They Are Strong, They Are Invincible, They Are the Women of Craft Beer

No longer a man’s world. • Photographs by Sophia del Gigante

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Hear them roar. From left, Amanda Danielsen, Shelby Poole, Lauri Spitz and Succety Lara.

Make way, ladies coming through! The craft beer market is rapidly expanding: Since 2011 more than 350 new breweries have opened in this coun- try, and women’s interest in craft beer is growing exponentially. Within the past year, Long Island has seen three breweries open: Barrage Brewing Company (Farmingdale), Moustache Brewing Company (Riverhead) and A Taste of Long Island Craft Brewery (Farmingdale). These business opportunities have not gone unnoticed, in particular by women, who are increasingly entering the industry. Here on Long Island, women are blazing a new trail that goes well beyond barmaid.

They share a kinship not only for great craft beer but also an affinity for coloring outside the lines. They were not afraid to be the first, the only girl at the LIBME (Long Island Beer and Malt Enthusiasts) meeting or that one female brewer. Here: Three of our favorites explain their place in our craft-beer community.

Lauri Spitz, Brewer, Moustache Brewing Co., Riverhead, NY
Lauri’s dead-end job was her beginning. Her only escape was brewing at home with her husband, Matt. The path toward professional happiness was murky, and Spitz took a chance on a life coach. Her aha moment came when her coach asked what would make her happy, not taking money into account or circumstance; immediately she knew she would open a brewery. With that realization came a highly successful Kickstarter campaign and her long-shot dream Moustache Brewery was born. “At no point has this whole process ever been easy,” says Lauri. “There are many days I barely sleep, there are days I’m stressed and I cry, however, I would not go back to where I was…for anything.”

As the sole female brewer on the island, with bright-red hair to boot, Lauri Spitz stands out. “People think it’s awesome that I’m a woman brewery owner. I have found that as long as I am good at what I do no one cares if I stand up or sit down to pee.”

Moustache’s grand opening in April was an enormous success. It was no surprise that their Blueberry Ginger Tripel and Mojito Pale Ale were two of the most talked about beers of the summer. What’s next? Guinea pig test batches, barrel aging and select bottle releases are coming this winter.

Shelby Poole, Craft Beer Gastropub Owner, Morrison’s, Plainview, NY; Jackson’s Commack, NY
The bar business is in Shelby’s blood, literally. She’s a child of the industry, growing up and working at her parent’s restaurant Graffiti in Woodbury. “I worked behind the counter wrapping takeout and having crushes on the waiters,” says Shelby. The owner of two gastropubs with her chef-husband, Harry, Shelby has found her own way of standing out. “My craft program is the furthest I’ve strayed from the way I was trained by my parents. It took a couple of years to get my parents to even repeat the word ‘gastropub,’ now it’s becoming our future,” says Shelby.

Shelby has immersed herself in the Long Island craft beer scene and is friends with nearly all of Long Island’s brewers. “I’ve been drinking beer for a while, but I’d say the love affair is more with the industry,” admits Shelby. Being one of the few ladies at LIBME meetings has not intimidated her. It actually is quite the opposite. “I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to stand out. You’ve got to have a certain personality to sell beer,” she says. Shelby has manifested her fun and outgoing personality into events at her restaurants. A recent beer pairing dinner was themed “Charlie Brown’s, The Great Pumpkin Dinner.” What’s next for Shelby? “I’ve got my eye on parties. All these young craft beer drinking girls are going to want craft beer weddings.”

Amanda Danielsen and Succety Lara; Owners; Hoptron Brewtique, Patchogue, NY
Amanda was the gateway to craft beer for Succety. Before they met, Succety was exclusively a wine drinker, but she quickly came around when introduced to Ithaca Brewing Company’s Flower Power IPA. “I loved Ithaca’s Flower Power, and that was my gateway into IPAs and then DIPAs,” says Succety. Amanda, on the other hand, was at a crossroad. She really loved craft beer and the community, but didn’t know how she could fit in. “I love bars and distributors and I thought I could bring something new and fresh, with a perspective. Get more non-craft lovers into craft,” says Amanda. Their diverse approaches is why Hoptron Brewtique is not really a bar—it’s more like a craft beer clubhouse with a coffeehouse vibe. You won’t find loud thumping music or bouncers, instead you will find board games and comfy chairs. Another difference is that Hoptron is more than just beer on tap, you can also buy bottles to enjoy at home.

Amanda sees her business as an opportunity to break the stereotype, “Craft beer does not have to be owned and enjoyed exclusively by young white guys with beards and flannel.” Amanda and Succety are committed to educating their patrons in craft beer. When they witness one of their craft beer newbies start to teach others about craft beer, they know they’ve done their job. As for their future plans, Succety says, “lots of little Hoptrons will be nice.” The ladies have also collaborated on a Smoked Gose—“NewTron Fusion”—with Newburgh Brewing Company and are in talks to collaborate with Finback Brewing Company next.

What draws people to the craft beer community on Long Island is the acceptance. There’s a kind of come-as-you-are attitude, a creative, free-thinking culture that accepts anyone that’s into craft beer. With so many new breweries in the works and more beer lovers being born every day, it’s shaping up to be a true renaissance of craft brew. No longer exclusively flannelled and bearded, the brew scene has grown and evolved, says Danielsen. Being one of a handful of women in craft beer takes courage initially, but I’ve found that you are always welcomed with open arms. These women are among the first, but they certainly won’t be the last. Craft beer is no longer a man’s world. We are here to stay.

FIND OUT MORE There are lots of ladies in our local craft beer scene! Read about them here.

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Sophia del Gigante blogs at ny-foodgasm.