Business

Right Brain’s First Female Brewers

By Danielle Woodward
The Record-Eagle, Traverse City, Mich.

TRAVERSE CITY

Is the brewing industry a man’s world? December Lee and Jackie Granger are disproving that stereotype one beer at a time.

Lee and Granger are Right Brain Brewery’s first female brewers, but that title doesn’t phase them.

“For me, and Right Brain Brewery in general, its not about gender,” Lee said. “It’s about working hard. If you’re a hard worker, and you can pay attention to detail and follow directions, you’re going to make it. I never ran into any gender issues.”

Lee worked as a bartender for 20 years, but she knew she wanted to end up in the brew house.

“As soon as I did the interview, I said my ultimate goal is to end up in the house,” she said. “They were like,’Okay, ha ha, you’re so funny.’ Nobody believed me.”

But Lee got her chance when she overheard Russel Springsteen, owner and founder of Right Brain Brewery, saying he needed extra help. She started as a cellarwoman and is now the assistant brewer.

Granger, also an assistant brewer, came in as a cellarwoman in March. She was drawn to brewing because of the creative process and manual labor involved.
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“I was trying to get a job in the brewing industry in Grand Rapids but it was hard to get my foot in the door,” she said.

Lee has worked around men her whole life, so toiling in what some consider a male-dominated industry never intimidated her.

“To us, it’s never been a big deal, but to everybody else it seems to be a huge surprise,” she said.

Lee credits that to how beer is advertised.

“If you look on TV, or anything to do with beer in general, it’s always burly guys with beers and plaid shirts,” she said. “To have somebody like us in the industry, it’s like, ‘Woah that’s not what I see on TV, that’s not what Sam Adams tells me.'”

But Springsteen grew up working around women, and thought a balance in his brewery was important.

“There’s this stereotype that women can’t do this, and I find it to be completely false,” he said. “Women seem to bring this whole different attitude of resilience to the job.”

Granger’s advice to women who want to brew: “Just go for it. Find a position and make sure it’s somewhere you like. I came to Right Brain because it’s a creative place and that was important to me.”

She hopes to be involved in label making or creating flavors in the future.

Lee plans to do a lot more brewing.

“I like what I do. I’ve only been at this for two years, so this is experience and learning for me, but I’d eventually like to own my own place or become a head brewer somewhere,” she said.

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