Women Brewers In Denver Put Social Justice On Tap

by Rebecca DeRosa

While many of us will want to drown our sorrows this Inauguration Day, some people are a little more proactive about it.

Kelissa Hieber, head brewer at Goldspot Brewing, and Bess Dougherty, another Denver-based brewer, wanted to push back at the climate of hate and oppression that has been festering anew in the past few months. They organized a group of like-minded women brewers in Denver to concoct Makin’ Noise: A Pussy Riot Beer, which will be tapped on Jan. 20. Donations from the proceeds will go to Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, and organizations in their area that benefit the environment and the LGBT community.

Right after the election, Dougherty went to a panel discussion featuring some members of Pussy Riot, the Russian punk band and activist group. “My emotions at this point were still raw. It was my first time leaving the house post-election and it was the most therapeutic thing I could have asked for, the guidance and being surrounded by like-minded people. The two things that stuck out the most were when they were asked, ‘What do we as Americans do now?’ The answer was to stay and fight,” Dougherty said.

IMG 0409Photo: Jonathan Shikes of Westword

IMG 0406Photo: Jonathan Shikes of Westword

Pussy Riot encourages people to use their voices and their art to effect social and political change. The brewers say that making beer is their art form and this is how they express themselves. “For me, it’s about showing up and being an active voice for positive change in our communities. It’s about providing spaces where people can drink in solidarity with each other and put their beer money to work for good. It may seem like a small action, but it’s really a big statement to make,” Betsy Lay, co-owner of Lady Justice Brewing, said.

The group of brewers has been gathering together in December and early January at Goldspot Brewing, Lady Justice Brewing, 3 Freaks Brewery, Black Sky Brewing, and Brewability Lab. They are whipping up different versions of an imperial saison, which will come out to a walloping 8-9% abv. When asked why this particular style of beer was chosen, Lay said, “In appearance, it’s pretty delicate and unassuming. In reality, this beer is strong, powerful, and takes no shit.”

IMG 1798Photo: Black Sky Brewing

If you are what you drink, this is the beer you want to have in your hand to stand up to the patriarchy.

She’s all about putting beer money to work. “Lady Justice Brewing exists to promote opportunities for women and girls so they can be empowered to be and do great things,” Lay said. “The people who drink our beer want to be a part of making these opportunities happen. The mission statement written by Bess and Kelissa for the Pussy Riot beers resonates with that and is what really sold me on saying yes to this project.”

IMG 1805Photo: Black Sky Brewing

The mission statement reads:

We believe in an America that celebrates its diversity, an America that protects and supports anyone regardless of sexual orientation, gender, identity, race, religious views, or immigration status. We condemn the hate that has always existed against marginalized groups and we will not stand for the new strong wave hitting our country. We felt it necessary to take action and decided to use our art to make our voices heard. We are coming out in support of those most at risk in our community and doing what we can to stand together as a united voice against hate and intolerance. This beer works to combat the hate and oppression while also lending support and solidarity to the fight for equality. We believe in this beautiful community and we feel it is necessary to work together to protect it.

We are asking that at least $1 from every pint sold at each participating brewery will go towards a charity that supports those most at risk in our community. We are also working with our partners for tap takeovers to ensure that proceeds from those events also go towards the proposed charities.

IMG 1806Photo: Black Sky Brewing

20170109 113525Photo: Black Sky Brewing

The brewers are hosting a series of events on inauguration day and the following day to celebrate the Women’s March. Many other breweries and bars in the area are participating and Black Sky Brewery will host an art show of pieces inspired by the project. On Jan. 28, Colorado Plus Brew Pub will tap one keg from each of the participating breweries and there will be a “meet the brewer” event with proceeds going to ProgressNow Colorado.

Dougherty said that this is the biggest project she has ever organized, but since the election, she has been fired up to take action. She and the other brewers hope to keep the momentum going with quarterly events with rotating host breweries that will support different charities.

IMG 20170103 163548 103Photo: Kim Collins

“As a woman and as a member of the LGBTQ community, the uncertainty of it all is scary at times,” Lay said. “There’s a lot at stake for the rights of marginalized communities. Social justice movements are extremely important in making sure that we don’t all just give up and accept defeat. We need to be standing up for each other, we need to be organizing, and we need to be brewing a lot more beer.”

We can all drink to that.

Top photo: 

Photo: Jonathan Shikes of Westword

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