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Beers With(out) Beards craft beer festival toasts women in the industry

“We’re inviting women who haven’t felt comfortable getting involved in craft beer to find the space to grow,” organizer Grace Weitz says.

Anne Becerra, the beverage director of Treadwell Park,

Anne Becerra, the beverage director of Treadwell Park, is New York City's first female certified cicerone. More women have since followed in her footsteps. Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle

When Grace Weitz asks people to envision a craft brewer, almost every time, they picture a man with a beard — and most definitely one sporting a plaid shirt.

“This is the perception I want to change,” says Weitz, a marketing manager at the online beer publication Hop Culture.

This week, the beer enthusiast is organizing Beers With(out) Beards, a feminist festival held across New York City bars from Aug. 7-12 celebrating women who make, promote and love craft beer.

Women are a minority when it comes to craft beer drinkers. According to the Brewers Association, in 2018, 68.5 percent of men, versus 31.5 percent of women, said they drink craft beer. But female imbibers are steadily on the rise — up from 29.1 percent in 2015.

Since moving to New York from Chicago — where she felt “ostracized” from the beer community, with very few women in the industry to connect with — Weitz has found a “strong community” of female brewers and enthusiasts. With Beers With(out) Beards, which will feature talks with brewers and authors and a craft beer tasting festival, Weitz wants to put a spotlight on the women contributing to the scene and further create a space for them to connect.

“We’re inviting women who haven’t felt comfortable getting involved in craft beer to find the space to grow, and New York makes a great place for hosting this first event,” says Weitz, 29, who hopes to make Beers With(out) Beards an annual occurrence.

Among those participating is Anne Becerra, who holds the distinction as New York City’s first female certified cicerone — like a sommelier, but for beer.

Becerra’s original passions were wine and food. But about a decade ago, “cool labels and funny names” lured her into craft beer, where she started discovering unique flavors at a more affordable price point than fine wine.

“It came down to flavor,” says Becerra, the beverage director for the craft beer hall Treadwell Park, which has locations on the Upper East Side and in Battery Park. “I had no idea these flavors existed, and these beers are not just kitschy but actually really, really good.”

At Treadwell Park, Becerra’s in charge of education, where she aims to promote awareness and community, as many craft breweries aren’t heavy on advertising. She notes that she sees the industry and perception of who works in (and drinks!) beer “already starting to change,” with “awareness” being the key to more involvement and more women pursuing beer as a career.

“There’s a lot of space for growth in the industry, and there couldn’t be a better time [for women to get involved],” says Becerra, who is hosting a beer tasting workshop on Aug. 12 as part of the festival.

One of the city’s most buzzy brewers — female or otherwise — is Katarina Martinez. The 30-year-old founder of Lineup Brewery helped make a name for herself with “Bïeryoncé,” a Beyoncé-inspired Pilsner that got a cease-and-desist letter last year from Queen Bey’s legal team.

Martinez’s interest in brewing started long before she made headlines with her punny can. The Colorado native learned about beer by volunteering in breweries and picked up a home-brewing hobby. Four years ago, she moved to Brooklyn, fortuitously landing near Bitter & Esters, a home-brewing shop in Prospect Heights. She continued her hobby, eventually quitting her full-time job to start her own brewery.

“It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done and possibly the craziest,” says Martinez, whose brewery will be among the more than 20 represented at Beers With(out) Beards’ tasting festival on Aug. 11. “But most brewers were home brewers before they were professional brewers.”

As the owner of Lineup, Martinez oversees everything, from creating the beers she sells to getting new accounts to fundraising to secure her own space. She currently brews on Long Island, and, after most recently sharing a taproom with Industry City Distillery until a few weeks ago, is scouting for a new spot in Brooklyn. Bars that have Lineup on draft include Blind Tiger and BeerZaar, both in the West Village.

Even though she had to stop selling her breakout “Bïeryoncé,” Martinez says it was a success in opening the door for women to get excited about craft beer.

“I try and get women more interested in beer because it’s pretty male-dominated,” says Martinez, who’s seen firsthand at packed women-specific beer events that there’s a rampant female interest in craft beer, but notes that “women don’t want to go to male-dominated events.”

In addition to the rare female brewer, NYC is home to minority-owned breweries that are starting a conversation about inclusion. Martinez, who is Hispanic, is joined by the likes of the female- and black-owned Harlem Brewing Company.

Brewer Celeste Beatty founded Harlem Brewing Company in 2000, creating Harlem-inspired craft brews like 125 IPA and Sugar Hill Golden Ale, available at neighborhood spots including Sylvia’s and Harlem Hops.

Lately, Beatty has been focused on collaboration and education. She’s fresh back from a trip to North Carolina, where she worked with brewers at Rocky Mount Mills and explored an initiative with historically black colleges and universities for a class on the brewing industry.

“I’m really, really big on trying to do what I can to get more women in the industry, and more diversity — how do you invite people in that may not have typically been a part of the industry? How you broaden the scope of opportunity?” says Beatty, who is looking forward to checking out Beers With(out) Beards events. “I’ve been doing a whole lot more of that probably than brewing beer these days. I’m very, very excited about it — if we can make a difference and open up avenues to people that didn’t even know it was something they can do.”

Enter events like Beers With(out) Beards. And despite the name of the festival, everyone — of legal drinking age, of course — is welcome to attend, bearded or not.

“Our goal is for men to come and recognize the rad women that are brewing beer and working in beer,” Weitz says. “It’s 100 percent for everyone.”

With Meredith Deliso

More names to know in NYC’s craft beer scene

  • Sophia Del Gigante: Founder of Beer Fit Club, a New York City-area community that combines craft beer and fitness, like yoga classes held in breweries. Find her at Beers With(out) Beards: Hosting Beer + Yoga on Aug. 12 at Five Boroughs Brewing Co.
  • Lauren Grimm: Co-founder of the brewery Grimm Artisanal Ales, which recently opened its Bushwick brewery and taproom. Find her at Beers With(out) Beards: Beerded Ladies Beer Trivia at Glorietta Baldy on Aug. 8, tasting festival at The Well on Aug. 11
  • Mary Izett: Co-owner of Fifth Hammer Brewing in Long Island City, host of the Heritage Radio Network podcast “Fuhmentaboudit!,” author of “Speed Brewing” and New York chapter leader for the Pink Boots Society. Find her at Beers With(out) Beards: Special episode of “Fuhmentaboudit!” on Aug. 7; panelist on Women Re-Writing the Business of Beer at Fifth Hammer Brewing on Aug. 9
  • Danii Oliver: Founder of Island to Island Brewery, a Prospect Lefferts Gardens-based brewery, fermentary and juicery that specializes in craft beer, cider, kombucha and more with nods to her Caribbean heritage.
  • Ann V. Reilly: Events and promotions coordinator at Five Boroughs Brewing and founder of @nyccraftbeer, a social media brand dedicated to promoting NYC craft beer for everyone, because beer doesn’t have a gender. Find her at Beers With(out) Beards: Panelist on Women Re-Writing the Business of Beer at Fifth Hammer Brewing on Aug. 9

IF YOU GO

Beers With(out) Beards is Aug. 7-12 | for the full schedule and tickets, visit hopculture.com

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