Brewing Up Something New

By Maria Lockwood
Superior Telegram, Wis.

Females have been brewing beer since the first drop fermented. Yeast, the agent that turns sugar water to alcohol, consists of mother cells that bud from daughter cells.

“Beer is made by women,” said Allyson Rolph, brewmaster for Thirsty Pagan Brewing in Superior.

Yeast may have smashed the glass ceiling, but it’s taking a while for humans to catch up. Rolph is one of only three female brewmasters in Wisconsin, although she prefers the term head brewer. She shares that distinction with Jamie Baertsch at Moosejaw Pizza & Dells Brewing Co. in Wisconsin Dells and Ashley Kinart at Capital Brewing in Madison.

Rolph was featured in a recent Wisconsin State Journal Story about Kinart that stressed how rare female brewmasters are in the state.

Although it’s been seen as a traditional men’s role, Rolph said women are just as capable. They may even bring a better palate to the job.

“I haven’t had any issues with the men in my field,” Rolph said. “They treat me very well.”

Rolph was an avid home brewer before she began interning at Thirsty Pagan in 2011. She was named head brewer in July 2012. The process mixes chemistry, math and creativity to brew a dizzying array of beer. Thirsty Pagan offers a rotating selection of 16 beers on tap, ranging from the clear, bright India Pagan Ale and Belgian style Trouble Maker Tripel to nitro beers, stouts and sours.

“I think we have a really wide spectrum of beer,” Rolph said, from light to hoppy, even spicy. Seasonal flavors roll through, giving customers a new beer choice nearly every week. All of them are made behind the counter, steps away from customers. Making them has been rewarding for the head brewer.

“The best part about brewing for me is always learning and being challenged,” Rolph said.

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