Minnesota women brewing change

Team Nevertheless brewed its collective beer for International Women’s Day 2023 at BlackStack Brewing. (James Figy)

Less than one in four. That’s how many brewery owners identify as female, according to the Brewer’s Association. Considering the first brewers in history were women, today’s gender gap in the industry is glaring. 

“Being a woman in brewing means being one of a few,” said Jordan Nordby, lead brewer at Utepils Brewing.

Jordan Nordby and Ariel Keeton, brewers and founders of Team Nevertheless
Team Nevertheless was founded by Jordan Nordby (left) of Utepils and Ariel Keeton of Pryes. (James Figy)

“I see it as a position to lead and light the way for more women in the future. It means making things more accessible and better for future women brewers, for authentic equality.”

As a way to celebrate and support other women working in brewing, Nordby and Ariel Keeton, brewer at Pryes Brewing Co., formed Team Nevertheless. 

The group started when Keeton and Nordby, while talking at a Christmas party at Fulton Brewing, counted how many women they knew who worked in brewing in Minnesota. At that time, they could name just eight. That number stuck with Keeton.

“One day, while sitting on the brewdeck, waiting for my mash to finish up, I had an idea: find all the women in our state who brew beer and continually make beer together. I ran the wild idea in my head past Jordan and our friend Shannon (Stroh), a brewer at Surly, and both thought it was a great idea,” Keeton said. 

“I spent months contacting every brewery in the state I did not personally know anyone at. At that point, there were 16 of us scattered throughout the state, 12 of which made it to the very first brew: Nevertheless.”

Team Nevertheless collectively brews two beers each year. One is released on International Women’s Day, March 8, and the other sometime in the fall at the host brewery’s convenience.

“We chose to do two brews per year as a means of not only staying relevant, but also to show we are not just limited to one day per year of being important within this industry,” Keeton said. 

Ariel Keeton measures out hops for the “We’re Not Waiting” Keller Pilsner. (James Figy)

“Two beers per year means that two women every year get the opportunity to create and name her own beer. This is a task not frequently given to women in the industry. Brewing is a combination of science and art, and the Nevertheless series of beer is a means of celebrating each woman’s beer creation.”

The group made the first beer at Badger Hill Brewing in Shakopee where Keeton brewed for four years before recently joining Pryes in Minneapolis. She started in the industry as taproom manager at the now-shuttered Harriet Brewing.

“The two brewers that were working at Harriet at the time noticed my interest in learning the production side of the industry, thus filling my free time with information and hands-on learning experiences,” she said. “… I went on to become the assistant brewer and assistant taproom manager for Tanzenwald Brewing Co. in Northfield.”

Nordby’s path to joining Utepils five years ago was very different. “I wanted to do something interesting with my chemical engineering degree that did not involve sitting at a desk all day.”

Brewers from Utepils, Pryes and BlackStack join to make a beer for International Women's Day 2023
Jordan Nordby and Ariel Keeton stand on the brewdeck with this year’s host brewer, Bella Ludwig, production manager at BlackStack. (James Figy)

Being part of Team Nevertheless has had a huge positive influence on Nordby’s experience as a brewer. She can turn to the group for support or advice, and it’s there for others, too, whether seasoned pros or relative newcomers.

“For any women who are interested in joining the beer industry, it is important to know that it will not always be easy, but once you find the company culture that you thrive in, it is worth it,” she said. “Team Nevertheless will be here to support you in any way we can.”

Keeton offered similar advice. There’s always room to learn and grow, but don’t doubt yourself. Trusting your knowledge and abilities is critical as a woman in brewing. 

“When I started in this industry, there were five women in the state of Minnesota that brewed beer,” Keeton said. “There are now 25 of us, and we aren’t going anywhere.”

What’s the beer for International Women’s Day 2023?

This year, Team Nevertheless brewed We’re Not Waiting in January at BlackStack Brewing.

The Keller Pilsner, an unfiltered Pils that requires less lagering time, will be on tap March 8 at BlackStack’s St. Paul taproom.

James Figy is a writer and beer enthusiast based in St. Paul. In Mankato, he earned an MFA in creative writing from Minnesota State University and a World Beer Cruise captain’s jacket from Pub 500. Twitter and Instagram: @JamesBeered

This article originally appeared in the March 2023 issue of Mankato Magazine.


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