Women in Washington’s Craft Beer Scene

Three local breweries where women rule.

Kristi Griner, Emily Bruno, Catherine Portner, and Margaret Portner. Photograph by Jeff Elkins

Beer, like many institutions, suffers from gender disparity: Teri Fahrendorf, president of the Pink Boots Society, an association of women in the beer industry, estimates that fewer than 1 percent of professional brewers are female—a switch from more than 5,000 years ago, when the first brews were likely fermented by Sumerian women in their homes, and from present-day Washington, where the thriving craft-beer scene has a growing number of breweries where women rule.

Capitol City Brewing Company

Kristi Griner, brewmaster at Capitol City, was bartending at Hops in Alexandria in 2007 when she convinced the brewmaster to give her lessons. A professional cook for six years, Griner says, “I approach beer like food.” She worked on a doppelbock with hints of chocolate and caramel malt that went on tap March 1.

Denizens Brewing Co.

“The industry is dominated by men, so it’s marketed to men,” says Emily Bruno, the owner of Denizens Brewing Co., opening in Silver Spring this summer (with brother-in-law Jeff Ramirez as head brewer). “We want to create a place that’s accessible to anyone.”

Portner Brewhouse

The Robert Portner Brewing Company was Alexandria’s largest employer until Virginia went dry in 1916. Nearly a century later, Portner’s great-great-granddaughters, Catherine and Margaret Portner, are brewing up old family recipes ahead of their plan to open a new pub in Alexandria.

This article appears in the April 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.