Four Female Brewery and Bar Founders in Greater Phoenix

Megan Greenwood of Greenwood Brewery
Megan Greenwood of Greenwood Brewery Mer Norwood
Female beer makers and brewery founders are on the rise across the Valley. While that information could be news to some, it makes obvious sense to others. Mostly, female brewers. We sat down with the female founders behind Greenwood Brewery, Huss Brewing Co., Irene’s Tap Room, and Angels Trumpet Ale House to talk about the beer industry, the rise of city breweries, and advice for fellow female beer lovers.

click to enlarge Megan Greenwood of Greenwood Brewery - MER NORWOOD
Megan Greenwood of Greenwood Brewery
Mer Norwood
Megan Greenwood, Founder of Greenwood Brewery
Last year, Megan Greenwood said goodbye to her corporate job and hello to home brewing. Starting with a modest five-gallon home-brew kit, she channeled her passion and went on to raise $68,000 through Kickstarter to fund Greenwood Brewery — now set to open on Roosevelt Row this year.

Her biggest goal, though? To get more women into craft beer.

Her approach is research-based. Lots of research. After surveying 200 women on everything from why they drink beer to what places they enjoy pulling up a stool, she says she found that 65 percent of women resonated with her pale ale. This is now her signature beer — Herstory Brew — which was specifically created with herself in mind. She also found out through the Brewers Association that only 31 percent of women are craft beer drinkers, and 50 percent of women felt they weren’t represented in the beer industry.

The real question is, why?

“I think a lot of the reason she’s not drinking craft beer is that she doesn’t necessarily feel she has a place, and that sometimes craft beer is unapproachable and intimidating," Greenwood says. "That’s why I wanted to create Greenwood Brewing, so she sees a beer where I had her in mind, that I thought about her, and had enough research around women who are drinking that beer to know that this is something that she is going to be comfortable buying."

Greenwood says lot of the philosophy at Greenwood Brewing is in the power of the purposeful pint, and that’s centered around beer being the avenue for great conversation. "Bringing more women into craft beer brings her into this conversation,” Greenwood says.

And if she had to give advice to women who wanted to be more involved in craft beer?

“If you are interested in getting into craft beer, call me. I think that women are nervous to do something like brewing because it’s not a traditional industry for them to go into," she says. "Maybe she thinks she’s not going to like it, but you’ll be surprised -— you might find that it’s something that was exactly made for you.”

click to enlarge Leah Huss, co-owner of Huss Brewing. - COURTESY OF HUSS BREWING
Leah Huss, co-owner of Huss Brewing.
Courtesy of Huss Brewing
Leah Huss, Founder of Huss Brewing Company
This is a beer industry veteran. After working at Papago Brewing for 14 years, Leah Huss decided to found Huss Brewing Company with her husband. Huss just celebrated its five-year anniversary in 2018 and is a vibrant member of the craft beer community.

So what does Huss think about the stereotypes of women beer drinkers? “It always drove me crazy, the whole ‘girls love fruity beers’ because my experience with working behind a bar for many years, was the polar opposite of that. It really is hilarious," she says. "In fact, I would definitely say, the Papago Orange Blossom? The drinkers of that beer are huge, burly men. It wasn’t ladies hanging around with their pinkies out.”

When asked about the history of women in beer in Arizona, Huss says, “It seems like a night and day difference between now and 2001, 2002. All of a sudden, there’s starting to be more and more women and I’m like, ‘Yes, this is awesome, I’m loving this.’" She says in the last year, the number of women brewing or involved in brewing is staggering.

"I’m pretty sure Rob had shirts made called 'The Future of Beer Is Female,'" she says, explaining how there’s female momentum in the community, thanks in part to Pink Boots Society — an association for women in the professional beer industry. "It’s only gaining more speed and more traction, and hopefully it’s something that more ladies take more interest in.”

And if she had to give advice to women who wanted to be more involved in craft beer?

“Be you, and chase after your interests. Don’t let gender be something that’s defining," she says, "and that can be said for everything, honestly. That should never be something that holds you back.”

click to enlarge Bonnie Jackson of Irene's Tap Room - MER NORWOOD
Bonnie Jackson of Irene's Tap Room
Mer Norwood
Bonnie Jackson, Founder of Irene’s Tap Room
Several years ago, Bonnie Jackson fell in love with beer, and one summer, began pouring at Helton Brewing Co. — where she met her now-partner, Aaron Taylor. The two hit it off and decided to open Irene’s Tap Room after getting encouragement from friends in the industry. Although it hasn’t been an easy road, Jackson says she's proud to be at the forefront of the craft beer scene and show that women in this industry are knowledgeable and capable.

She’s the first to knock down stereotypes about women who brew and women who enjoy craft beer. “Brewing is a science and last I checked, women have brains, too. Brewing is culinary, it’s scientific, it’s chemistry. There’s nothing about it that says you need big manly muscles to do it," Jackson says. "I think women make great brewers. Society for whatever reason, has created this connotation that goes with beer, that men are beer drinkers and women drink rosé, and it couldn’t be further from the truth. I have plenty of men who come into Irene’s and order a sparkling rosé and a woman who will say, ‘I’d like a triple IPA.'”

Despite the surrounding stereotypes, she echoes the aforementioned sentiment of the strong, local community of women in craft beer. “I think we’re all pretty alpha, and it takes very strong women to hold their own in this industry because there is a lot of doubt, a lot of inequality that occurs," she says. "It takes some thick skin, and I think that we have that. We support one another.”

And if she had to give advice to women who wanted to be more involved in craft beer?

“If there are women who are wanting to get into the industry, it’s not going to be an easy road. Don’t listen to all the shit that you’re going to get from men, and maybe other women in the industry," she says, "This industry is small — it’s its own little messed-up family. Understand that you are here for a reason.”

click to enlarge Angels Trumpet Ale House in Roosevelt Row - LYNN TRIMBLE
Angels Trumpet Ale House in Roosevelt Row
Lynn Trimble
Sharry Englehorn, Founder of Angels Trumpet Ale House
Her story starts a while back. Sharry Englehorn and her husband, Mat, have been drinking craft beer in the Valley for nearly two decades. A few years ago, they were inspired by the beer scenes of San Diego and Portland, Oregon, so much so that when the recession hit the Valley, they saw it as an opportunity to take a leap of faith. They opened Angels Trumpet Ale House downtown, and the rest is history.

When asking Englehorn about the future of beer in Phoenix, she notes it's on an upward trend, but anticipates brewers vying for supplies. "The obvious struggle is supply and demand because as there's more breweries coming into play, there's less hops, less yeast. It's going to be interesting to see who's going to get what ingredients," she says. "People will have to get creative while still staying true to what the beer is supposed to be. It'll be interesting to see who stays involved in the business, who's passionate about it and holds tight, or who's just doing it on a whim because with craft beer, you can make good money."

Englehorn says beer drinkers, and women craft beer drinkers in general, are here to stay. "Women have amazing palates, so I feel like they take advantage of the cool stuff that the brewers are doing, with different flavors, and roasting malts differently," she says. Englehorn goes on to explain how women in the beer community have a genuine presence, and aren't going anywhere despite a tough, male-dominated field.

"I've met a lot of unique personalities, and strong personalities. It's not always the easiest industry to be a female in," she says. "It's very heavily male-oriented, so there's a lot of uniting among the women. All the female brewers, for the most part, are so gracious. We have a lot of pioneers in the Valley."

And her advice for women looking to break into craft beer?

"Don't be discouraged because it's a male-centric field. Just be true to the actual thing that you're passionate about, and that's the craft beer."
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Merichelle has chronicled her many food adventures since 2016. She is the Founder of the local food blog She Forks PHX. You’re most likely to find her munching on tacos on a Tuesday, sipping brews at a local cafe, or eating unicorn cakes.
Contact: Mer Norwood