Meet the Brewers : Kevin Zelnio

Meet the Brewers : Kevin Zelnio

Meet the Brewers is an ongoing series to highlight the individuals who make the beer at our Wilmington breweries. Check back every week to see the latest interview. All photographs provided by Brian Lantz Photography.  Check out his instagram at  @brianlantzphotography

Kevin Zelnio is the head brewer at Wrightsville Beach Brewery. Zelnio began brewing while living in Sweden and eventually brought his talents back to Wilmington, NC. Last week I asked him what his journey into brewing was like.

Where are you from?

 Born and raised where the Mississippi flows east to west in the Quad Cities, mostly on the Iowa side.

What first got you into brewing?

 A good friend of mine started to dabble in home brewing and I joined in a couple times. But I didn’t really get into it until I moved to Sweden several years ago and lived out in the woods. I was working from home as a science writer and consultant and had a bit of time on my hands. Beer is also pretty expensive there and controlled by a state-run alcohol monopoly, so the nearest place I could get a beer was a 45-minute drive away. It became more of a practical thing for me, as well as a creative outlet!

How long have you been brewing?

 This is my sixth year as a commercial brewer.

 What was the first beer you made?

 With my aforementioned buddy we did a green tea pale ale with tettnang and cascade hops and green tea we bought from a market in Japan while at a deep-sea biology conference (my former life was a marine biologist). The first all grain brew I did on my own was a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale clone.

What is your favorite beer to make?

 Stouts and porters. Nothing makes me happier than filling up the brewery with the smells of mashing in dark grains early in the morning!

 What made you want to start brewing on a larger scale?

 While in Sweden, I lived in a small village and our neighbors there enjoyed the free beer I was constantly giving to them. They encouraged me to start selling it. After raising the money, I  selected a location in an old prison that was turned into a hotel in the small Baltic town of Västervik. Bryggeri Fängelset (literally meaning “The Prison Brewery”) was a small 3 barrel capacity brewery that I solely ran with my wife and business partners for almost 3 years.

Having honed the creative skill set and brewing process, my wife and I decided we could have better opportunities back home in the US. After suffering the cold north for far longer than I needed to, I landed a great job as a production brewer at Jdub’s Brewery in Sarasota, Florida. There, I got comfortable with large tanks and big machinery and learned the skills and techniques for high volume production brewing that I currently use now as the Director of Brewing Operations at Wrightsville Beach Brewery. Brewing on a 20 barrel capacity gives me the leeway and creativity I crave in a career while working with an amazing, supportive team. There is truly nothing better than making a product that people really enjoy.

 Is there anything you do differently in your brewing process that other places do not do?

 Every brewery has their niches and strengths. I love having the freedom to experiment with ingredients, like fruits and herbs, in the brewing process and playing around with barrels. It starts from the water — where I build up each batch’s water mineral profile from the ground up— to the final product where we measure parameters, dial in carbonation and monitor the quality of the fermentation and packaging processes at every step.

What is one thing you want your consumer to take away from trying your beer?

 The most important thing to me is that I brew up a wide diversity of styles and offerings. I don’t expect everyone that walks in to love every single brew I make, but hopefully they find a few very enjoyable and want to come back to see what is new. I am proud of every beer we put out and we always strive for the best quality possible in our products. I think it shows and I hope our customers notice it too!

 

 

Meet the Brewers: Blair Ferguson

Meet the Brewers: Blair Ferguson

Meet the Brewers is an ongoing series to highlight the individuals who make the beer at our Wilmington breweries. Check back every week to see the latest interview. All photographs provided by Brian Lantz Photography.  Check out his instagram at  @brianlantzphotography

Blair Ferguson is the head brewer at Wilmington Brewing Company. Brewing was a hobby for a large portion of Ferguson’s life before he decided to begin brewing professionally. Recently I asked Ferguson about his favorite beer to make.

Where are you from?

Winston-Salem, NC .I attended Mineral Springs Elementary School. Go Bulldogs!

What first got you into brewing?

I’ve always liked to make things. I discovered home brewing when my interests turned to beer in college.

All photographs provided by Brian Lantz Photography.  IG: @brianlantzphotography

I had to give it a shot.  It was fun to make different beers and share cheer with friends. It still is.

How long have you been brewing?

As a hobby, off and on as life allowed for around twenty years. I have been brewing professionally since 2014.

What was the first beer you made?

 My first brew was an American pale ale. Luckily, it was drinkable and I continued brewing.  American pale ale was really the first beer style to showcase the amazing aromas and flavor of American hops.  I think it inspired a lot of brewers and its influence continues as evidenced by the popularity of IPAs today.

What is your favorite beer to make?

I really like making new beers.  Getting creative with recipe formulation and seeing how it turns out is gratifying.  Fortunately, we live during an exciting time for beer. Consumers are receptive to trying new and different brews.  Craft beer is a great marriage of tradition and innovation.

What made you want to start brewing on a larger scale?

I wanted to make a living doing something I love.

Is there anything you do differently in your brewing process that other places do not do?

At its heart, brewing is a traditional industry.  So a lot of processes are similar. That said, we are a very quality focused brewery and are always open to tweaking our process to ensure the best product we can make.  If we discover a method that makes better beer, we will use it.

What is one thing you want your consumer to take away after trying your beer?

Hopefully, our beer sets the stage for healthy conviviality.  A great sensory experience from tasting a fresh product made with care should enhance the moment.

 

Meet The Brewers : Dani Bearss

Meet The Brewers : Dani Bearss

Meet the Brewers is an ongoing series to highlight the individuals who make the beer at our Wilmington breweries. Check back every week to see the latest interview. All photographs provided by Brian Lantz Photography.  Check out his instagram at  @brianlantzphotography

Dani Bearss is the head brewer at Waterline Brewing Company. A self-described nomad, she has traveled all over but settled down in Wilmington to bring us great beer. Recently I asked Bearss about her journey to head brewer.

Where are you from?

Originally I’m from Michigan, but I’ve always been a nomad. I’ve spent time living all over California as well and I just returned to Wilmington after spending a year in New Zealand, first hiking the 3000 km Te Araroa trail then working as a brewer.

 What first got you into brewing?

I used to work as a barista in a competition cafe, and when I learned about the craft beer movement, it was a natural transition between roasted beans and malted barley.  I was living in the land of Founders, New Holland and Bells, all of which were less than an hour away, and I knew a few of the people making beer professionally. I liked the combination of art, science and manual labor…when I saw the process commercially, I was hooked.

Waterline gave me my start into brewing when they were just as new to Wilmington as I was, and for a while, I was just a part-time bartender and over-eager volunteer to clean kegs and squeegee the floor.  Brian (Waterline’s former head brewer and part owner) saw how eager I was to learn and gave me every opportunity to move up as long as I was willing to work for it.

How long have you been brewing?

I started brewing with my friend back in Michigan maybe only five or six years ago and started brewing professionally a few years later when I got connected with Waterline.  I’ve been a volunteer, a cellar(wo)man, and an assistant brewer with my own commercial beers at Waterline, and in New Zealand, I was a lead brewer for Renaissance Brewing.  I returned to Wilmington and Waterline a few months ago to take on the Head Brewer position.

What was the first beer you made?

I think the first thing I made back in Michigan was a raspberry stout, one of my friends’ recipes.  The first all grain beer I ever concocted on my own was my “Port City Paradox,” a coffee porter that was both beer AND coffee–I brewed the coffee using beer as the solution instead of water.  I wanted to combine my two favorite vices: coffee and beer.  Delicious! And impossible to carbonate.

 What is your favorite beer to make?

I still get a rush anytime I get to brew a beer that I designed from start to finish–I think it’s a homebrewer’s curse that I’ll never get over, the fact that I have a beer on tap and people order it.  I’ve been really excited to bring back what I learned in New Zealand and introduce some beers made with lesser known NZ hops, like our XPA, and while it will always terrify me just a little, I love taking the plunge into brewing any new beer on a commercial scale.

 What made you want to start brewing on a larger scale?

I like the mental and physical challenge of large-scale brewing.  There are always new recipes and better ways to do things, and there’s a lot of science, but it’s a lot of moving hoses and kegs and lifting bags of grain and being on your feet all day.  I’ve logged nearly 3000 miles of backcountry hiking, and before I was ever into coffee and beer I worked with horses for a long time, working with professional teams and training sport horses.  There is something about the long hours, manual labor, and teamwork that calls to me.

Is there anything you do differently in your brewing process that other places do not do?

I think we all have our little brewery quirks, and it’s part of what makes the independent beer community so diverse.  Since coming back to Waterline, I’ve been starting to incorporate some of the techniques we used in New Zealand to produce low-gravity, flavor-packed beers that are easy to drink.  I like to make unexpected beers that go against the current trends, like the seasonal Gruit and the “new New” XPA, a low alcohol, crystal clear and super smashable New Zealand (“not New England!”) style pale ale.

 What is one thing you want your consumer to take away from trying your beer?

I always aim to please through something unexpected, whether it’s something people have never had or something they thought they had discounted in the past.  I strongly believe that you have to know the rules in order to break the rules, and I try to balance the “weird beers” with classic recipes when thinking about new beer.  We have the Roma Gose, the Coffee and Cream and the Gruit that were a lot of fun to come up with, but I also enjoy designing more traditional beers such as the Wee Heavy, the Porter and the new “Extra” Pale.  I hope consumers can always come to Waterline for a selection of traditional styles and experimental flavors.

Fun Beer Things to do for Valentine’s Day

Fun Beer Things to do for Valentine’s Day

Whether you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day or Single’s Awareness Day, you’ll be sure to have a blast at these fantastic events.

Salty Turtle Beer Company

Feb 13 at 11:30 a.m. to Feb 15 at 12 a.m.

 

Get a jump start on Valentine’s Day festivities with Salty Turtle’s limited release of their Raspberry and Chocolate Porter. Each serving will be paired with a small bite brownie from Sugar Island Bakery.

https://www.facebook.com/events/969999773162640/

Front Street Brewery

Feb 14 at 11:30 a.m. to Feb 15 at 12 a.m.

wilmington beer valentine's day

 

Front Street Brewery’s Annual Valentine’s Day Sinful Stout Beer Release. Celebrate the season of love with their rich chocolatey and deliciously smooth Sinful Stout, brewed with chocolate velvet coffee.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1485874401510814/

Flytrap Brewing

Feb 14 at 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.

 

Celebrate Valentine’s Day with a stout flight and donut hole pairing! Four 4oz pours of Flytrap stouts paired with 4 creative and fresh donut holes by Wake N Bake for $15. Enjoy live music by Jared Michael Cline 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. No reservations necessary.

https://www.facebook.com/events/147959565916063/

Wrightsville Beach Brewery

Feb 14 at 5 p.m.

 

Four course meal paired with beer AND wine for only $36. Make a reservation for one, two, three, they will be happy to serve everyone on Valentines! Please call 910.256.4938 for reservations.

https://www.facebook.com/events/684581465262958/

Hey Beer Bottle Shop

Feb 14 at 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.

 

Hey Beer Bottle Shop is partnering with Wake N Bake Donuts for another installment of complimentary donuts paired with delicious dark beers!

They are featuring one of NC’s best limited release stouts…Foothills Bourbon Barrel-Aged Sexual Chocolate!

https://www.facebook.com/events/456117771470051/?active_tab=about

Fermental

Feb 14 at 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

 

Fermental’s annual holiday Mead Tasting, showcasing a variety of honey wines in different styles from around the world. Celebrate with live swing/gypsy jazz music, a food truck, and mead! Call 910.821.0362 for details.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1979855469001630/

Bill’s Front Porch Brewery

Feb 14 at 6:30 p.m.

 

Bill’s Front Porch is curating a delicious 5-course meal with their own craft beer pairings. This event will be closed to the public in order to keep the night special for guests.

Get Your tickets here

The Sour Barn

Feb 14 at 7 p.m.

 

Treat your Valentine to drinks and dessert at The Barn. They will be featuring Port City Cheesecake’s Râppé Chocolate Cheesecake. One slice of cheesecake and two Broomtail beers for $14.

https://www.facebook.com/events/589196988133354/

Check Six Brewing Company

Feb 14 at 7:30p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

 

Celebrate with their wine and champagne special and enjoy the fabulous Dale Kinner for a special night with your special someone!

https://www.facebook.com/events/2044490735567489/

Wrightsville Beach Brewery:  Beers on Tap !

Wrightsville Beach Brewery: Beers on Tap !

Photo Courtesy Wrightsville Beach Brewery

Photos Courtesy Wrightsville Beach Brewery

Wrightsville Beach Brewery, freshly opened to the public on January 21, will rank high on your lists of favorite hangouts. This beautiful, homegrown brewery features some of the most interesting people in the Port City.

Owner Jud Watkins, once a commercial fisherman, grew up in Wrightsville Beach and often gathered with friends and family to enjoy local seafood. Yet at each get-together, he and his father wondered why they never had any local beach beers to go along with it. At the time, only Front Street Brewery was open across town.

That was the beginning of the dream that has just become a reality. In honor of his late father, with whom Watkins dove into the world of home brewing, he is now venturing into the life of brewpub owner and production brewing. The story seems more like a feel-good American movie than your typical restaurant opening.

Chef David Owens says, “Of all the restaurants I’ve opened, this is the scariest.” And he has opened a lot. Born in Ireland, he has been a chef in 23 different countries, has earned three Michelin stars, and has even cooked a meal for Vladimir Putin. So why is this local brewery venture scarier than Putin? Because it’s the lifelong dream of a father and his son, and Owens feels that pressure daily.

“Please tell people to come,” were Owens’ last words to me, and although I simply chuckled, I should have assured him that they will.

First of all, Owens cooks with integrity.  He doesn’t use fish that he can’t drive to pick up, which means he’s buying his seafood from local fisherman. You won’t see farmed salmon, flounder or grouper on his menu, but he may serve you some African pompano or sheepshead fresh from the ocean. He is the kind of person who inspires you to be better, eat cleaner, and think about the environment: No GMOs are allowed in his kitchen, and he uses the leftover grains from the brews in his pizza crust to reduce waste.

Brewer Kevin Zelnio started his professional brewing career in a barn in Sweden. Trying to forget about the brutally cold weather and high European taxes,

Photos courtesy Wrightsville Beach brewery

Photos courtesy Wrightsville Beach brewery

Zelnio brewed beers for the people in the small village in which he resided. They convinced him it was good enough to sell, and soon he had his own microbrewery, Bryggeri Fängelset, which you can still visit if ever traveling through northern Europe. Lucky for Wilmington, that weather eventually brought him back to the States. Although he did admit to being a regular consumer of Icehouse in college, he now loves creating his own beers using ingredients like parsley, sage, rosemary, ginger, orange peels, and honey. A stout, an amber ale, and their Puppy Drum Pale Ale will be the first beers on tap, but Zelnio has plans for many more brews in the near future. His specialty is session beers—beers that are only three to five percent alcohol. Such beers can be consumed on a lunch break or at times when someone may want to enjoy a few but not get excessively intoxicated.

Wrightsville Beach Brewery is committed to keeping the environment in mind as well as giving back to the community. Eighty percent of spent grain will be donated to a local cattle farmer, and the bar and tables were made with wood from the trees that used to be on the property. Before the first pour has even been served, Watkins and his crew have agreed to donate 11 percent of profits from the “beer of the month” to local charities. In a world plagued with greed and waste, these are the kind of business owners one can be proud to support.

Women In Brewing

Women In Brewing

Have you ever met the Mother of Beer? Likely not, since she’s actually a Sumerian goddess.

The first evidence of beer production dates back thousands of years in ancient Mesopotamia, where ceramic vessels from 3400 B.C., still tacky with beer residue, were discovered by archaeologists in recent history. What’s more, a poem from 1800 B.C. harks a “Hymn to Ninkasi,” the Sumerian goddess of beer. The ode recounts the world’s first homebrew recipe, crafted by female priestesses.

Since, the boozy fermented beverage has won the hearts of many across the globe—but the production has long since moved to the hands of men. Still a male-dominated industry, the surge of American craft beer has inspired many women to try their hand at brewing, selling, managing, or otherwise becoming a part of the phenomenon.

Wilmington’s beer scene is no different, and this Mother’s Day we’re taking the time to celebrate the mothers of our local beer—women in Wilmington’s brewing industry. (And congrats to Michelle Savard of Wilmington Brewing Company and Emily Barlas of Flytrap Brewing, who will be actual mothers soon!)

BROOMTAIL CRAFT BREWERY – LISA OWINGS

WAT-LisaAlthough she is not hands on in the brewing process, Lisa Owings is involved in almost every aspect of Broomtail Craft Brewery, including brainstorming new ideas for production which her husband, Barry Owings, owner and brewmaster, will execute. “I pretty much run all the daily operations of Broomtail, which entails quite a bit. However, I don’t brew—I leave that to the professionals!” she quips, noting her favorite brew from Broomtail is Moe-Beer, a brown ale named for their dog, Moses.

“My personal experience as a woman in the industry has been really positive,” Lisa tells. “I think people are very receptive to women in the beer industry. Right here in Wilmington we have some great women making their mark in brewing, [including] Kelsie Cole at Front Street Brewery. There are incredible women in key roles at every brewery in Wilmington. Also, there are very talented women in other areas such as distribution, marketing, promotion, etc.”

Overall, Lisa says she’s really enjoyed being a part of the Wilmington brewing community. “It’s a great network that’s cohesive and willing to help and promote one another,” she shares. “It’s been very rewarding to be able to be involved and help raise money for important causes. I love the people we’ve met and the regulars we have that come into our taproom. We’ve been able to make great friends and have a lot of fun along the way.”

FLYTRAP BREWING – EMILY BARLAS

WAT-emily“When the brewery first opened, I was often asked if I liked beer before meeting my husband,” Emily, co-owner and brewery manager of Flytrap Brewing, tells. Her husband, brewmaster Mike Barlas, began his career as an avid homebrewer. “I haven’t heard that in some time now and I believe that shows how women are becoming more of a presence in the beer industry. Locally, women are working to challenge stereotypes by being involved in all things beer—from brewing to pouring to enjoying. It is great to look out in the taproom and see that about 50 percent of our customers are women.”

“My role is to help the brewery and taproom best represent our vision,” she explains. “I work to ensure things are running smoothly and that our staff has everything they need to provide a welcoming environment to enjoy our brews. Duties constantly vary, from working on day-to-day operations to bigger-picture projects. I especially enjoy planning and executing events, as well as working to support local artists, musicians, and non-profits.”

Emily’s favorite offering from Flytrap is the Saison. “It’s light, crisp and refreshing—perfect for this time of year,” she describes. “I also love our special-release sours, especially after having seen all the time and care put into them.”

Though Emily says the perception of women in the brewing world is changing, she believes there is still room to grow. “I’d love to see more female brewers in breweries—and with that, for it to not be a surprise,” she urges. But she is thankful to call Wilmington home. “The Wilmington brewing community is constantly growing and changing, as we all do. It is such a special and supportive group, and we are lucky to have this collaborative community to be a part of.”

FRONT STREET BREWERY – KELSIE COLE

WAT-KelsiePerhaps the most pivotal step forward for women in Wilmington’s brewing community was the late 2014 announcement that Kelsie Cole would become North Carolina’s first female head brewer. Cole climbed her way through the ranks at Front Street Brewery, beginning as a hostess during her freshman year at UNC Wilmington. Today, her duties include “yeast whispering, liquid preparation, valve management, beer education, troubleshooting, and overall production management.”

“Being a woman in the beer industry at first felt intimidating,” Kelsie divulges. “I’ve always been a tomboy and had mostly male friends throughout childhood, so naturally I felt as though I’d fit into the craft beer industry. I found although being both young and female, this was not as fitting as I had presumed. I’ve had to program an entire part of my brain that I was not typically used to utilizing: problem solving. Not to say women aren’t natural problem-solvers, but I definitely think men have a more proactive mind to fixing things and troubleshooting, which is about 90 percent of brewing. With a lot of support and willingness to train, however, I’ve found most males in the industry are positive influences.”

A true hop head, Kelsie’s favorite beers at FSB include the Port City IPA, Papa Doble Double IPA, and the Absurdity Belgian IPA. “Because I put my heart into anything I do, I feel as though my influence on Front Street is a quality factor,” she adds. “I’ve put in place a lot of things, as far as quality control and general practices go, that weren’t necessarily intact prior to my head role in production. From wort production, yeast maintenance, and beer education for our front of house staff, I feel as though my attention to detail and overall great care for our beer directly influences the quality.”

If given the chance, Kelsie says she wouldn’t change a thing about the public’s perception of women in the beer industry. “Every brewery or industry-related conference I’ve been to, I’ve met so many people who are nothing but supportive of and encouraging to women in the beer industry,” she reveals. “I’ve received many handshakes, hugs and fist-bumps from both men and women when they find out I’m a 26-year-old head brewer. I think the overall public is just as open-minded and encouraging to women getting involved in our successful and fast-growing industry.”

She notes that Wilmington’s specific beer scene is very young—but adds that the community has deeply seated roots. “Places like Front Street and Cape Fear Wine & Beer have been pioneers in developing a beer culture here and have existed for one to two decades,” Kelsie says. “To see other ‘competitors’ only helps build a beer culture full of supportive beer enthusiasts and brewers themselves. As long as we all devote our time to both producing and selling a quality product, there’s no reason why Wilmington’s beer scene shouldn’t thrive within the next couple years. I’m proud of the fellow brewers in our community that have been so supportive and have helped put Wilmington on the beer map.”

GOOD HOPS BREWING – PATRICIA JONES

WAT-patriciaPatricia Jones is a mother herself to a brewer, John Garcia of Lookout Brewing in Black Mountain, NC. It is their relationship that was part of the inspiration for Patricia and her husband, Richard, to start Good Hops in Carolina Beach, where Patricia is the business manager. “I oversee operations so that the business of brewing is possible and maintained,” she informs.
“I truly would love to be that person at Good Hops that is a breath of fresh air when I enter the room. However, brewing beer is a business,” Patricia tells of her influence on the brewery. “As a microbrewery we are very task-oriented and labor intensive. I pray I am the assurance that we can get it all done and done extremely well and survive! I do not want to merely exist but to thrive! I am extremely passionate about the craft beer scene and our role in the communities we call home.”

Her favorite Good Hops beer, Donna Golden Ale, seeks to support the brewery’s hometown. “This beer is named posthumously for a beautiful person,” she shares. “It is the very recipe for my 50th birthday beer our son surprised me with and was one of his first beers brewed by both of our breweries. The proceeds from the sales of Donna Golden Ale go to support local community and charitable events. It is well received by our patrons.”

Patricia says she is proud to be a part of Wilmington’s fledgling craft beer industry. “We have the opportunity to be a part in creating a new scene and it is fun to motivate each other with the thought that we are part of history,” she details. “We are the pioneers! But most rewarding is the support we have received from the community. I am honored and humbled!”
While she notes the craft beer industry is very inclusive and collaborative, Patricia says she would love to see more women in the brew house. “I love when I see women in the science of brewing as well.”

WATERLINE BREWING COMPANY – DANI REWITZER

WAT-DaniDani Rewitzer got her start in the brew house, to put it simply, by working her butt off in all aspects of the brewery. “I am a jack of all trades, acting as an assistant brewer, cellar(wo)man and bartender,” she tells. “I love being involved in day-to-day activities, whether it’s brewing, brainstorming, or just opening the taproom. Early on, I was a part-time bartender and I put countless volunteer hours into the brew house before I had any kind of job in the brewery, but I worked hard to create a position for myself. I’d like to think my contributions have created a role that is both essential and necessary to help things run smoothly as Waterline continues to come into its own as a young brewery, and that it makes things a little bit easier on brewmaster and owner Brian Bell and owners Rob and Eve Robinson.”

Dani’s favorite mainstay on the Waterline lineup is the Rye IPA. “It’s our biggest, boldest beer, to me. Sure, the Tripel packs a little more punch (ABV), but the Rye is a fearless take on a classic style, and it pays off. This month we’re featuring a Scottish Wee Heavy, which I happen to be very partial to.”

The assistant brewer is often asked what it’s like being a woman in the brewing world. “My experience in the beer industry is one of hard work, persistence, and dedication,” she says. “If you’re willing to put in the effort and the time and the sweat and the sacrifice, then the reward is immeasurable. I am fortunate enough to be part of a very welcoming community both at Waterline and throughout Wilmington, as a woman and as part of the industry, and I’d prefer to think that my gender or size has nothing to do with how well I accomplish my job.”

For Dani, she wishes she could change the fact that women brewers are “any kind of spectacle.” “I brew and work in the cellar because it’s what I enjoy doing, because beer is important to me, and because I’m better suited to lifting 50 pound bags of grain, working 10 to 15 hour days, and leaving the brewery encrusted with junk that would be unrecognizable by sight or smell to any civilian. I love that, and that’s it. There’s already quite a few women working the industry just in the immediate area, and I feel like it’s pretty well accepted that anyone who is willing to put in the time and the effort is able to make a place for themselves in the brewing community.”

A Wilmington resident for only six months, Dani is a newcomer to the area’s beer scene. “To be honest, the industry and the beer scene are what I consistently describe most when people ask me how I like it here,” she muses. “Everyone is so supportive of each other, there’s a great community between brewers and breweries and bottle shops and all the local businesses, and everyone has been more than enthusiastic and supportive in the process of making it a career. I feel incredibly fortunate to be so involved at Waterline, and I can’t begin to describe the appreciation I have for my friends, my coworkers, my employers, and the unique community that is Wilmington’s beer scene.”

WATERLINE BREWING COMPANY – EVE ROBINSON

WAT-eve“As the Operations Manager of Waterline Brewing Co., I do a little of everything,” Eve Robinson, wife of brewer and owner Rob Robinson, tells. “My primary duty though is overseeing the tap room. I hire and train the ‘taptenders,’ pour beers on weekends and other surge periods, and I act as the brewery hostess and tour guide by ensuring customers are greeted warmly and given a tour of the brewery where I explain the brewing process on our 5-barrel system. If they’re interested, I also can tell the story and history of our building, the 1940’s-era former Jacobi Hardware Warehouse. I’m also in charge of booking food trucks for the weekends, coordinating special events and parties in the taproom, and working outside beer festivals. I’ve even been known to deliver a sixtel keg or two when needed.”

Of Waterline’s offerings, Eve’s favorites change depending on season or Brian’s new releases. “Right now it’s our Waterline Wee Heavy, but I probably drink the Kolsch more often because it’s lighter and low ABV.”

Customers often tell Eve she’s the “heart and soul” of Waterline. “I believe my passion for the building, the community, our customers, and the craft beer industry has a huge impact on the overall feel of the taproom and brewery. When customers comment on how comfortable, relaxing and inviting the taproom feels, I believe this is a direct reflection of myself, my husband Rob and partner Brian.”

In fact, Eve loves that so many of the breweries in Wilmington are owned and operated by husband-and-wife teams and families. “This is probably why we all get along so well. We have developed a close friendship and respect for each other’s businesses. Even though we don’t see each other very often, we promote and support one another, and encourage customers to visit them all. Also, I want to be sure to say thank you to the Wilmington Ale Trail magazine because in it, we are all united in print, too!”

She muses that everything in the craft beer industry right now, and especially in Wilmington, is exciting. “Craft beer manufacturing is one of the fastest growing businesses in America. In 2013, when we picked Wilmington to start Waterline Brewing, there was only one brewery in town; now there are eight with more opening soon,” she reveals. “Being a co-owner of a brewery allows me the opportunity to meet the most wonderful people, to develop friendships with the other brewery owners and our awesome taproom ‘regulars.’”

WILMINGTON BREWING COMPANY – MICHELLE SAVARD

WAT-MichelleMichelle and John Savard made their mark on the Wilmington brewing community first by opening Wilmington Homebrew Supply, no doubt fueling the many homebrewers who have gone on to open their own production facilities in the area. Since expanding to add Wilmington Brewing Company in 2014, the Savards’ roles have grown as well. “I operate day-to-day brewery and homebrew shop marketing, communications, accounting/bills—basically all the front of the house operations,” Michelle explains. “I love our business. It is happy, it is very challenging, and mostly very rewarding. Our team is family and I love doing what I do.”

“Since we opened the doors to our small homebrew shop in March 2012, the growth of the brewing community in Wilmington has been thrilling to watch,” Michelle adds. “Our personal growth (adding a brewery, taproom and moving to our now very big building) has been both stressful and amazing. We’ve made lifelong friends through the brewing industry, and I am so grateful to be a part of this community and excited to continue to watch it grow!”

For Michelle, being a woman in the beer industry is, in short, fun. “Yes, of course, there are those who have asked me, ‘Do you actually like beer?’” Michelle unveils, to which she replies, “Yes I do, very much! But for 99 percent of the time, every day is a new and fun adventure being a woman in a mostly male-dominated industry. Women are doing all kinds of work in the beer industry: brewing, advocating, marketing, owning, accounting, event-planning, the list goes on and on, and I would encourage any women out there who want to be in this industry to go for it!”