DENVER — For as large as the beer industry is, it is not an industry known for its representation. Data collected in 2021 by the Brewers Association shows 93.5% of brewery owners are white; 75.6% are men.
“The more inclusivity, the cooler craft beer gets,” said Kelissa Hieber.
Hieber owns Goldspot Brewing in Denver. She is one of only a handful of women to have sole ownership of a brewery. Goldspot itself is also one of only three queer-owned breweries in the state of Colorado.
Hieber came to Denver after having little luck getting into the beer industry in Cincinnati, Ohio.
“Colorado always had a lot of dope female brewers,” said Hieber. “I mean, it's still not great representation, but I had a lot of mentors that I am so thankful for that really have helped me, like Ashleigh from Bierstadt and Bess from Ratio.”
Hieber is referring to Ashleigh Carter, co-founder and head brewer at Bierstadt Lagerhaus in Denver and Bess Dougherty, a brewer at Ratio Beerworks, also in Denver.
In an effort to change the future, Hieber is also teaching the next generation of brewers at Regis University.
“I always joke that I teach the youth of America that's older than me,” she said.
Andres Rodriguez-Prestamo and Sabrina Hancock are both in Regis’ Applied Craft Brewing Program. They say they know what they’re getting into from both a business perspective and a personal one.
I feel a little bit of insecurity just in terms of wanting to be taken seriously,” said Sabrina.
Andres says he wants to have his voice heard.
“Hey, I’m Latin and I’m here,” he said.
Looking back at that data collected by the Brewers Association, 2.9% of breweries in the nation are fully women-owned. Only 2.2% of owners are Hispanic or Latino.
Hieber calls it a ‘boy’s club’ and has ideas to try to improve those numbers from access to the classroom to mindful planning for the real world.
“I really want to have a scholarship program that is for women, queers, people of color,” she said. “Also, we're working on a lot of DEI 101, 202, that sort of like coursework that then every single brewery can have access at any time because the more inclusive we can be as an industry, the more money we can also make, so it's just good business.”
Andres, who grew up in Puerto Rico, says he is already finding inspiration in Colorado’s beer scene in places like Cheluna Brewing and Raices Brewing, both Latino-owned.
“They just make things that are out of this world and they bring their roots to them,” he said, adding he wants to showcase his roots as well. “[I’d like to] try out things with Puerto Rican ingredients, maybe Yucca root or different types of starch, adding plantains to beer, maybe give it a little sweetness.”
Sabrina says her internship has given her hope and allowed her to focus on what brings her joy.
“It's made a huge difference in terms of feeling supported,” she said. “It just feels like existing as myself and not existing as an ideal or something that is meant to be in a particular place. The art and the craft itself, that's why I started this.”
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