The alcoholic beverage industry has long been a man’s domain, but a growing army of female beer brewers are claiming their place at the top and even garnering accolades for their innovative techniques and concoctions.
1. Carol Pak: Korean rice “beer” in a can
Pak is the founder of Makku, a craft makgeolli brand born in New York City and hand-crafted in Maine. She is deliberately choosing to label her product as unfiltered Korean rice “beer” even though makgeolli is typically described as rice wine. “The brewing process, the canned carbonation and alcohol percentage [are] more in line with a beer than a wine,” Pak says. You can find Makku on the drink menus at notable spots such as Michelin-starred restaurant Jeju Noodle Bar in New York and chef David Chang’s Majordōmo in Los Angeles.
2. Apiwe Nxusani-Mawela: Pilsner made with sorghum
Nxusani-Mawela, recognised as the first black female South African brewmaster, has embraced her heritage with the creation of a pilsner made with sorghum, an indigenous crop that’s also known as great millet. Her microbrewery in Johannesburg is named Brewsters Craft and her beers can also be found at local pubs such as At Hops End Brewpub in Lethabong. She hopes to empower current and future brewers through education and training.
3. Kaori Oshita: Award-winning beers using local produce
Kaori Oshita, who began brewing in 1994 during her college years, helms Minoh Beer in Osaka. The brewery welcomes enthusiasts from all over to have a taste at its warehouse in Makiochi, where the beers are kept cold and away from sunlight because they are unpasteurised and the yeast is active. Oshita’s proudest creations are a stout that won Best Dry Stout at the 2009 World Beer Awards and her Yuzu White – a white ale made with yuzu citrus – that won a gold medal at the World Beer Cup in 2012. Minoh also regularly releases new, limited-time brews such as Monkey Prince, a dark and richly smooth imperial stout.
4. Jenn Merrick: Fresh, hoppy beers
Former Meantime and Beavertown brewer Merrick opened Earth Station Brewery in London in 2017 with friends from brewery design firm Gravity Systems and former Beavertown head of finance Sarah Elkins. American-born Merrick has said that she wants her brewery to be like a social enterprise that benefits the locals. Focusing on “fresh, hoppy” beers, the new brews will be made in a 20bbl kit designed by Gravity Systems. The brewery has a big tap room that’s used for community and educational events, and a training programme for apprentice brewers via social enterprise Pipework. Recently, she partnered Brixton Brewery to produce a special brew with sales proceeds going to charities tackling youth violence.
5. Brey Sloan: Classic IPAs & limited releases
Retired army colonel Brey Sloan was a home brewer for over 20 years before opening Riverwatch Brewery, deemed the first craft brewery in Augusta, Georgia. She now runs it with daughter Anne, a former marine biologist. The brewery has three core brews in addition to limited releases and experimental brews. Riverwatch Brewery also hosts guided tours and offers open spaces for mingling while enjoying a pint of Cautionary, a classic IPA, or Firethorn, a crushable, refreshing beer.
A version of this was published in the January issue of SilverKris