Women step up to the bar, work with Six Row to brew beer for sale
As with many industries, the craft beer scene is dominated by men. Yet in the past year women’s craft beer groups have sprung up in St. Louis. This past weekend a group called The OG made the transition from home brewing to commercial brewing.
Abbey Spencer, 32, Liz Jenkins, 29, and Kathy DeLassus, 29, are three of the founders. They started the group slightly more than a year ago when they recognized the need for a group centered on women and craft beer.
Soon they’ll release their first commercial endeavor in partnership with Six Row Brewing Company: a strawberry saison. Both Spencer and Jenkins said forming the group was necessary to help share knowledge and ideas about beer and home-brewing while creating a welcoming space where women could ask anything about the process without catching criticism from male counterparts.
“When it's women teaching women I think there’s a little more freedom to ask questions and not be so hesitant to speak up and speak your mind,” she said.
Spencer has homebrewed for six years but says even her homebrew group consists of older white men who “have a knack for being extremely … they just have their own way.”
Spencer says the group focuses on craft and home brew related field trips, introducing each other to techniques and styles, and exchanging knowledge. The founders view it as a testament to female involvement in the industry.
“We’re smart, we’re educated. We know what we’re doing and we’re here to support each other, educate each other, socialize and we all have something to bring to the table.”
Jenkins helmed facilitating the group’s collaboration with Six Row. She said she doesn’t always experience tension between genders in the beer world but sometimes there are men who don’t always respond to her command of the topic.
“There are times when guys try to talk over you or outsmart you. Maybe there’s this slight competitiveness that sort of lead into us wanting to have this group,” said Jenkins.
Yet, Jenkins says working with Six Row, where the brewmaster and owner are both men, has been a pleasure. The group was introduced to Six Row through Craft Beer Cellar in Clayton, where Jenkins works. They began work on the collaboration soon after. She says the group has received support from Six Row outside of the shared release. Some of the brew team came to The OG’s fundraiser this winter.
Six Row’s lead brewer Thomas Johnson, 27, and president and Brewmaster Evan Hiatt, 30, both worked with The OG to solidify their partnership.
When asked about the project, Hiatt is quick to point out that collaborations happen frequently throughout the craft beer world. Another female brewers' group Femme Ferment also released a beer with microbrewery 2nd Shift this past year, although it’s more common for brewers to collaborate with other breweries. Hiatt says he’s much more interested in working with The OG.
“This is the fun part, the creative side of things,” said Hiatt. “It’s nice to get that fresh perspective.”
Hiatt readily admits the collaboration is also good for business.
“We’re getting more people to know who they are, we’re getting more people to know who we are and we’re just adding more value to both groups,” he said.
Johnson, who began as a home brewer, was integral in making sure the collaboration moved from idea to actuality. He says working with The OG illustrates why he became a brewer in the first place.
“There is no one better to talk to about beer than people in the craft beer industry. That’s literally why I’m in this industry,” said Johnson.
Johnson worked closely with the group to translate its recipe from a small scale home-brewing to a larger batch product. Together they worked to determine which hops, malt, yeast, and strawberry puree would closely replicate The OG’s recipe on a brewery-sized scale.
Johnson’s openly excited about the project and says the experience has affected his perception of the industry.
“To be able to work so closely with a group of women who are just absolutely passionate about beer has made a large impact on the way I see this community.”
The OG and Six Row Brewing’s collaboration is set to be bottled in a few weeks and on shelves shortly thereafter.