Meeting Denise Jones

Being a woman in the craft beer world, or the beer world in general, is not something that one automatically expects or recognizes in most situations.  Working for or at a brewery is another subject entirely, but one that Denise Jones manages just fine at Moylan’s Brewery as the brewmaster.  At an AZ Girls’ Pint Out event last Thursday (3/3) with about 15 other women, sitting in Papago Brewing, we all ordered from a large selection of Moylan’s that was made available on tap specifically for our evening.  From the extensive beer list, some of what we were able to try: Hopsickle, Pomegranate Wheat, Port Barrel Aged Barleywine, Ryan Sullivan’s Imperial Stout, Danny’s Irish Red, Scotch Ale, Dragoon’s Dry Irish Stout, and Tipperary APA.  I myself started with the Pomegranate Wheat, and will definitely look into doing a review for, ending with their Port Barrel Aged Barleywine and their Scotch Ale aged in Apple Brandy barrels.  It was a high alcohol evening, but one that came with a lot of great information and conversation.

{Very blurry picture of the Pomegranate Wheat, apologies}

Denise, coming forward and starting her introduction off by saying she liked answering questions and enjoyed talking on the fly, was quickly offered up some queries.  Asked how she became a brewmaster and whether or not she homebrewed, she said she did not start as a homebrewer.  “If it was something [she] was going to do, [she] wanted to get paid for it.”  She attended school and became an assistant brewer first before becoming a full-fledged brewmaster and now refers to herself as “a lucky lass.”  She also mentioned that lately she’s been embarking on distillates and whiskey, just for fun, and is working on a new beer – a smooth black ale with orange zest – because she wanted to try new malts that weren’t so acrid.  Fun fact about this new beer:  she peeled 480+ oranges in one day by herself specifically for the brew.  That’s dedication (yes, even more than women who wear German beer dirndls in 40º and rainy weather for a festival).

When asked about her thoughts on blending, she said that she had two perspectives on the matter.  One is that she goes “out of [her] way to nail the stylistic portion of the beer so that it stands on its own” and ended by saying that she was very particular about standards as a whole.  Her second opinion is that with other beers that she brews out of the box, “if you don’t like it on its own, [she’s] open to blending if it keeps you drinking the beer” and suggests blending it to make it suit your tastes.  No harm, no foul.  While on the subject of blends, she also got into what irks her about events centered around the “art” of blending or bars that recommend a blended brew over a straight one.  She said she finds it offensive if, when she walks into a bar and they don’t know who she is, she orders her own beer, and is suggested that the beer would be better in a different form, or blended.  Obviously not everyone will be able to recognize a brewer like they might a current Hollywood celebrity, as they are mostly working behind the scenes or not really looking for notoriety, but I would think, or at least hope, that if you were going to be working at a bar that serves craft beer, you might be somewhat knowledgeable of the people who created the beer you were pouring.  Not every brewer can get their own TV show.  Denise went on to say that “blending should only be done with the brewer’s permission,” and that “energy should be spent towards pairing beer with food rather than mixing with other beers.”  She believes that the brewer should be the one to introduce new blends with their beer.

A few rounds of questions later and after traveling through all of the tables, we got onto the subject of women and their perceived relationship with beer through society’s eyes.  Denise began by strongly stating that she does not necessarily consider herself a woman in the craft beer scene; she is a brewer above all else, regardless of gender, which caused more than a few nods in agreement and a good dose of empowered clapping.  She recommended to not make beer hard, to not make it sororal.  In her opinion, women drink with their eyes and get the quality over quantity aspect of beer drinking, but they would much rather please men’s ideas of macrobeers – or what has been the prevalent factor in all macro advertisements: sex.  She ended our question and answer session with one last little tidbit for women who drink craft beer: “It’s okay to drink a full-bodied and full-caloried beer.”

I tend to agree with everything she said, especially the last sentence.  Following so many beer-loving people on Twitter has especially brought this statement home for me, as on more than a few occasions, I’ve seen women tweeting about how many calories were in the craft beer they were drinking and whether or not they should care.  My question is, when was the last time you honestly cared about the amount of calories in the beer you enjoy?  Do you drink beer for the alcohol and/or bar scene (and thus, look for the lightest beers) or do you drink beer for the flavors, the feeling, and the whole experience of such an appreciative community (even if you aren’t particularly partial to heavier beers, it doesn’t have to be a Bud, Miller, or Coors)?  All in all, yes, men are a hugely prevalent component of the beer world and will be here to stay, and I can definitely appreciate that, but just being able to bring even a little bit more information to society in regards to women and their interest in beer, to take that and put it on the table in front of people who care and have a vested interest in the future of craft beer and how it can be advertised to reach 100% of the adult population rather than just 50%, is a very powerful thing that is gaining a lot more of the respect it deserves.

2 thoughts on “Meeting Denise Jones

  1. Living here in the Bay Area and blogging about craft beer for a few years now, I wouldn’t recognize Denise Jones if she were sitting right next to me. It’s not that I don’t care about her or her beers but as you mentioned, brewers often work behind the scenes and we don’t always get to meet the people who make the beers we drink. I also think it’s a bit of a stretch for a brewer to expect a bar serving their beers to recognize them. Possibly if it’s a very good craft beer bar with excellent training.

    Although I wonder what she’s more offended by: that people don’t recognize her or that people are blending her beers without her permission?

    Good write up of the event though!

    • I agree with you completely, though I would hope that if a brewer were to give their name, someone would be able to recognize them that way. Also, good question about which she’s more offended by, I wasn’t asking the questions, I was simply jotting notes, so I don’t have that answer. If I get a chance to speak with her again, I might have to ask her to elaborate a bit more. Thanks!

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