Sisters Brewing It For Themselves
5 awesome women shaking things up in the craft beer industry.
The production of beer and spirits is an age-old tradition, and beer’s even said to be the world’s oldest drink, produced and consumed in every corner of the world. Although it’s been recorded that women have been brewing beer since ancient times, brewing has been seen to be a male-dominated field in more recent history. But, with the recent growth in the popularity of craft beer, evidenced by the significant number of local breweries we now enjoy in the region, women are stepping back in to master the amber art.
Leading the charge is Aymee Monk, brewer at one of the largest breweries in the region, Colonial Brewing Co. Working alongside head brewer Ryan Nobbs, 30-year-old Aymee came to brewing by accident but sees herself growing in the role and eventually brewing her own recipes once she has a wealth of knowledge under her belt. “The majority of my working life has been within the logistics industry. After leaving New Zealand I worked in Sydney and then Perth, importing and exporting,” she says. Aymee then moved to Margaret River nearly three years ago and says she wouldn’t live anywhere else.
“I’ve been working as a brewer for about a year now. I was originally working in the bar at Colonial and when a position on the brewing team came up I applied and got the job,” she said. “The industry is hugely supportive and I’m lucky to work alongside an amazing head brewer who is always there for any questions I might have. My favourite part of the job is meeting new people and my biggest challenge is that there’s always something new to learn. I guess that’s what keeps things interesting.”
Aymee believes living in the South West influences the styles of beer created and the ingredients used. “I think we’re spoilt for choice down here in the South West – there are so many amazing breweries bringing out some quality beers. And as for the ingredients that are available, it’s awesome to have so many to choose from.”
And Aymee’s favourite beer style? “It may sound a little boring but I really enjoy a quality wheat beer, it’s always refreshing and easy drinking. And then for a treat, a dark porter or stout goes down pretty well too.”
Also learning the brewery ropes and loving it is 21-year-old Cherry Durant from Black Brewing Co. It’s Cherry’s first job in the industry and she’s is in the throes of learning the brewing process. Like Aymee, Cherry started front of house but then developed an interest in production. “I began working with the production team eight months ago and enjoyed the work straight away, so whenever the work was available I took it!” she said.
She’s now milling and kegging, and runs the packaging line under the guidance of head brewer Shannon Grigg and brewer Adam Brookes.
“What started off as extra work has turned into something I’m now really passionate about,” Cherry said. “I’m learning something new all the time. There’s always new tasks and problems to solve. Working under the supervision of the brewers has improved my confidence to work on production tasks alone.”
“Black Brewing Co is just a three-year-old brewery, so it’s terrific to be part of a team that encourages learning, prides itself on the quality of beer produced, and works together to build its reputation in the region.”
“I think it’s exciting that Margaret River is becoming more well known for our breweries as well as the beer itself being noticed more widely. The quality overall is already at a high standard with such healthy competition between breweries,” she said.
Her favourite beers right now are the less intense styles like a pale ale and she said Black Brewing Co’s Honest Ale was definitely the most popular at home.
Manager and production team member at Cowaramup Brewing Claire Parker, loves the variety a small brewery offers and the independence they have to do their own thing. Claire set up the brewery with business partner Jeremy back in 2006, in the days when Bootleg Brewery and Bush Shack Brewery (then Wicked Ale) were the lone brewers in the region and Colonial were just getting started. “We’ve trained up a lot of local brewers since that time,” she said. “It’s a competitive industry for sure, but also very collaborative.”
She agrees that being in the South West influences the quality of the beer down here, saying the purity of the rainwater contributed to the quality of the beers. “All that goes into our beers is malted barley or wheat, yeast, hops and water.” Cowaramup Brewing is now also growing its own commercial hop harvest.
Craft beer enthusiast Tegan Dawson has worked behind the bar for Bush Shack Brewery for 15 years and has seen much change in that time. “It’s an industry that has come a long way but in some ways is still just a fledgling. Now is a really exciting time to be involved, with so many innovators breaking new ground and new styles, and the re-interpretation of old styles,” she said.
“I love talking with people over the bar, getting them to try something new and maybe changing their mind or finding something that suits their palate. There’s a whole world of flavour here just waiting to be explored.”
“There’s a rapidly growing craft beer community in WA and on the whole, it’s really friendly and supportive, with a lot of collaboration. It feels good to be a part of something moving in a positive direction. And it’s fun, beer is fun! There are no bad days when a brewery is your office!”
Tegan’s pick this season? “For the winter I love a good milk stout and Bush Shack’s Chocolate Stout is a long-time favourite. Last winter’s Boss Taurus from Bootleg and Eagle Bay’s Black Vanilla were both stand-outs, it will be interesting to see the dark and complex creations that emerge this winter.”
It’s not just beer where women are leading the way in the Margaret River region, Rebecca de Burgh is also doing great things with gin. After a chance meeting with the founder of Great Southern Distilling and Giniversity Margaret River, she joined the business. “I’ve always been involved in the liquor industry in one way or another in hospitality, production and marketing,” she said. “I’ve had a variety of roles at Giniversity, including lab technician, cellar hand and sales.”
Almost two years ag, Rebecca started distilling and is now distiller and operations manager. “I instantly fell in love with the job of distilling – the craft, the diversity and the innovation,” Rebecca said. “I love the creative licence the role brings, the opportunity to experiment and trialling and developing new recipes.” And it seems she is also here to stay. “When I arrived here I quickly learnt Margaret River offers so much more than just wine – lifestyle, adventure, natural beauty, culture and gin! We really are so spoilt.”
“Margaret River is a perfect balance of the country lifestyle, adventure and entertainment.” She firmly believes living down here influences the styles of gin she creates. “The region is bursting with quality produce, talented artists, collaborative businesses, rich terroir and constant innovation.”
Rebecca’s favourite spirit is Giniversity’s Barrel Aged Gin. “It’s a warm sipping gin aged in ex-Margaret River red wine casks adding a sweet tannin to the gin,” she said.