far between. And woman-run breweries even fewer and farther. Turns out, she was good at it. By 2013, Lost Coast, the company she began had become one of the nation’s largest microbreweries, distributing beer to 21 states and 11 nations. They’ve won plenty of awards, and in 2014 moved into a brand-new, $15 million facility where they can bottle and can up to 1.2 million beers and fill 1,400 kegs a day. Tours are offered, or you can simply pull up to the tasting bar and sample their signature Great White, along with a varied selection of other seasonal and year-round brews.

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Local Brewing Co.

Regan Long and Sarah Fenson started small—they homebrewed beer and passed it around San Francisco’s Dolores Park for feedback—and people liked it. In 2015, they established their own brick-and mortar brewery and became one of San Francisco’s favorite microbreweries, devoted to making approachable beers with a twist. But perhaps the reason people love them most is their commitment to remaining small and local. Grab a Sutro Tower Stout or Soma Secret (a saison with fruit) and you’ll see what we’re talking about.

INSIDER TIPRegan also invented the online Beer Curator to help patrons find their “go-to” Local brew.

9 OF 15

Two Birds Brewing

Jayne Lewis and Danielle Allen are the dynamic duo behind Australia’s first woman-owned brewery, the award-winning Two Birds. It all started with a single brew in 2011 (their flagship Golden, which they describe as crunchy on the outside, soft and delicate on the inside), since then growing to five year-round brews and one seasonal. Sample them (along with guest brews) at the Nest, their brewery and tasting room in a buzzy Melbourne suburb.

 

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PHOTO: Don James
10 OF 15

Bow & Arrow Brewing Co.

With 37 or so breweries to date, Albuquerque has firmly made a name for itself in the microbrew world. Bow & Arrow is headed by Shyla Sheppard, a Stanford economics grad whose previous career was in social impact investing. Missy Begay, a sleep medicine physician, oversees the branding and social media. Their trendy brewery is known for its hyperlocal approach (meaning, yes, that could be local roasted blue corn or sumac berries flavoring your brew), as well as its sleek, award-winning architectural design.

Note the mounted white buffalo-head bust as you enter the brew hall. It’s an ode to Shyla’s grandfather, who raised buffalo on the North Dakota prairie. He used to tell her that, just as the buffalo face the fiercest storms and never turn their backs on them, she, too, would face challenges that she should face like the buffalo. Building a brewery from the ground up was a tremendous challenge and the buffalo serves as a daily reminder to keep charging forward.

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Prestonrose Farm and Brewing Co.

Unique, farm-crafted beers are the centerpiece of this organic vegetable, fruit, and herb farm in Arkansas. And they’re brewed by the one and only Liz Preston, a former molecular ecologist who moved here with her husband from California. It’s a small-batch, family affair—the tasting room/bistro is a cozy little 11×30 building, open four hours a day, four days a week. And yet, beer-lovers from as far away as Memphis and Tulsa line up to sample Liz’s beer. And you can see why, with such fresh, organic brews such as Elderberry Blonde, Fort Smith Coffee Porter, and a Chamomile Brown called Blue Eyed Susan Brown.

INSIDER TIPCome for the beer farm yoga on Mondays. 

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PHOTO: Bradlee Arendt
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Lady Justice Brewing

Kate Power, Betsy Lay, and Jen Cuesta worked at a non-profit in Colorado and while lamenting the difficulties of fundraising over beers one evening, the idea struck them: Why not brew beer and fundraise that way? Thus was born Lady Justice Brewing, featuring the likes of Better World Blonde, Sandra Day IPA, and Deconstruction Smash. Every pint bought supports local organizations that promote opportunity for women and girls. So you can feel good about your drinking.

INSIDER TIPThere’s no tasting room … yet. The best way to get the beer is to become a Community-Supported Brewery Member.    

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Urban Growler Brewing Company

Minnesota’s first woman-owned microbrewery opened in 2014, a dream-come-true for former corporate 9-to-5ers Deb Loch and Jill Pavlak. Deb is the master brewer and Jill manages the marketing, taproom, and events. Together, they bring people together with tantalizing brews like CowBell Cream Ale, best enjoyed in the beer garden.

INSIDER TIPBe on the lookout for Deb’s Plow to Pint series, utilizing only local ingredients (Rhubarb Wit, Cranberry Ale, Blueberry Wheat).

 

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PHOTO: Dirt Farm Brewing
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Dirt Farm Brewing

The Virginia craft beer business is booming, and Janell Zurschmeide grabbed onto that trend to establish Dirt Farm Brewing on her family’s 400-acre farm in pastoral Loudoun County. In this crowded business, they have a home field advantage, literally: their own grain, hops, and farm produce, as well as sweet, crystal-clear Bluemont well water. The result? Amazing plow-to-pint beers like Tart 31 Cherry Ale, Som Peach Ale, and Fluster Cluck (a bomb of a seasonal beer mixing apricots, peaches, strawberries, and nectarines).

INSIDER TIPDress for the weather. The outdoor space is where you want to be.

 

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PHOTO: Mallersdorf
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Mallersdorf Abbey

This one’s a little different, because the brewer in this historic abbey happens to be a nun who loves beer. Sister Doris has been turning water into beer for more than four decades—though is quick to point out that brewing has been women’s work since the Middle Ages, and that northern Bavaria has the world’s largest concentration of women brewers. She turns out about 80,000 gallons a year, though it’s untreated and can only be enjoyed while fresh—which is why a trip to Mallersdorf Abbey is a must-do for beer lovers everywhere.