Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Covalent Brewing: Woman Owned, Woman Brewed

Women and beer. It's a fraught subject even in the 21st Century, isn't it?

While most of the advertising for beer still features mostly young guys with a smattering of smashing-looking female model types (just so you'll know the guys are manly men), there's not a lot of acknowlegement of women—and I count myself among them—who really love beer.

That same absence of women is reflected in brewing. As Megan Flynn, editor of Beer West magazine (now closed) said in an article I wrote in 2011 on Oregon's women brewers, "I don’t think it’s that different from any other male-dominated industry," noting that the dearth of women in the field isn’t because women aren’t interested in beer or brewing.

"The at-work brewing scene, the guys are very used to being dudes," she said. "It’s heavy lifting, manual labor, moving hoses, lifting up kegs and listening to loud music." It can make it hard for women to feel welcome, even if there's not outright harassment.

Covalent Brewing's Meagan Hatfield.

Teri Fahrendorf, founder of the Pink Boots Society for women brewers and for 17 years the head brewer at Steelhead Brewing in Eugene, said it was evident to her early on that women could do the job by doing it smarter, not harder. Instead of trying to match the guys muscle-for-muscle, she said, she always asked "how can I do this so that I’m not going to get worn out" after a few years as she'd seen so many of her male colleagues do.

So far there's only one woman, Kari Gjerdingen of Mutiny Brewing in Joseph, Oregon, who has opened her own brewery. But we who live in the Willamette Valley may be about to get our own "woman-owned, woman-brewed" brewery in the person of Meagan Hatfield. A home-brewer for 13 years, a six-month stint at Wyeast Laboratories confirmed her decision to go into brewing as a profession. A degree in biology also helped.

"The science of brewing is so fascinating, " she said. "I'm kind of a nerd for that."

It's no wonder, then, that she's named her new venture Covalent Brewing after chemical bonds formed during the brewing process. Not that it's all science, mind you. Hatfield said that she's found that creating different flavor combinations is also exciting, and foresees a wide range of year-round standards on her list with a couple of rotating taps for experiments.

Lately she's been particularly taken with chile pepper infusions and is curious about incorporating other seasonal ingredients like squash in her brewing. Hatfield has been slowly collecting equipment and is looking for a building that would accomodate a small brewery and tasting room somewhere in Southeast Portland or possibly Milwaukie. Let's hope she finds one soon.


Farmer Jo said...

What a great article! Thank for sharing this! I had no idea.

Kathleen Bauer said...

Glad you found it informative, Jo!