Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Women of Beer: Ally Duffy with Wild Leap Atlanta

By Kerri Allen

Many people know Wild Leap Brew Company from their hip beers, such as Alpha Abstraction Double IPA, but did you know that Wild Leap recently hired a rockin' female brewer for their Atlanta location? Meet Ally Duffy of Wild Leap Atlanta.

Ally did not start with the idea of being a brewer. Although a fan of craft beer, she was pursuing a different path. Ally talks about her circuitous route to head brewer by recalling, “I started 'beertending' part-time at my friends’ A Little Madness Brewing in Pensacola while working full-time in marine biology for the US EPA and finishing graduate school for my master's degree in biology. I was already a craft beer enthusiast, but I felt inspired by all the creative ideas and experimentation I didn’t realize went into brewing a beer."

A Fortuitous Meeting

After finishing her degree, Ally and her “now-husband” moved to Columbus, Georgia. Being landlocked, she decided to temporarily return to craft beer while searching for a science job. "This temporary plan turned into a newfound passion and career when I met the brewers of LaGrange's Wild Leap Brew at an event," she recalls. "I joined their production team in April of 2020, started in the 940-barrel capacity cellar, and was quickly cross-trained to brew 30-barrel batches of Wild Leap's core and seasonal beers.”

Later in 2020, due to the pandemic, Ally and her husband moved to Knoxville, Tennessee. About her growth as a brewer, Ally comments, “I continued as an assistant brewer until I felt I had outgrown that role and wanted to brew my own recipes.” When she was ready, Ally landed the job as head brewer at Knoxville's Elst Brewing Company, where her duties included brewing, cellaring and kegging all of the products by herself. "These challenges taught me how to work with and around my strengths and weaknesses and honed my creative problem-solving skills," she notes. "Working alone at Elst taught me to trust my knowledge and gut instincts. I sometimes had to make snap decisions in the best interest of the beer without being able to ask for a second opinion, and this is one of the greatest skills I left with.”

Georgia on Her Mind

On coming full circle and moving back to Georgia to rejoin Wild Leap, Ally relates, “The well-rounded experience within all of the production roles at Elst prepared me for my current role as head brewer of Wild Leap Atlanta. I run a five-barrel brewhouse at the Atlanta facility with an 80-barrel capacity cellar. I choose what beers we make and get to add an experimental component to each recipe, meaning we are trying a new ingredient or technique with every single batch we brew. I will eventually be in charge of a small team and look forward to the fun beers we’ll be producing!”

When asked about her favorite aspect of being in the brewing industry, Ally talks about the critical link between creativity and teamwork. Ally enthusiastically states, “Brewing is a technical craft, a science and an art. I loved using the scientific method to develop research questions and perform experiments as a marine biologist. Brewing allows me to continue to apply these background skills while expressing my creativity through ingredients to create art.”

A Rewarding Work Environment

As with any job, having a good work environment helps foster enthusiasm and passion, making the hard work worthwhile. How does Ally's current position fit in this love of brewing? She observes, “It can be rare in our industry to find a company where the ownership, production staff and front-of-house staff all work together smoothly as a dedicated, cohesive team. It takes a healthy company culture to achieve this; Wild Leap has focused on these goals from the start. When I come to work, I know we all respect each others’ important roles and are there to work together toward the common goal of selling our products and creating memorable experiences for our guests. We all support each other in pushing the brewery's creative direction forward and pushing ourselves to perform our best and grow in our respective roles. I love this feeling!”

In the still male-dominated world of brewing, some folks still forget that women can do anything that men can do.  When asked about her biggest challenge and greatest reward, Ally confides, “Earning respect as a woman in this male-dominated industry has undoubtedly been one of my biggest challenges, especially when I had to start over in a new city. I was one of four female brewers within an hour's radius at the time and the only female brewer in the city limits of Knoxville by the time I left Elst. From dealing with biased views such as 'Can she even lift a bag of grain or operate a forklift?' to being treated differently by freight delivery drivers or being called rude names by a few colleagues in the industry, I've had to step up and prove my worth constantly. My greatest rewards are defying expectations and rising to a head brewer role. Knowing my current bosses trust my vision for the beers and will offer me mentorship to help me grow has proven invaluable.”

The Importance of Inclusion

As to why women are vital to the industry, Ally brings up her respect for uniqueness and diversity. She explains, “Every single person on this planet perceives the world in a unique way. When you want your product to be as unique as possible to compete in an inundated market, why wouldn’t you hire as many diverse types of people as possible to bring more ideas and skills to the table? It's the responsibility of brewery ownership and production managers to invest in hiring, supporting and promoting more women, non-binary folks and BIPOC in this industry. Owners and managers must also write and enforce codes of conduct for all their employees to create safe workspaces where everyone is respected. Word spreads quickly in the service industry, and workers know which establishments have good reputations and which ones they should avoid. If you strive to create a truly inclusive company, more diverse groups of people will want to work for you.”

In addition to creating a safe and equitable work environment, Ally shares a few ideas on attracting more women to the brewing industry. “Spreading awareness about various roles in the brewing industry creates another pathway for engaging more people," she notes. "While working in production and bartending is considered labor-intensive with lots of bending, heavy lifting and working on your feet all day, women are absolutely physically capable of these tasks. Ladies might have to apply some creative problem-solving to get the job done by working around stature and physical abilities, and a truly supportive manager will have no problem helping troubleshoot if needed. The manual labor jobs aren’t the only option either. There are also plenty of other opportunities in craft beer such as marketing, graphic design, sales, distribution, administrative roles and more.”

Atlanta craft beer enthusiasts have embraced Ally's beers at the atmospheric Wild Leap Atlanta taproom, conveniently located near downtown's Mercedes-Benz Stadium. “My first beers at Wild Leap Atlanta were released during the first week of September and are available in the taproom only, so I invite everyone to visit us," Ally says. "Besides beer, we offer craft cocktails with our in-house spirits, mocktails and vodka-based slushies, so there’s something for everyone.” Thanks, Ally - please save us a bar stool.

This article was first published in:

Lynette Shoaf of Low Road Brewing in Hammond, Louisiana

By Kerri Allen
Imagine taking over your favorite brewery because you liked it so much and didn’t want to see it go away. Lynette Shoaf and her husband, Tim, did exactly this with Low Road Brewing in Hammond, Louisiana. The community's thirsty patrons have been appreciative ever since. 
According to Lynette, “Low Road was originally opened in 2017 by a former homebrewer after retiring from a corporate career. My husband, Tim, and I enjoyed the atmosphere and became regulars in the taproom. We were avid home mead makers at the time, and the original Low Road owner would invite homebrewers to bring their recipes in to brew with him. The brewery would then feature the guest beer on tap for a month. This experience was our introduction to brewing beer, and we brewed with him several times over the first few years. In early 2020, the original owner wanted to retire again, and we decided to purchase the brewery. We didn't want to see the brewery close and felt we could grow the business. We signed the purchase agreement the week before COVID shut the world down. We continued working full-time jobs in the corporate world while operating the brewery once restrictions allowed us to open at partial capacity. This allowed us to keep the brewery open.”
Raise your pints to Louisiana's first female head brewer - Lynette Shoaf! In early discussions, her husband and fellow owner, Tim, would be the brewer, and Lynette would handle the front of the house and other business areas. Like any good story, this one has a twist. Lynette shares, “We quickly realized I was better at recipe creation, and I really developed a passion for brewing. I started learning as much as I could about brewing through books, professional organization resources and from other brewers. Tim stepped back from the brewery, and I became the first female head brewer in the state.”

Tim and Lynette Shoaf 
Challenges Create Strength
After dealing with the pandemic and all of its challenges for businesses, Lynette and Tim have been successful in growing Low Road. Lynette recalls, “In late 2021, we changed our licensing from a brewpub to a manufacturing brewery so we could go into distribution. This has really fueled significant growth for our brand. With only a 3-bbl brewhouse, it requires a lot of brewing to keep up with taproom and distribution demand.” 
Being flexible and working through challenges says much about Lynette's passion for the craft and her understanding of the business. Owning a brewery is not a walk in the park. People who do not know better probably imagine a leisurely brew day with a relaxing pint at the end. However, those familiar with professional brewing understand the huge amount of work, cleaning and maintenance involved. These are the challenges of living out the dream of making beer for the public. On this thread, Lynette comments, “Even though we eventually added some part-time brewhouse and taproom staff, I was often working 15-18 hour days between my other job and the brewery, and the stress began to take a significant toll on my health. I eventually decided to leave my job in the corporate world to focus on our brewery full-time.”
When asked about her favorite part of being involved in a brewery, Lynette responds, “I love working in an industry where the other brewery owners and staff are collaborative and supportive of each other, rather than being competitive like most other industries. Most people in craft beer seem more than happy to share knowledge and resources and work together to improve the industry.” 
The Low Road Team
An Evolving Brewing Landscape
Every good job has its challenges and rewards. Lynette says that her biggest challenge “has been staying profitable in a constantly changing environment. Changing consumer habits and tastes and rising ingredient and supply costs, paired with availability issues, often create a struggle. Craft beer consumers expect our core brands to be consistent, available, and reasonably priced. When ingredient prices rise, or something isn't available, we can't always substitute something else without affecting the final product. So, you might have to raise prices, which the market will only tolerate so much. We never want to run out of one of our core products. It's much harder to bring consumers back to that product once they move on to something else. Fortunately, the majority of our beers are traditional beer styles. Our top sellers are an American lager and an Irish red ale, so current trends moving consumers back to these traditional styles actually work in our favor.” 
What is rewarding after all of the challenges? Lynette states, “The greatest reward is when a patron comes into the taproom for the first time, and I get to see their reaction when they try my beer. If they have no idea who I am, and they appreciate my beer, it's a wonderful feeling. Having people genuinely enjoy something I created makes it worth the long hours, hard work and stress-filled days.”
Low Road's Brewhouse
Not All Brewers Have Beards
Women make up half the population of the world. So many industries miss opportunities to have amazing people working in them because of a “boys club” mentality. When asked why women are important to the industry, Lynette responds, “Just like any industry, a variety of people with different ideas, backgrounds and personalities are vital for growth. If everyone in the industry is the same with the same ideas, the craft beer industry stagnates. We need the creativity and variety that arise from having many different people in the industry, each challenging the others to improve."
For craft breweries to attract more women, Lynette believes that the public's perception of a craft brewer needs to change. "There have been many instances in our taproom or at a craft beer event where someone assumes Tim is the brewer," she relates. "They ask him about a particular recipe or process, and when he admits that he doesn't know and that I'm the brewer, people sometimes don't believe him. I've been referred to as 'the owner's wife' or 'the brewer's wife' on multiple occasions. The expectation that a brewer has to be a 30-something white male with a beard needs to shift.” 
Community Connections
What can people expect when paying a visit to Low Road Brewing? Lynette stresses that Low Road is a brewery with a heart for the community. She adds, “One of the things we love about owning a brewery is that it gives us a great platform to support veterans. Our top-selling beer, Twenty-Two American Lager, is brewed specifically for this purpose. We donate 22% from sales of this beer to Irreverent Warriors, a nationwide program that works to improve veteran mental health and prevent veteran suicides. We also host an annual amateur wing cookoff and homebrew competition called 'Wings & Ale.' This November festival raises funds for our local VFW.” Head on down to Low Road Brewing in Hammond, Louisiana, hoist a tasty pint and help some deserving veterans in the process. 
This article was first published in:
 Photos Courtesy of Low Road Brewing

Monday, July 17, 2023

Tasty Southeastern Beer Reviews & Food Pairings


By Owen Ogletree and Kerri Allen
Hooter Brown
Oyster City Brewing Company
Apalachicola, Florida
Imperial Brown Ale, 8.5% ABV
Deep brown in color with a moderate tan head, this beer offers aromas of dark malt, cocoa, chocolate, toffee, pie crust and mild, pleasant, dark fruit esters. The palate picks up alcohol warmth along with slightly sweet malt complexity backed by caramel and chocolate candy notes. There's also complexity from nuances of raisin, fig and ripe plum esters. Appropriately, almost no roasted malt character emerges in this wonderfully malty, medium-bodied brown ale. Pair with desserts such as cheesecake, fruit tarts and French vanilla ice cream.
Imperial Hopsecutioner IPA
Terrapin Beer Company
Athens, Georgia
Double IPA, 9.8% ABV
Almost clear with just a hint of haze, the deep amber color and long-lasting off-white foam make this strong ale quite attractive. Look for moderate aromas originating from a range of U.S. hops that are reminiscent of citrus, pineapple and pine resin. The hefty malt bill also comes through on the nose with notes of caramel and toffee. A bit sweet for style, the beer's crystal malts and toasted malts are lightly balanced by tropical, resiny hop flavors. The big malt canvas could perhaps benefit from a bit more hop bitterness, and the beer finishes malty and boozy with a hint of alcohol spice and warmth. Pair this potent ale with gumbo, pad Thai or Indian butter chicken.
Retrospect IPA
Arches Brewing
Hapeville, Georgia
West Coast-Style IPA, 6.5% ABV
This ale pours with a deep amber color that falls on the dark end of the style's color spectrum. Brilliantly clear, the ale also boasts a substantial layer of tan foam. The nose picks up malt, caramel, toasted bread crust, light fruity esters and hop notes of citrus, pine resin and a hint of blood orange pith. On the tongue, malty, toffee-like notes appear up front, followed by earthy hop flavors and hints of pine bark. Hop bitterness seems mild for the style, but the beer comes across as quite approachable. One taster noticed a nuance of dark berries and pineapple in the ester profile. Pour this beer alongside turkey burgers with brown mustard or lemon pepper chicken wings.
Passion on Ponce IPA
Three Taverns Craft Brewery
Decatur, Georgia
American IPA with Passion Fruit, Orange & Guava, 7.5% ABV
With a deep gold color and apricot hue, this fruited IPA pours with a fluffy off-white head and almost perfect clarity. Expect aroma notes of rich passion fruit along with some orange hints and an earthy, tropical fruit juice character. A touch of hoppy pine resin notes comes through in the background. The flavors seem more balanced than the fruity nose, with citrusy American hops peeking through the fruit canvas. On the palate, a light malt character transitions quickly into a mélange of orange pith, tart passion fruit and earthy guava. The beer finishes dry with a light/medium body and a tasty bitter hop/fruit nuance that lingers on the back of the tongue in a welcoming way. Drink this beer with a plate of Caribbean grilled shrimp or jerk chicken with grilled pineapple. 
Italian-Style Pilz
Ology Brewing Company
Tallahassee, Florida
Italian-Style Pilsner, 5.0% ABV
Expecting a crystal-clear, crisp pilsner? Think again. Ology's take on the style pours with a gold/orange hue and appropriate white foam, but the lager showcases an unexpected haze. Aromas come through that make the beer seem more like a hop-forward hazy pale ale with tropical fruit notes. There's pilsner malt in the smell, along with significant New World hop character. On the palate, the beer again comes across like a hazy India Pale Lager with earthy hops, mineral-rich water and tropical fruit notes similar to light papaya. The beer finishes with a chalky dryness and pleasing hop nuance. Overall, this selection is delicious and enjoyable, even if it doesn't match the Italian pilsner style guidelines to a tee. White pizza or raw oysters would make a beautiful match for this lager.
Pales in Comparison
Edmund's Oast Brewing
Charleston, South Carolina
Double Dry-Hopped Hazy Pale Ale, 5.0% ABV
The beer pours with a golden color, moderate haze and a light layer of off-white bubbles. Aroma notes include green tea, jasmine, Mandarin oranges, kiwi fruit, light malt and cereal grains. Upon taking a sip, the palate registers many of the same aroma characteristics. There are also hints of buttery cashews and light, fruity hop flavor notes. The ale finishes dry with mild hop bitterness and a tropical citrus nuance. This pale ale's malt profile produces an appealing, refreshing, light body and character. The cereal grains help create the haze and perhaps somewhat mute the malt and hop complexity. The dry nature of this beer makes for a smart pairing with gyoza potstickers or shrimp with lobster sauce.
Wild Streak
Bearded Iris Brewing
Nashville, Tennessee
Sour Ale with Rosemary, Orange Peel & Vanilla, 5.1% ABV
A golden tone, white foam and slight haze highlight the appearance of this complex sour ale. Rosemary and other herb notes dominate the aroma profile, with peppercorns, crisp lactic acid, passion fruit, citrus peel, lemon and cucumber nuances emerging to enhance the overall flavor canvas. Expect a light body and crisp, refreshing, fruity, dry finish that continues to showcase the rosemary/herbal character after swallowing. The beer seems reminiscent of a dry, lightly acidic, refreshing white wine. Good pairings would include green olives, linguine with clam sauce or oven-roasted potatoes.
Chandeleur Island Brewing Company
Gulfport, Mississippi
Golden Ale, 5.0% ABV
With a golden tone, nice layer of white foam and attractive clarity, this quaffable golden ale serves up mild malt aromas and flavors of lightly sweet bread along with some cereal notes from additions of wheat and corn. The light body comes across as soft and lightly creamy with a hint of malt sweetness in the finish, balanced by a touch of citrusy American hop flavor and mild bitterness. Fruity esters are restrained, and the ale could almost pass for a lager, due to the clean nature of the mouthfeel and finish. This classic "beer-flavored-beer" shines with subtle complexity and good technical merit. In the spirit of the Gulf Coast, this beer would pair perfectly with a grouper sandwich and fries.
Published Originally in:

Thursday, July 6, 2023

Women of Beer: Rachel Breite of Idyll Hounds Brewing


By Kerri Allen

Jack-of-all-trades stands out as a great moniker and job description for folks who make craft beer, and brewer Rachel Breite labels herself as exactly this. Rachel has been the brewer for Idyll Hounds Brewing Company in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, since December 2022. Before landing at Idyll Hounds, she started as head brewer for The Brew Pub (Ye Olde Brothers’ Brewery in Navarre, Florida). She moved from there to 3rd Planet Brewing in Niceville, Florida, before settling in at Idyll Hounds. 

Science is science, right? Rachel reminisces, “I got my start in craft beer in a less traditional route. My background is in Marine Biology, and I worked as a fisheries biologist prior to taking on the craft beer industry. I was in my mid-twenties at the time and was working as a bartender for a local craft brew pub in addition to laboring in my science field. I had a passion for the craft of beer and found myself in the back brewery more and more often, with questions about the process and styles. I really soaked up every bit of knowledge I could about beer from grain to glass. The owners noted my interest and appreciated my background in hard science, so I jumped at the opportunity when they asked me if I would be interested in brewing for them. I worked hard, studied at home a lot, and was fortunate to be surrounded by some amazing brewers in my community who supported me and helped me grow into the professional I am today. Now I am fortunate enough to say that I have been brewing professionally for just over five years."

Is science more enjoyable when you can share and drink the product of your labors? When asked what she loves most about being a part of a brewery, Rachel discusses her love for the amalgamation of art and science. She explains, "I think that it's incredible to be able to understand the science going on behind the brewing, fermenting, and cellaring processes; and to then be able to manipulate different variables to create the beer that you want. As much as it's a science, I believe there's an art to it too. You can hone in on specific flavor and aroma profiles by understanding the science and ingredients and how they interact. This allows brewers to craft the beer art of their dreams. Plus, getting to share my hard work and passion in a glass with others is just a really special feeling.” 

Who is 5’1” and totally badass? That would be Rachel Breite. Some height-challenged people complain about not being able to reach the top cabinets in their kitchen. Try hauling a 50-pound bag of grain or changing bulky fittings on a brew tank. When asked about her biggest brewing challenge, Rachel quips, “My stature is probably an obvious challenge; at 5'1", I have to use ladders and think smarter and not harder for many tasks around the brewery. I'm proud to say that I may be small, but I work hard, am strong, and can usually do almost any task solo. However, there is no use in being prideful, and there's nothing wrong with asking for help. My coworkers are always quick to jump in.” 

On a more serious note, Rachel mentions that self-doubt has been a difficult challenge. Her busy mind constantly makes her question if she is doing her best. She relates, “Despite being incredibly passionate about beer, regarding everything from the raw ingredients to the brewing and fermentation processes to the history and differentiation between global styles, I have asked myself more than once if I am doing enough. Am I good enough? Is my craft enough? I think it's easy to look around at fellow brewers and other breweries around the country and the world and compare yourself to them.” 

Rachel says she is overcoming this self-doubt and becoming more confident in her craft. Her secret, which she finds quite fulfilling, revolves around research. “I have found that as long as you're crafting the beer that you want and staying true to yourself, nothing can touch that," she says. "Do the research, know your styles, listen to the science, and you can brew whatever your heart desires. Yes, I can do it. Yes, I'm good enough."

Rachel enjoys being creative and working with various ingredients; botanicals have caught her attention recently. "It's incredible to be able to nail a beer that you crafted in your head - to see it and enjoy it in person and share it with people that you care about and know will appreciate your hard work," she notes. 

When asked why women and minorities are vital to this industry, Rachel stresses the importance of everyone having an equal platform to share their stories and passion. "In doing so, we create greater representation within the brewing community," she says. "I truly believe that everyone has a unique vision and a different way of looking at the world and that this carries over into their craft - whatever that may be. In the case of beer, women and minorities bring different visions, different creativity, and different approaches to the industry. This helps to not only diversify the workforce, but it also diversifies craft beer as a whole." 

As far as attracting more women and minorities to the beer industry, Rachel observes, "We need to practice inclusion by opening doors for others within our industry and creating safe and diverse industry spaces ranging from production to sales and marketing."

As a BJCP judge, Rachel enjoyed judging the Best Florida Beer competition this year. She also recently participated in the Dark Embrace Invitational Beer Festival in Tampa which she notes was an “incredible” event. Rachel also acts as the Pink Boots Society Panhandle representative for Florida.


Monday, March 27, 2023

Women of Beer: Nicole Cendrowski, Fireforge Crafted Beer


Meet Nicole Cendrowski of Fireforge Crafted Beer in Greenville, SC
By Kerri Allen
If you check out the website for Fireforge Crafted Beer (Greenville, South Carolina) and read the “about” information, you will find the sentences, “Create with passion. Serve with enthusiasm.” Upon visiting the taproom, patrons immediately feel the passion and enthusiasm behind the brewery's range of appealing beers.
Fireforge co-owner Nicole Cendrowski explains her first look into the world of craft beer. “Initially, I cultivated my love of craft beer when visiting brewpubs while traveling with my dad for his work trips in my teens in the late 1990s. My dad was excited and curious about "micro-brews," and he'd let me have sips of nut brown ales and porters. The aromas lingering after an on-site brew day and fermentation, plus the coziness and camaraderie of the taproom as guests would unwind after their workdays, were palpable to observe as a young person. While I couldn't legally partake of the product, these environments felt welcoming and unique.” 
Brewery Beginnings 
Those early experiences with Nicole's father sparked an interest in trying all the interesting brews she could find - once she could legally drink, of course. Ten years later, Nicole found herself homebrewing with her husband, Brian, while continuing to explore the commercial beer scene. “There were very few breweries in South Carolina at that time, so if I heard of a new one opening up, I'd reach out, learn their story and write about them in beer-focused publications. We started to develop more relationships within a very fledgling industry in our region, and things just grew from there.” 
In June of 2018, Fireforge Crafted Beer was born in Greenville, South Carolina. Professionally, Nicole worked in marketing communications, brand development and business development/sales, which have proven to be necessary skills for starting a new brewery.
When asked what she loved most about being a part of a brewery, Nicole responded, “Being able to create something out of nothing. Whether it's a new beer concept; can label design; discerning ways for a team member to contribute more creatively in the business and meet their goals; hosting a new Fireforge special event and building that tradition over the years, or simply sharing thoughts on an ideal pairing for one of our beers and sandwiches, I'm grateful to be at the helm of helping build a sustainable, happy and creative place to work.” 
Many Responsibilities, Many Talents
Passion and enthusiasm can give you the drive, but with any industry come challenges and rewards. As far as the biggest challenge, Nicole admits, “My biggest challenge is that we're still a small business, which may not always lend itself to specialization outside of our small brew team. We're all wearing many hats. We have so many ideas and limited time, so investing the time to more effectively engage people on our team, recruiting new people, delegating and collaborating in ways that make Fireforge better is important to figure out right now.” Although building a business has its uphill battles, the rewards are there as well. “The reward is when our team is firing on all cylinders, giving me an opportunity to work on the business and help Fireforge become more profitable and sustainable while providing me some time to rest and recharge. Quiet time out on the trail in the woods on a bike or on foot is sublime,” Nicole acknowledges.
There are more and more women joining the industry. When asked why women are vital in the industry, and how more women could be encouraged to become a part of the craft beer movement, Nicole stated, “Every individual is unique, offering different gifts to the world and workplace, independent of gender. However, women are amazing. The women that inspire me the most are intuitive, resilient, approachable, creative, organized, action-oriented, respected and motivating, all under an invisible cloak of warmth - yet you feel it! They recognize the door of opportunity that others don't - and will open those doors - for their own good and the good of others.” As to bringing more women in, she says, ”It's raising awareness that a brewery business isn't just a guy with some tanks and taps. There are many roles and responsibilities that go into developing a healthy brewery taproom business.”
Five Years of Fireforge
The brewery scene in Greenville, South Carolina, continues to grow. If you want to check out what Fireforge Crafted Beer has in its sights for 2023, Nicole comments that soon, “we'll hopefully be in full springtime swing as we open our garage doors and our beer garden feels like a big front porch. Fireforge is turning five years old over the weekend of June 16-18, and we'll host our three-day anniversary party with special beer releases, yummy food and live music.” 
Patrons can sample Fireforge's delicious variety of craft beers and pair some beers with one of the brewery's awesome sandwiches or “sassy” sides. Try their three-cheese grilled cheese with Irrational Confidence, a lovely red IPA. If your sweet tooth is beckoning, try one of their desserts or sweet treats of the week with You Silly Gooseberry Saison or Cherry Sour Ale. Nicole will most likely be there chatting with everyone. 
Published Originally in:
Photos by Owen Ogletree and Fireforge Crafted Beer.

Friday, February 10, 2023

Women of Beer: Abby McLocklin Cheng


By Kerri Allen
Abby McLocklin Cheng
Former CEO of Orpheus Brewing Company, Atlanta, GA

We all know that the brewing industry has been "male heavy" for a long time; however, over the last couple of decades more and more women are finding careers within the brewing world. In centuries past, most women were brewers, and it is only fitting that we celebrate the modern-day women who have found their calling in this niche of the beverage world.

"Women make up around half of the population. That is a staggering amount of underutilized expertise that comes from generations of wisdom, different ways of thinking, and eyes that offer alternative insights. The female customer base in craft beer is only growing, so the more representation from the other side of the counter (be it in production, management, sales, serving, etc.), the better!" The words of Abby Cheng, CEO of Orpheus Brewing in Atlanta, GA ring true from someone who started their career in the restaurant industry. Abby went on to say, "More women will feel comfortable venturing into the male-heavy industry if they see themselves well-represented. It goes without saying that this applies to many under-represented demographics, and I believe that women are in one of the prime spots to advocate for this type of change and inclusivity."

As graduate of culinary school, Abby's personal journal into the beer world tells the tale of someone who appreciates hand-crafted, great-tasting products. "From working in some stellar restaurant kitchens, to sharing my love of education teaching classes at Total Wine, to being in the middle of Georgia's booming beer scene working at Hop City's OG location, I've become the product of a lot of experiences that are both traditional and non-traditional. Needless to say, working around so many interesting beers shifted my passion and focus, and it was then that I began to find my way into the brewing community around metro Atlanta. What a community! This group of people was so welcoming and seemed so sincerely excited that I was finding my way into their world. After a quick departure a little deeper into the fine wine and craft spirits world, I realized that beer was no longer as central to my day-to-day routine as I wanted it to be. So, I worked out a deal with Hop City so that they could utilize my wine knowledge while I could also be surrounded by beer." 

After time spent with Total Wine, Abby worked for Atlanta-based New Realm, starting as a sales representative and ending up in the Senior Market Development Manager role before accepting a position as Director of Sales at Orpheus. As Orpheus' new CEO, Abby looks back on her journey, which led to this point and remarks, "It is a journey that I am honored to have been able to participate in thus far and enjoy sharing with other folks." On her time spent so far in her current position, Abby offers, "I absolutely love having the opportunity to introduce any level of new or experienced drinker to a flavor or combination of sensations that they have never before enjoyed in a beer. Going back to my passion for food and interesting flavor profiles, I am very fortunate to be involved with a brewery that "gets" creativity, but with balance. It would be really easy to make a sour beer with vanilla and pineapple that was super sweet and reminiscent of a dessert, but instead, Jason has crafted something refreshing and interesting that makes people think."

When asked what her biggest challenge and greatest reward have been, Abby remarks, "Honestly, my answers are kind of one in the same. I have learned so many more facets of the business and how to strategize past just encouraging sales in the market." Always striving to add to her knowledge, Abby is currently enrolled in the fall cohort of the Brewers Association's mentorship program. She excitedly says, "I am so thankful for the knowledge being so freely and graciously shared amongst other professionals in the industry."

At the start of this article, Abby spoke of the insight and perspective women bring to the industry. When asked how we can attract more women to the craft beer world, Abby contemplates," I think it is probably one of the best times in recent history to get involved. I also think offering opportunities for easily-accessible education will help women - or any participants - feel more confident in making themselves more marketable and formidable against other folks that may have walked into their roles more easily. With Safe Bars and #NotMe becoming more of the industry standard, it is my hope that those who viewed safety as a barrier to entry might feel more secure getting into the biz."

Before the release of this article, Orpheus hosted its second annual Burning Mouth Hot Sauce Competition. Abby commented on the importance of events such as this. "Our beer is incredible, and I definitely want return patrons to enjoy it, but it's also about finding ways to appeal to members of our neighborhood who aren't as beer savvy and might be more comfortable getting to know us through food events or evenings during which we feature interactive activities."

Regardless of what part of the industry in which you work, the more you know, the better. It is no surprise that Abby has made it to where she is today through hard work, a variety of experiences and a true passion for craft beer.


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