In 2014, a Stanford University study found that out of 1,700 active breweries surveyed, only 4% had a female head brewer or brewmaster. Despite that statistic, the number of female brewers, owners and even head brewers in the Colorado craft beer industry has exploded in the past four years. While some brewers on our list have been recognized as the first and second female head brewers in the state, others are celebrated as some of the youngest and newest in the industry.
Whether they’ve been brewing for decades or for just a few years, these women know beer. Help us celebrate Colorado’s outstanding women and a few of the state’s best craft brews at the same time. Prost!
Linsey is famous in Colorado and especially in Fort Collins for all she’s done for the local craft beer scene. Her professional story begins as a brewer at Odell Brewing Co. Then, in 2013, she was snagged by Horse & Dragon Brewing Company where she was head brewer and developed some of the recipes for their best flagships, including the Sad Panda coffee stout. Today, she’s brewing at Three Four Beer Co. in Fort Collins where she has free rein over the beer program. As one of the city’s newest breweries, we’re looking forward to the innovative Cornish creations backed by the outstanding team behind the bar and bike shop Road 34.
Kim Jordan is the famous co-founder, former CEO and current executive chair of New Belgium Brewing Company. Thanks to Kim, the company became entirely employee-owned in 2013, and she has led it to become the industry leader in sustainability. And while she remains in the ranks of the most successful female entrepreneurs in the country, she stays true to the company’s 10 core values which include producing world-class beers and having fun.
As specialty brand manager and wood cellar blender, Lauren Woods Salazar was named Imbibe Magazine’s Beer Person of the Year in 2016. In her 20s, Lauren’s love for snow and slopes brought her to Colorado where she eventually landed a position as a part-time assistant at New Belgium when the brewery was just six years old. Over the years, she invented jobs for herself within the company, including sensory specialist which came about when she developed the brewery’s sensory lab. Today, she has nationally famous sour blends under her belt — all of which she blends amongst the brewery’s cellar of 64 oak casks.
Lindsay Barr is one of the masterminds behind New Belgium’s outstanding flavors and pairings. Among many other accomplishments as sensory specialist, she guided and designed the multi-site flavor matching program to successfully produce flavor matched beer. Today, while managing the sensory program, she is also the chair of the American Society of Brewing Chemists Sensory Subcommittee, founding member of the Brewers Association Beer & Food Working Group, instructor for the Siebel Institute Sensory Panel Management course, and co-founder of DraughtLab with Nicole Garneau, PhD (another outstanding female leader on the Colorado beer scene!).
Root Shoot Malting is a beer industry partner and a local grain, craft malt farm located on 1,500 acres of irrigated land in Loveland and it’s led in part by Emily Olander. Emily is co-owner and operator, wife of Todd Olander, a part-time dental hygienist and a craft beer lover. While Root Shoot isn’t a Colorado brewery, the business does drive the entire malting process from seed variety to growth so Colorado breweries and distilleries can use local, consistent and high-quality craft products in their creations. When they began malting, the team’s Kaspar Shulz system was the only one of its kind in operation in the United States and one of three in operation around the world, allowing for custom-made malts for breweries like Woods Boss, WeldWerks Brewing in Greeley, and Loveland’s own Grimm Brothers Brewhouse.
Emily said, “My favorite thing about my position, and our industry in general, is the relationships that are created between us as a supplier, the brewers/distillers and, ultimately, the consumer.” Their small team of four strives to educate the consumer (that’s you!) about agriculture. As the farmer and the maltster, they control the entire grain chain from start to finish and have certainly become experts in their craft. “We love experimenting with different grain varieties, to accommodate specific client needs,” she said. “It’s exciting when we get the opportunity to custom malt our grain that was grown within a mile of our malthouse and see what flavors we can create with each batch.” Track them down at local breweries, distilleries, restaurants and homebrew shops to find out if you’ve tasted Root Shoot!
Today, Alyssa Thorpe (previously Hoberer) is the Brewer and Cellarwoman at Lone Tree Brewing Co. But before she joined the team in Lone Tree, she was a brewer at Aurora’s Mu Brewery and before that, a Veterinary Technician. Still passionate about pets and beer, you can follow her adventures in both on Instagram! She earned her Applied Craft Brewing and Brewing Science degree locally at Regis University. And at Lone Tree, she’s been behind such concoctions as a small batch Green Tea Blonde and her first Lone Tree brew, a Lemon-Lime Saison.
Founders and brewers Ashleigh Carter and Bill Eye believe in tradition and classically brewed lagers that have stood the test of time. As head brewer, Ashleigh has been making headlines before she ever left Prost and when she was at Dry Dock before that. But when she and Bill opened Bierstadt, they resurrected an eighty-four-year-old kettle from Germany and a strict Reinheitsgebot process to crank out some of the city’s favorite Dunkles, Helles, and Pilsners. We have a sneaking suspicion that they’re the city’s favorite because they’re Ashleigh’s favorite and she’s doing what she loves every day of the year.
When Bess Dougherty was hired as a brewer at Denver’s Wynkoop Brewing, she was their first ever female, full-time brewer. After several years of innovation at Wynkoop (and a promotion to Barrel Troll and Head Brewer), she left the team to take the lead at The Grateful Gnome Sandwich Shoppe and Brewery, a brand new venture in Denver. With owner Dan Appell, a former sales guy at Wynkoop, they’ll be serving east-coast style sandwiches and beers brewed in-house by Bess herself.
In December 2016, a group of Colorado female brewers made headlines for a collaboration brew. Led by Kelissa Hieber and Bess Dougherty, the team came together on December 28th to make the first batch at Kelissa’s home brewery, Goldspot. At between eight and nine percent ABV, the imperial saison was aged on ninety pounds of strawberry purée and packed a punch, but it’s not the only Kelissa Hieber beer people are talking about. As the brewer and jack-of-all-trades at Goldspot, she’s produced collaborations with Wynkoop, Cerebral Brewing and Baere in addition to outstanding solo brews like the Cutter IPA and Gus’ Breakfast Porter, a traditional robust porter with cold-brewed coffee and dry-hopped with single-sourced cocoa nibs.
Lady Justice Brewing was founded by the all-female team, Kate Power, Betsy Lay and Jen Cuesta. During a moment that will surely go down in Colorado history, the brewery was born when Kate and Jen were sipping beers and discussing the struggle of sustaining funding for nonprofits, particularly the one they all worked with at the time. Today, they combine their love for beer and their passion for social justice to brew and sell beer that directly supports local business and gives money to organizations which help the community thrive. Though the physical location is used for production only — they’ve adopted a Community Supported Agriculture format for the time being (a CSB, in this case). When you become a member you ensure you get regularly released beers and assist local, philanthropic organizations. For example, the $60 American Strong Ale series consisted of three 22oz bottles of exclusive small batch strong ales to honor strong women and all profits were donated to organizations supporting women and girls.
Before landing a spot on the brew team at Ratio, Ali Benetka was recognized in 2013 at Renegade Brewing as the second female head brewer in Colorado. At Renegade, she rose to head brewer in just four quick months after she proved herself a quick learner and an outstanding brewer. And under Ali’s watch, Renegade was awarded the bronze medal at Great American Beer Festival 2013 for the Hammer & Sickle Russian Imperial Stout. Previously, she has also spent time at Left Hand Brewing Company and Finch’s Brewery in Chicago.
Black Project is the passion project of Sarah Howat and her husband, owner, brewer and blender, James Howat. As owner and operations manager, Sarah has led the brewery to win two bronze medals and one silver for their coolship ales at The Great American Beer Festival in 2014, 2015 and 2017. And if the awards haven’t convinced you already, these aren’t your average, everyday brews. Every Black Project beer is fermented with microbes captured from the local environment or foraged from nature to create complex beverages with a true sense of place. With Sarah and James on watch, you’ll never have the same beer twice at Black Project.
Karen’s story as chief brewista and founder of Holidaily Brewing Co. begins in 2007 when she was diagnosed with melanoma in 2007 then Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and thyroid cancer in 2008. As part of treatment, she cut gluten out of her diet completely, felt huge improvement, and found her passion for gluten-free eats and drinks. Now, with Holidaily, she, her head brewer and their team brew only gluten-free beer which promises no cross contamination and 100% safety for sippers with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. In fact, their ten-barrel system was designed exclusively for gluten-free grain and is the only one of its kind in the world.
Jess Anderson is the head brewer at 3 Freaks Brewery and has been behind some of their most talked about beers, including the Lloyd Christmas Peppermint Chocolate Porter named after Jim Carrey’s “Dumb and Dumber” character. She’s also been on the Makin Noise beer team since the first batch of the now famous beer series. With help from 3 Freaks owners Jeff and Suzanne Atencio, Jess has free rein in the brewery to create the small batch brews that have made them a favorite on the south side of Denver and at Great American Beer Fest!
Do you have a favorite, local and innovative craft brewery? Do you know an amazing Colorado brewer? Give them a shout-out in the comments below!