Homebrewklyn & The Mighty Fem-Ales
Several months ago, I had the pleasure of attending Homebrewklyn, a homebrewer’s contest and tasting presented by Rally Downtown and sponsored by everyone’s favorite homebrew shop, Bitter & Esters. The Saturday afternoon affair was held at the breathtakingly beautiful Green Building on the (admittedly scummy) banks of the Gowanus Canal and featured dozens of homebrewing Brooklynites rearing to share their latest batch with a crowd of thirsty ticket-buyers. Upon walking in, my initial impression was “Hell Yes!” My fellow festival-goers stood in stark contrast to the majority of beer events I attend -- they ran the gamut from the expected industry folks and recognizable beer geeks to run-of-the-mill Moms and Dads who happened to wander by to groups of girls (yes, girls!) happily imbibing tiny glasses of Peach Saison and Hibiscus IPA. I was happy to see so much fitting diversity at this decidedly grassroots fundraising event.
I was even more pleased when I glanced over the brewers ballot (everyone was encouraged to vote for their favorite homebrew in a crowd’s choice runoff) and noticed more than a few female names on the list! I immediately made my way over to Kate Boicourt’s booth and offered my empty glass up for a fill of her Venus de Gowanus Black Ale. Fantastic - nicely hopped, with toasty coffee notes and a smoky finish. Kate and I got to talking and after I dropped a few BeerdedLadies.com coasters on the table, she told me that she and her good friend Sheri Lyn brew together -- or at least conspire to brew together -- under the name FemAles. She was passionate about craft beer, homebrewing and getting more women into the scene. I sensed the urge to blog coming on and quickly exchanged info, intent on setting up a Beerded Ladies & FemAles homebrew tasting/interview/explosion of the likeminded minds.
That day came a few weeks later when Sheri, Kate, Hayley and I met up under a beautiful oak tree in pastoral Fort Greene park. Ok, I don’t know if it was actually an oak tree, but it was beautiful none-the-less. The AleWives brought samples of their homebrew and Hayley and I brought a notepad, a voice recorder and eager palates. Kate’s Venus de Gowanus went over extremely well, as I knew it would. Hayley, the stout fan that she is, dug the black pale ale's distinct roastyness and crisp finish. When Sheri -- who’s spicy, juicy BondoncaBLANC Blonde got my fan favorite vote at the contest -- busted out a bottle of smoked chocolate porter salvaged from a previous batch, I knew this was a match made in craft beer heaven.
We sipped and chatted and talked for awhile as the sun set behind us. The FemAles both work for environmental agencies, a fact that lead to an interesting conversation about brewing & science, water’s integral role in the brewing process and the advantages of New York’s famously fresh supply.
Kate told me she got her start when she first moved to New York. Her Maryland-based brother gave her a kit as a gift, one of those prepackaged get-ups with packets of yeast and a jar of malt syrup. Although she’s learned a lot since then -- and now uses all grain, of course -- she still remembers that first batch fondly and wishes she could find those mystery ingredients again.
Sheri, on the other hand, cooked up her first homebrew down under, on the other side of the globe. While studying for her Master's Degree in Australia, she volunteered with Seven Sheds Brewery in Tasmania. No syrups for this girl -- Sherri started off with whole grains and fumbled her way through several unsuccessful brewing attempts before mastering the hobby. Still, though, Sheri bucks style confines, evidenced by the not-so-blonde blonde presented at the event.
The Fem-Ales have combined forces before, brewing up a provocative titled IPA called Bitches in Space. The brew’s apt name was derived from an imported hop strain with a particularly otherworldly moniker.
All jokes aside, hanging out with these two talented homebrewers was everything us Beerded Ladies hoped for. Meeting other women who care as deeply about craft beer as we do is pretty special, and I hope for many more breezy afternoons just like this one. Breaking news: Sheri and Kate (alongside fellow accomplished homebrewer Shannon Bowser) have just announced that they will lead a WOMEN’S ONLY HOMEBREW CLASS at Bitter & Esters next month! Be sure to sign up for the class here, beerded ones. Maybe we’ll even collaborate on a Beerded-Ladies-Fem-Ales brew -- better start thinking up some clever names now!