Goddesses of Beer


Goddesses of Beer

Robey Martin

If you were to take stock of the gender ratio at any local brewery, it would skew male. Interestingly, though, that isn’t how it used to be. It’s always been a woman’s game. The earliest evidence of beer brewing was in China around 7000-5600 BCE: a rice and fruit beer brewed by Yi Di, the wife of Yu the Great. In ancient Egypt, it was brewed and then traded by women. In Britain, beer was consumed daily, brewed in cast iron pots all day long by women nicknamed alewives. Hildegard von Bingen, a German abbess, figured out that hops would increase a beer’s shelf life, forever changing how beer is made and stored. Not to mention, there are actual goddesses of beer: Tjenenet is the Egyptian goddess of beer and childbirth, and Mesopotamia had two beer goddesses: Siris and Ninkasi.

In Richmond, we have our own beer goddesses in our emerging brew scene, quietly directing from behind the curtain. These are the words of five ladies who are responsible for keeping those taps flowing, while crafting the social scene and our perceptions of beer.


Ashley Ray
Owner, Center of the Universe Brewing Co. & Origin Beer Lab

Years in the Industry: Feels like forever

Role: Planningtheeditorialcalendarbasedonthebrewscheduleandevents,creatingFacebookads, writing up press releases, meeting about event promotions, writing social media and newsletter content, and creating beer porn.

On the Industry: We definitely keep moving the needle forward, but we can do better. I would love to see more women in the back of the house — cellar women, brewers, women working production, etc. As with any industry dominated by men, it takes women seeing other successful women in the industry before more will come. There was a lot of prejudice when we were homebrewers in Tampa. “Homebrewing is a dangerous job, little lady” is what one dude ACTUALLY said to me as he tried my homebrew at a meeting once. I would also love for the term “lady beer” to go away. Come on guys, women don’t just drink light beers or beers with fruit.

Inspiration: I admire Lisa Brotherton Pumphrey. She is doing so much with Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery, while also giving back through her charity, Goodwater.


Lisa Brotherton Pumphrey
Co-Owner & Brewer, Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery + Lickinghole Goodwater

Years in the Industry: 4

Role: Staying relevant in today’s craft beer scene by creating new and innovative flavors in craft beer categories.

On the Industry: It is exciting to see the ratio of men to women working in craft beer changing. When we opened four years ago, I felt like a woman alone surrounded by men. I hope I’m setting an example for other women, encouraging them to feel confident jumping into any field of work, undaunted by the male dominance in that field. The men will accept and respect you with time and, in my case, maybe fear your power and determination.

Inspiration: Kim of New Belgium Brittany Cooper


Brittany Cooper

Co-Owner, Steam Bell Beer Works, Canon & Draw Brewing Company, + Trussing Craft Fizz Years in the Industry: 2

Role: Working with the brewers at Steam Bell Beer Works and Canon & Draw on our 2018/2019 production plans, finalizing design decisions, content planning for all of our brand social media accounts, and filing trademarks and articles of incorporation.

On the Industry: While there is still a bit of an old boys’ club in parts of the beverage industry, I didn't expect how kind, generous, and willing to help other brewers industry folks would be. We had SO MANY brewery owners reach out and offer us their space, fermenters, and more.

Inspiration: I really admire what Annie Tobey has done for the craft scene as a whole and how she has represented women in this field so eloquently.


Annie Tobey
Craft Beer Writer & Editor

Role: Reading about beer, spirits, and the industries, as well as getting out to breweries for research (yes, it’s not just fun, though it is that!), and writing/editing.

On the Industry: Because more people are becoming involved in the craft beer industry, more women are becoming visible, making it seem more common and thus more accepted. In addition to gender diversity, I’d like to see more diversity overall, in race, age, sexual orientation, etc.

Inspiration: I admire Kate Lee. She started with a Big Beer company, came to Hardywood, and has built a reputation of being a valuable asset to the Hardywood team.


Cheyenne Burnham
Taproom Manager, Final Gravity Brewing Co.

Years in the Industry: 6

Role: Developing images and flyers for events, classes, and beer releases, setting up meetings, and planning event details. Researching new ideas, keeping an eye on what's going on in the beer world, taking pictures, maintaining all the social media pages and feeds, and running the taproom.

On the Industry: Richmond breweries are very mindful about their branding of beers and how women are portrayed. But there's a fine line between empowering women and separating them. There's also the judgment that comes with being a woman over a certain age behind the bar. I feel people still give men a longer life expectancy.

Inspiration: Kate Lee, the Director of Operations at Hardywood, is at the top of my list. As far as brewing and beer knowledge — and sheer awesomeness — goes, she ranks up there amongst both the women and men in the RVA brewing industry. 

Kya Carter