Accomplice Brewery & Ciderworks cofounder Felonice Merriman is one of South Florida's craft beer pioneers.
Accomplice Brewery & Ciderworks cofounder Felonice Merriman is one of South Florida's craft beer pioneers.
Courtesy of Lynette Hernandez /Lynn Studios

South Florida Group Launches Nation's First Women-Only Beer Festival

This Memorial Day weekend, local beer lovers can raise their glasses to toast something truly inspiring: the women behind the nation's craft beer movement.

On May 28, the local women's advocacy group the Fem Collective will present the FemAle Brew Fest, what event organizer and Fem Collective CEO Frances Antonio-Martineau calls not only South Florida's but also the country's first craft beer festival celebrating women in the brewing industry.

Organized in conjunction with representatives from UniteUs Group, the event will feature only craft beer from breweries that are either owned or operated by a woman or employ a female head brewer or brewmaster.

"The FemAle Brew Fest is unique because of its focus," says Antonio-Martineau, who became inspired after seeing the 2016 documentary Dream, Girl. "For years, the women in this industry have been overshadowed by men. But with this event, some of the best female-run breweries in the country will be in attendance, showcasing both their regular and seasonal products, making this the first and only festival of its kind in the U.S."

In 2014, a Stanford University study showed that of 1,700 active breweries surveyed, only 4 percent had a female head brewer or brewmaster. In that same year, however, consumer trend expert Nielsen reported that women account for 32 percent of American craft beer consumption.

MIA Brewing's Katherine Castro (right) is one of South Florida's only female assistant brewers.
MIA Brewing's Katherine Castro (right) is one of South Florida's only female assistant brewers.
Courtesy of MIA Brewing Co.

An entrepreneur and self-proclaimed longtime craft beer drinker, Antonio-Martineau says these facts became increasingly evident the more beer festivals she attended, both locally and nationally. Always on the lookout for avenues to promote and showcase women, she came up with the idea for the FemAle Brew Fest when she realized there were plenty of women in the industry right here in South Florida.

In Miami, MIA Brewing employs two female brewers, Katherine Castro and Ana Jamarillo Diez. In Palm Beach County, High Heel Brewing was founded by women and markets its products to female craft beer drinkers. In West Palm Beach, Felonice Merriman is the cofounder of Accomplice Brewing & Ciderworks, inspired by her gluten-free lifestyle because of Celiac disease.

At J. Wakefield Brewing in Miami, Natalie Wakefield runs the brewery alongside her husband, brewmaster and founder Jonathan Wakefield. In Fort Lauderdale, Lisa Siegel is the cofounder of Riverside Market and a partner in the upcoming New River Brewing. Boynton Beach-based Copperpoint Brewing Company cofounder Laura Cox runs the brewery alongside her husband, brewmaster Matt Cox.

"This industry can really be a boys' club," Merriman says. "Since the very beginning, Matt [Stetson] and I have worked equally hard to make Accomplice what it is today, and sometimes it can be frustrating to not be recognized as one half of the business. I'm happy to see Frances pioneering this event and proving craft beer is not just about men. There are plenty of women out there making it, elevating it, promoting it, and also enjoying it."

Brewers in attendance will include nationally respected names such as Emily Thomas, cofounder, owner, and brewer of Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing; Erin Cox, quality assurance manager for Great Divide Brewing Co.; and Lauren Zeidler, director of quality for Ballast Point.

Erin Cox is the quality assurance manager for Great Divide Brewing Co.
Erin Cox is the quality assurance manager for Great Divide Brewing Co.
Courtesy of Great Divide Brewing Co.

The FemAle Brew Fest will take place Sunday, May 28, at Fort Lauderdale's FAT Village Art District. The festival will host a large selection of female-run breweries and industry-related vendors, as well as live music by an assortment of female DJs and a selection of artisan and handcrafted food pairings presented by local women-run establishments.

In addition to offering tastings and entertainment, the FemAle Brew Fest will also be a platform for female beer experts and brewers to share their insight into the craft beer industry. Many brewers and head brewmasters attending the festival will also host taste-and-talk seminars for VIP ticketholders.

Advance general-admission and VIP tickets cost $20 to $35 through April 20. Admission will cost $30 to $45 at the gate. VIP tickets, limited to 100 people, allow entrance to the event an hour prior to the general public, a commemorative glass, access to the event's Brewster Talk, and unlimited sampling. Designated-driver tickets cost $10 and allow entrance to the event, free water, and one food voucher. A portion of all proceeds will go to Pink Boots Society, a group dedicated to supporting women in the beer industry.

"How cool that the country's first female beer festival is happening here in South Florida and we get to be the home base for something like this?" Merriman says. "I'm so excited to not only be a part of this event but also have the opportunity to meet other women in the industry from across the country. To be included alongside some of these leaders in craft beer is really awesome. I can't wait to see this event grow."

FemAle Brew Fest
1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, May 28, at 517 NW First Ave., Building 517, Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $10 to $45 plus fees via femalebrewfest.com.

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