Women’s History Month Recap 2021

A brief overview of Women’s history Month and the incredible women in the Maryland craft brewing industry.

March is a month that represents a diverse range of things to many folks, but it also happens to be women’s history month. This month in particular has been an active one despite the pandemic still continuing to shift the paradigm for an abundance of us. The month kicked off in fine fashion, harkening back to the days of yore with a women’s brew on March 8th.

 As most of you that have read the book or participated in the beer history walks know, brewing was the purview of women historically. It was our responsibility to make beer and cider for the family along with myriad other tasks like tending the hearth and the kitchen garden.  Many have also heard of Ninkasi, the ancient Sumerian goddess of beer, or Saint Brigid who turned dirty bathwater into beer for both leper and cleric alike, and the list goes on and on.

This is not to say that men were not brewers prior to the colonial era, as they were, but it was a household chore (hardly an appropriate word) that fell to the females of the domicile. The shift away from women as brewers can be seen in colonial America with the build up to war. A need to supply our Revolutionary troops with daily rations of beer (1 qt. of spruce beer per day to be precise) required a scaling up in production. Once brewing was removed from the household it was placed in the hands of men.  Do not misunderstand, some women continued to brew and a few of them brewed on the industrial level until the death knell of the Volstead Act rang its discordant tune.

After Repeal, it was still part and parcel a realm for men, although a new understanding would emerge by the 1940’s, in no small part due to the changing role of women in WWII. They became a target consumer for breweries, and by the 1950’s Maryland breweries like Gunther were completely redesigning workspaces to accommodate female employees. But a return to brewing was a still a ways off for many.

Enter Terry Fahrendorf, and the narrative completely changes- and history along with it! Terry was a female brewer at a time when the industry was male dominated and the Swedish bikini models were still considered a viable default marketing gimmick. Fahrendorf traveled the nation engaging in collaborative brews at each stop. She met very few women in the industry, but those she came across forged an immediate bond and a revolution- a Pink Boots revolution. This was the genesis of the Pink Boots Society, an organization founded by Fahrendorf to not only provide a sisterhood of females in the industry, but educational opportunities and advocacy for women vastly outnumbered in an field that once belonged to us.

Pink Boots has grown exponentially since 2007, as have the number of women returning to this profession. The society provides a strong foundation not only for seasoned industry experts, but those wishing to start their own breweries, or further their new found careers in all aspects of brewing. It is also the basis of the March 8th collaboration. Annually, the Pink boots Society selects a blend of hops in advance of the annual collaboration (usually October), sending the information out to chapters in each region across the nation to plan. This year the hops chosen were:  Ahtanum®, Cashmere, Citra®, Loral®, and Sabro®, creating a blend with tropical, herbal, citrus & woody aromatic qualities.

This year, with the greater Maryland chapter reformulated, Judy Neff, owner and head brewer of Checkerspot Brewing Company played host for the event. The hops would be used in a cold India Pale Lager that also happen to be a little hazy! The socially distanced brew day was a complete success! What set it apart from the other annual collaborations is the team behind this greater Maryland chapter (Amethyst Tymoch & Rachel Bradley) working to put together something exceptional, a collaborative brew day with breakout sessions- making the most of the day.

Dr. Judy Neff of Checkerspot, chatting process with Stef and Hollie

The first session, diversity and inclusion, was extremely impactful. Women in the industry from broad range of backgrounds (Tranice, Courtney, Crystal, Hannah, Kara, Jordan, Diane) shared their experiences and advice on how to improve the relations and make it more inclusive for everyone regardless of race, gender, or sexual preference and believe it or not- make it beer centric. This session was open, vulnerable, true and honest, and like a fine wine will continue to have legs- promising depth, character, and complexity for years to come. This session was an eye opener for some, a moment of solidarity for others. Regardless, it forged a path forward to navigate the complexities of a world that is challenging, painful, exclusionary at times, but inherently capable of becoming diverse, inclusive and healing.

One of my favorite quotes came from Tranice Watts of Patuxent Brewing, “Your only limit is your mind.” Straight forward and undeniably powerful (like the woman herself). People often limit themselves and perhaps need to be reminded to go beyond their self-imposed limits. Change happens with one mind at a time and,  

                                “Diversity is beautiful” Jordan, Waredaca

Jordan of Waredaca

The second session shined the spotlight on Crystal Rivera, co-owner (with her father) of Puerto Rico Distillery in Frederick. Crystal shared her story starting out as homebrewer at FIU, before recapturing her family history. Her father (retired Navy) was considered a Puerto Rican mountain “hillbilly” with a rich culture of making distilled sugar cane (rum) moonshine known as Pitorro. Crystal shared the challenges she faced not only entering an industry that was filled with machismo, but opening in the midst of a pandemic.  Although she found herself making hand sanitizer out of the gate, she eventually created something most Americans had no experience with unless they had traveled to Puerto Rico themselves and were fortunate enough to sample it. Much like brewing, Pitorro wouldn’t be Pitorro without the women. Crystal shared with us that although men historically distilled the rum, the women were the ones infusing it and making it exceptional! She was also kind enough to bring samples of her absolutely delightful creations. I must say the almond was exquisite, balanced and warm, and I cannot wait to make the drive to Frederick for a bottle!

Crystal Rivera and Stef
Angela pouring Pitorro

The third and final session brought with it much fun and technical expertise- the art of beer photography. In this modern day of social media as a prime mode of advertising, great photos are critical to audience engagement and retention. Rachel Bradley of DuClaw shared her expertise, tools and lightbox tips to a successful beer photo creation. This light, fun, yet incredibly helpful session topped an already fabulous day, the rewards of which are ongoing -as witnessed in the improved posts you have probably already seen!

The Pink Boots collaborative brew will be available to consume in April. Two Pink Out release events have already been scheduled at Full Tilt and Ten Eyck. Get your tickets while you can!

I was honored to participate with so many new and many known Pink Boots members that came out to brew (or showed in spirit) on March 8th  :

Cameron – 1623 Brewing

Carrie – 1623 Brewing

Emma –  Astrolab Brewing Company

Jim Baukman-    BAM (Wait a Man?????-LOL! Yes happily invited to cover the event)

Jim and Courtney

Courtney –  Black Beer Geek

Maureen  –  Brewed In Maryland

Hannah – Cans Filling Station

Lynn – Charm City Meadeworks

Judy – Checkerspot Brewing Co

Amethyst – Checkerspot Brewing Co

Rachael – Crooked Crab Brewing

Lily -Denizens Brewing

Lisa -Double Groove Brewing

Christine – Double Groove Brewing

Rachel –     DuClaw Brewing

Tori –      DuClaw Brewing

Sarah –   DuClaw Brewing

Kerry – Frey’s Brewing

Katie – Full Tilt

Amanda -Heavy Seas Brewing

Sarah -Heavy Seas Brewing

Katie – Hopkins Farm Brewery

Kara – Hoppy Black Lady

Caitie – Hysteria Brewing

Lauren –  Hysteria Brewing

Baily – Idiom Brewing Company

Cheri- Idiom Brewing Company

Nancy-  Idiom Brewing Company

Sarah- Idiom Brewing Company

Nikki – Jailbreak Brewing

Laura- Jailbreak Brewing

Erin – Legends Distributing

Chris – Maryland Homebrew

Megan – Media

Cindy –  Mully’s Brewing

Kelly – Mully’s Brewing

Shelley – Olde Mother Brewing

Tranice – Patuxent Brewing

Diane –  Patuxent Brewing

Kate – Pickett Brewing

Angela – Puerto Rica Distillery

Crystal – Puerto Rica Distillery

Rommy – Rockwell Brewing

Lynn from Charm City with Yancy, Nicki and Ingrid of TenEyck

Nicki – Ten Eyck Brewing

Ingrid   – Ten Eyck Brewing

Yancy- Ten Eyck Brewing

Stef – The Wine Source

Hollie -Unaffiliated

Jenna – Union Brewing Company

Sarah –  Union Brewing Company

Morgan-   Union Brewing Company

Jordan –     Waredaca

Brittany – Wylie Gunthers

Why the list you ask? Take a good, long look at this list and realize this includes only a fraction of the women in the industry in Maryland. The tide is shifting…

That by no means wrapped the month however. After a year of waiting Pernicious Mary was finally bottled! Who is Pernicious Mary? In case you missed it (perhaps because of a global pandemic), last March 2020, I collaborated with Judy Neff of Checkerspot Brewing to recreate a 200 year old recipe by a female brewer. This historic old ale was a special occasion brew- requiring an extremely large grain bill, a lot of time, and exceptional attention to detail. Mary, the brewer was a stickler for quality beer, finding standard offerings at taverns to be lacking in quality and quite ‘pernicious”. Hence the name! After a year of barrel aging, Mary was finally ready to be bottled….but Mary requires one more year of cellaring in the bottle! Yes patience is a virtue- but is well worth the wait, as the beer is capable of cellaring for 10 years! Stay tuned event detail will be forthcoming for this limited release.

Bottling Mary

The brand new podcast Brew LaLa was released by Pink Boots chapter leader Amethyst Tymoch, who you might know as the @beerdashian on Instagram, or perhaps she poured you a pint at the spot. Why another Maryland beer podcast you ask?  Diversity is beautiful after all and quite frankly it is different from the other brewing podcasts you might watch. Highlights include the science behind the brewing segments with Dr. Judy Neff, and some fast facts on brewing history with yours truly. This is in addition to myriad other topics and a cavalcade of guests making it both fun and informative!

Images of the participants on Pink Boots Brew Day
Amethyst Pouring a Pint!

On Sunday March 21, I once again was the lucky recipient of an invite to participate in another women’s collaborative brew day. This grapefruit Hefeweizen was brewed for a Mother’s Day 2021 release at Patuxent Brewing Company in Waldorf Maryland in May. This small group brought together experienced brewers with those dreaming of becoming brewers, along with others in the field.  It was an inspired choice for not only the style of beer, but the collection of women. Both ideas were the brainchild of Diane R. (Patuxent Brewing Co. videographer and brewer in training). The day was a captivating mixture of soulful conversation, lighthearted fun, and a splendid feast. A special thank you to Davie Feaster (head brewer) for hosting us and sharing his extraordinary BBQ talents! I look forward to the reunion on Mother’s Day ladies!

On March 22, the latest Revenews podcast hit the airwaves! If you are not familiar with this financial podcast from the Maryland Comptroller’s office, I implore you to tune in. Co-hosts Alan Brody and Samantha Igo keep audiences informed about the latest happenings from the agency with special guests covering a wide array of topics. They keep their listeners engaged with wit, wisdom, and laughter- a must listen! Spoiler alert- I was invited on as a guest (on St. Patrick’s Day none the less) to talk about women in beer and history.  It was a perfect combination for the day and as you will hear- we had grand time. Be sure to check it out!

Speaking of things you need to know… did you know that Manor Hill Brewing changed hands shortly before the pandemic? In December of 2019, Rachel Marriner Mull took the reins from her father Randy. Rachel is a power house who happens to be imminently qualified- and she also happens to be crushing it! Rachel is President and CEO of Manor Hill Productions, Manor Hill Farm LLC, and Victoria Restaurant Group as well as the brewery. She is an unstoppable force not only in the industry, but in the state! I am hoping to garner a more in depth interview for an upcoming future article.

Whew! It has been a busy month and rightfully so. Still, I want to leave you with one last thought, or more of a rule of thumb. When you go to a brewery, or a bar, a distillery, or a winery, a sheet metal fabricator or any business at all, remember one thing:

If a women is the brewer, or the welder, or the distiller, the vlogger or the beertender -assume she is there because she knows what she is doing. She is the expert. Don’t look around for a male counterpart. Instead, assume she knows what she is doing- because she does. She shouldn’t have to work ten times harder because she is a she, but she does, and she knows her stuff- you count on it!

Sláinte!

In the Middle with Erin: A Profile in Distribution

A behind the scenes look at the middle tier with Legend Erin Tyler.

Perhaps too often I profile only one part of the brewing industry- the breweries. On Saturday I was afforded the opportunity to sit down with Erin Tyler, General Manager of Legends Limited Distributing to examine the ‘middle tier’ of the industry while enjoying a beer at Mahaffey’s.  Erin got her start in the industry on the retail side working in restaurants. In 2005 she made the transition to the middle tier at Legends Limited.  A naturally gregarious person that enjoys interacting with people, sales married perfectly with her background in craft beer, wine and spirits. 

Legends Limited was founded by Pat and Sherri Casey in 1994 when they became frustrated by the lack of reputable distributors for their import alcoholic beverage brands. Yes, to clarify Legends started because of imports- not because of craft as it hadn’t really taken off at the time. Craft would soon follow. They opened in the Natty Boh tower at the same time Brimstone Brewing was in residence. When Erin began at Legends they were extremely small- only nine employees. With an unprecedented thirst for knowledge and ever inquisitive, Erin absorbed everything she could from her accounts and the specialists behind the bar/counter like Casey at Max’s Taphouse, Robert from State Line, and Randy from Whole Foods. This was invaluable and helped catapult Erin up the ranks at Legends. As she learned everything she could to maximize her potential, Pat and Sherri Casey sold Legends to a larger family of distributors in 2009, Sheehan Family Companies, a distribution company founded in 1898. This coincided with the rapid proliferation in craft breweries across the country and shifted the focus to specializing in craft and imports. Legends never distributed macro products like Budweiser, remaining dedicated to the craft/import side, and this continued under the new ownership.

Today Legends has eighty five employees, and distributes over forty craft beer brands. They landed five Maryland breweries including Union, RaR, Manor Hill, Oliver Brewing, and Burley Oak. As Erin noted- they are not brand collectors but work specifically with suppliers that fit well with their portfolio. The approach is not to sign breweries unless they can market and place the products with a full devotion of resources. In fact Erin made her opinion quite clear:

“New breweries should self-distribute to learn the ins and outs of distribution, before signing with a distributor.”

Sage advice, and unexpected from the distribution side- but that is what sets Legends apart from other distributors. Their territory covers all of Maryland and Washington D.C.  In 2018 they added 20,000 sf of warehouse space to bring the total to 70, 000 sf of temperature controlled warehouse, complete with cold boxes for all kegs.  This is one of the most critical components for breweries when it comes to choosing a distributor- temperature control to maintain the freshness and quality of the beer. Along with that they hired a new warehouse manager and operations team to change the layout and maximize space and efficiency. Legends is truly a ‘partner’ with their suppliers as they co-op everything: printing (they have an in-house printer), tap handles, POS, glasses, etc. Erin’s sales team is extremely well trained and highly respected for their craft beer/wine/spirits knowledge. This is one of the reasons the relationships Legends maintains with their suppliers is so strong, and why there is little turn over in her sales team. In addition, the company benefits are numerous and generous, from the health insurance to the tuition reimbursement, to the sixteen paid hours of leave for volunteer activities. This is an family-oriented operation, and that is exactly how Erin describes her team- a family, and one she is extremely reluctant to ever consider leaving.

Erin is content at Legends, enjoying the challenges brought on a daily basis from trucks breaking down to beer not coming in when a big event is on tap. She never asks her team to do anything she herself would not do, which has her doing a bit of everything- and she revels in this. There is always quite a lot happening, but she never lets her team lose focus- they need to collaborate and work together to make sure that at the end of the day the customers and suppliers are happy. This is the true end game of the middle tier, and Legends has mastered this. The quality of her team is a large part of the success, but so is consumer education (which her team engages in regularly), continuing education for her employees to learn about new products (and the push to work with the growing population of craft distilleries), and a willingness to adapt their models to the ever-changing climate- whether that be changes in consumer buying or changes in legislation. When queried about the slate of proposed alcoholic beverage bills on the table in the legislature her answer was simple- we have adapted before and will do so again whatever may come.

The recent host of craft breweries that have sold to AB-InBev and Constellation, has required a bit of flexibility on Legend’s part to navigate these uncharted waters. A sale of rare, premium spirits a few years ago required an IT intervention to add the extra digit (five instead of four) in the cost line to log the product in the system. No matter the challenges Legends adapts and one thing remains immovable: they strictly adhere to guidelines governing industry practices, and all reps are extremely well versed in each facet. Erin is very proud of this and this is why they have such a stellar reputation in the craft industry. In addition to this being policy- they are experts at understanding the products, retail spaces, availability of shelf space and refrigeration, and the market.  They do their homework.

This is really the story of Erin and of Legends and how the services they provide cannot be replicated. Whether it be a draft technician- a trade skill that so many people don’t know or utilize anymore, the Micromatic and other industry training classes employees participate in regularly, the BJCP manual used to train all salespeople, or the fact that they consider their most valuable assets at to be human capital…this is a one of a kind operation. Erin Tyler is also one of a kind. She is the only certified cicerone at her company, although the parent company has a master cicerone on staff, and provides funding for employees to complete cicerone certification.

Erin is also one of the very few women in the country heading a distribution house.  She states that she has encountered very little pushback, and her breadth of knowledge allays any concerns a supplier or retail establishment could drum up. Her reputation precedes her. She does acknowledge that things might have been different if she had signed with a macro distributor. The different establishments she would have interacted with might have tipped the balance in a less than favorable way for her and her career.  Erin sees more diversity in the industry now than ever before, and predicts an expanded presence in all tiers. She actively works to bring women in contact with craft beer as a co-founder of the Baltimore Beer Babes, and has helped introduce consumers from all backgrounds to the wonders of craft beverages. This is the industry, the craft industry (whether beer, wine or spirits) and it is her favorite part of the job, working with people- because as a whole they are really good people. This is also where she reminds me that she met her best friend Alice Kistner, owner of Mahaffey’s because of this industry. Years ago when Erin was just a sales rep and Mahaffey’s was one of her clients (when Wayne still owned it) Alice walked in to apply for a job. That was at the beginning of a wonderful and lifelong friendship that has continued to solidify to this day, and even includes annual tropical vacations.

Alice Kistner and Erin Tyler at Mahaffey’s

What does the future hold for Erin and Legends? Personally, she will finish the MBA she has been pursuing at University of Baltimore, and travel. Travelling affords time to completely detach (no cell service) and immerse herself in something entirely new. Croatia was restorative, and stunningly beautiful, while Estonia revealed a burgeoning craft brewing world filled with unexpected and delicious IPA’s. Kosovo, Macedonia, and Albania are next on the itinerary. As for Legends? The focus will shift to a very proactive approach since the last few years have been reactive with the growth of the market. Spending time on strategic/long term planning is priority as Erin wants Legends to be the best specialty beverage distributor in the state in five years. Erin also wants to be the person behind the great breakthrough in craft beer distribution…stay tuned. One thing is certain, she is not leaving Legends:

“I can’t imagine doing anything else- they are my family!”

They are very lucky to have her. Unfailingly Erin operates in the best interest of her suppliers the way she operates in the best interests of her employees, reminding me- “without them where would we be?” I would add to that…without Erin where would Legends be? There is no question they are far better positioned because of her, as are all of their partners from suppliers to retail shops.

After nearly three hours spent on the intricacies of the business, Erin left me with a few golden nuggets to get excited about;

  1. Union Craft Brewing’s release of a new year round IPA- Divine (the name suits it perfectly)
  2. Firestone Walker’s release of Rosalee
  3. Oskar Blues Guns n’ Rosés Ale
  4. Better Wine Company Nitro Rosé in cans

They all sound intriguing! So put on a little David Bowie, or just watch Labyrinth and take a sip of that delightful craft beverage and be grateful Erin and Legends are here in Maryland to deliver it to you- always fresh!

Sláinte