Female brewers on tap at Brewer’s Ball benefit

April Anderson, a senior brewer for Devil's Backbone in Virginia, raises a glass at the Brewer's Ball. (Photo by Emily Heil.)
April Anderson, a senior brewer for Devil’s Backbone in Virginia, raises a glass at the Brewer’s Ball. (Photo by Emily Heil.)

For decades, beer had a reputation as the province of dudes, made and swilled by bros.

But check out the lines queuing up for craft brews at the annual Brewer’s Ball at the National Building Museum on Saturday night for evidence that things have changed: There seemed to be just as many cocktail dresses as ties. Silent auction items at the bash, which raises money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, included spa packages and sports memorabilia.

And then note the number of women in charge of concocting the mixes at some of the area’s finest breweries.

Kristi Griner was pouring sips of Kolsch to thirsty partygoers at the booth of Capitol City Brewing Company, where she’s director of brewing operations. She says that those who invented the craft in ancient times were probably women, so today’s rise of lady brewers is just things coming full circle. “It’s cool to see so many more of us in the profession,” she says. “But the way I see it, it’s our birthright.”

The guys in the beer business welcome women in their ranks, Griner says, turning to her pal Mari Rodela, a co-owner of D.C. Brau, who has dropped by for confirmation. “It’s not as macho as you’d think,” Rodela agrees.

The Brewer’s Ball, now in its tenth year, features beers from dozens of breweries paired with dishes from local restaurants slurped down by an upscale crowd, a testament to the elevation of craft beer and its brewers to the status enjoyed by fine wines and well-known chefs.

April Anderson, senior brewer for the Lexington, Va., outpost of Devil’s Backbone brewery, says that even as the profession of brewer develops a bit of prestige, there’s little glamour in the day-to-day.  “I’m more often in steel-toed boots than I am dressed like this,” she says, gesturing to her black evening gown. “As a brewer, I’m kind of a glorified janitor a lot of the time.”

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.
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Emily Heil | March 8