Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Duluth Experience Craft Beer Roundtable - Women of the North Shore Craft Beer Scene

Yesterday marked the end of The Duluth Experience North Shore Craft Beer Roundtable and what a series it was! The final event in the 4-part series focused on the role of women in the North Shore craft beer scene. I have mentioned before that this roundtable event was the one which I had been looking forward to the most. My reasoning for this is because that I think women are very underrepresented in the craft beer industry. Ironic when you consider that women were the primary brewers of alcohol for thousands of years up until roughly the 1800's when to become a male dominated profession.

Moderated by Elissa Hansen with the Duluth/Superior Chapter of Barley's Angels, the forum featured 5 women who play a big part of the North Shore craft beer scene:

·      Allyson Rolph – Thirsty Pagan Brewing

·      Jamie MacFarlane – Castle Danger Brewery

·      Liz Gleason – Carmody Irish Pub & Brewing

·      Laura Mullen – Bent Paddle Brewing Company

·      Melissa Rainville – Fitger’s Brewhouse

At the start of the discussion, the audience found out how each panel member was drawn into the industry In the case of Liz Gleason of Carmody, the idea to start brewing their own beer came from her husband. With Melissa from Fitger's it was her hobby of homebrewing would take her to Flat Earth Brewing and, ultimately, to Fitger's Brewhouse. Allyson, Brewmaster with Thirsty Pagan, it was meeting with Jamie Baertsch, brewmaster of Dells Brewing Company (and the only other female brewmaster in the State of Wisconsin) during the Dells On Tap Festival. With Jamie, it came from her husband's passion for homebrewing and her background in Accounting that led them to open Castle Danger. Finally with Laura from Bent Paddle, her company had helped organize a brewfest down in the Twin Cities and she met her husband Colin, through Midwest Supplies one of the companies she worked with while organizing those events.

The next topic that was covered was trends in the craft brewing industry that they noticed were gaining steam. The responses ranged from using cans as a means of packaging craft beer to localized production breweries such as Dangerous Man Brewing, whom only sell their beer on premises, to the rise of session beers, sour ales, ciders and even the number of people homebrewing.

They also touched upon some of the challenges that they face on a daily basis and the big one was securing the raw materials needed to make beer as well as the difficulty of obtaining certain types of hops and how the weather can affect all of that. On the business side of things, the biggest hurdle was dealing with the growing pains of an expanding brewery and anticipating the unknown.

It is worth noting that when the topic of competition came up, they didn't really view each other as rivals. In fact, Laura even coined the term "Coopertition" because everyone seems to help everyone out should the need arise. In fact, they welcomed it because it allows everyone to keep making good beer.

When asked how they constantly stay on par with their beer, the responses were varied but all pieces of the big picture. Things such as taking criticism, being patient with the process, making a commitment to the product and even turning to other brewers for help. The term "Coopertition" from the previous paragraph applies yet again and it was even touched upon that helping each other out is what makes the North Shore craft beer scene so unique.

The last piece, and arguably the most important I thought, was the role of women in the craft beer industry. It was unanimously agreed upon that women will play a bigger role in the brewing industry in the very near future and they even cited Urban Growler Brewing as an example. For those of you not familiar with the brewery, Urban Growler is a St. Paul-based brewery that will be the first in Minnesota which will be owned by women and brewed by women.

All and all, it was another fine event put on by The Duluth Experience. I would like to extend my personal thanks to Dave Grandmaison and The Duluth Experience for giving me the opportunity to help promote this event and raise awareness of the craft beer scene here along the North Shore. I hope I get the opportunity to work with such a great organization again in the near future.

If you'd like to find out more about The Duluth Experience, you can visit them at www.theduluthexperience.com. They have everything from brewery tours to history and even adventure tours!


- Nick

1 comment:

  1. Nick we are honored that you offered to help promote these events! Thank you!