October 23, 2018

Minnesota's Women Brewers

Great to see our local brewing legends get some well-deserved recognition in this Thrillist article. It also underlines what brewers have known for centuries (ever since ale wives were responsible for producing all the household beer): When it comes to brewing, women don’t mess around. We’re proud to count many of these brewers among our friends and brew heroes...including Urban Growler’s Deb Loch, who was our very own Product Development guru way back when! Read the full article here: Meet the Women Bringing Monumental Changes to the MSP Craft Beer Scene - The Brewmasters 



Every time I do an interview at a brewery, I’m always directed to the same person. Typically, I’m referred to the brewer, and typically this brewer is a man -- a congenial dude with a blue-collar ethic and a beard that could sell beer on its own. This image of the brewer has come to epitomize the very identity of brewing in its many facets. This person isn’t just the creator; they’re the manifestation of the entire craft beer industry.

It’s a pervasive association -- find the beard, find the person who knows what they’re talking about. Meanwhile, entire populations of the craft beer world are being ignored. As the industry leaps forward, more and more people that don’t match the archetype have taken leadership roles in the state’s 120-odd brewhouses. Most notably, women have taken a commanding role, occupying positions in all phases of the industry.

Though the outward face of craft beer is still indelibly male, these are the women who are committed to changing the way you think about their industry.

Deb Loch Co-founder and master brewer, Urban Growler


The Figurehead

Deb Loch Co-founder and master brewer, Urban Growler

Jill Pavlak and Deb Loch laid new ground when they opened Urban Growler in 2014. Not only was their co-owned microbrewery the first beermaker in Minnesota owned by women, it was the first with a female head brewer. At the time, it was a novel achievement, and forward-thinking beernuts crammed their brick building in St. Paul to support the cause. Two years later, Loch has seen her company become less of a novelty and more of an institution -- and she couldn’t be prouder of that transition.

“A lot of people don’t actually know that we’re the first woman-owned brewery,” she said. “It’s an interesting fact that might get people here the first time, but I hope they come in the second time for the beer and the service.”

Though she brushes off the term “figurehead,” Loch’s influence on the brewing industry in Minnesota cannot be denied. A biomedical 9-5er turned brewery-owning trailblazer, Loch’s story has intoxicated localvores and earned her countless invites to speak on panels on behalf of her gender. She’s the de facto press contact for anything gender-related in the beer scene. It’s all very flattering, but her intention was only ever to make great beer.

“We love to tell the story, because it’s a way for people to connect,” she said. “People are sometimes nervous to meet us, and we’re like ‘Us? Why?’ We’re just two regular people.”

This identity struggle isn’t new to Urban Growler. Since the beginning, Loch has weighed the idea of selling her business as “the women-owned brewery.” On the one hand, she’s glad to inspire a population she knows is underrepresented in her industry. On the other, she doesn’t want her gender to be a gimmick.

Luckily, Loch is becoming less of an anomaly in her community. In her two years in the commercial space, she’s seen a determined uptick in the number of women joining her ranks. It’s still not quite enough, but if her example can convince anyone that their gender isn’t a factor, then that’s her definition of success.

“More and more women are realizing this is an option and that you don’t have to have a beard to be a brewer,” Loch said. “There’s the scientific aspect of it, and there’s the creative aspect of it, and both parts are gender neutral. You just have to trust that you can do it.”


Read the Whole Article about these awesome Minnesota Women in Brewing