"This Girl Can Brew"

March 8, 2021, by Ben Hopkins

"This Girl Can Brew"

“When I first joined a homebrewers group, it was all blokes, no girls. They were all very to the point and liked to stick to the traditional brewing guidelines whereas I, as a creative, wanted to just do whatever.

“I wanted to throw marshmallows and lollies and ice cream into my brews, which ruffled a few feathers in the early going.”

For International Women's Day 2021, we spoke to five women making waves in the local beer industry.

Carla Naismith
Head Brewer – Sparkke at the Whitmore

Having big shoes to fill is never easy, especially when those shoes previously belonged to one of the most influential women in the local brewing industry. However, that was the hand Carla Naismith (pictured above) was dealt, and she's not one to complain. She took up the reins as brewer at Sparkke in Adelaide after founding brewer Agi Gajic joined Mismatch, a move that marked a rapid rise into a head brewer's role.

“It was probably a bit more expedited that I was expecting,” she says, laughing. “I was kind of thrown in the deep end, however I love it. It's the reason I get out of bed in the morning.”

Part of running the brewing side of the multi-faceted Sparkke – the female-led producer of a wide range of alcoholic beverages, operator of eye-catching venues, and campaigner for a number of causes, including racial equality and climate action to the treatment of asylum seekers – has been connecting and sharing information with others in the industry, many of them other women involved in the Pink Boots Society. Indeed, Carla credits Pink Boots with helping her and many others put their stamp on beer in Australia.

“It’s given me access to so many resources that I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to access,” she says. “They have a pivotal role in the industry. I was in absolute awe of these women and the work they do in the industry. They’re so generous. Everyone is working so closely together to help women grow their knowledge.”

Since taking over, Carla said one of her proudest moments has been collaborating with James McCall at Shapeshifter to create their Piña Collaba hazy IPA.

“It was the first beer of that style that I had brewed on a commercial scale and it was bloody delicious," Carla says.

"I think that made some people say, 'This girl can brew, maybe we should pay more attention to what they’re doing.'."


Flora Ghisoni
Head Brewer –The Craft & Co 

Flora Ghisoni was born in the south-east of France, and exposed to little in the way of craft beer growing up. This all changed, however, when she moved to Belgium for work, where the sheer abundance and diversity on offer opened her eyes to a new world of beer.

It was while working for Lesaffre that the scientist moved to Melbourne, initially in the role of fermentation manager, then as technical and production manager working with yeast. Once there, she started homebrewing, kickstarting a passion that grew too strong to remain as a mere hobby and leading her to take up a position as a shift brewer at Colonial Brewing in Port Melbourne in late 2018.

“I was feeling like if I didn’t give brewing a go, I would regret it forever,” she says. “I just felt like I was headed in the wrong direction... joining Colonial put me back on the right path.”

After two-and-a-half-years with Colonial, Flora took up the head brewer role at The Craft & Co in Collingwood.

“I get to do everything now and I love it,” she says. “Recipe design, brewing, tasting, quality control, I do it all now. It was the logical next step for me.”

Flora is also studying for a diploma with the Institute of Brewing & Distilling (IBD).

“I want to become as knowledgable as possible," she says. "I want to know beer as well as I know science.”


Chelsea Bright
Brewing and Production – Stone & Wood

People get into homebrewing for many different reasons. Some do it in an attempt to save money, others because they have a passion for beer. However, for Chelsea Bright, it was something else.

“I started homebrewing to impress a guy I liked,” she says, laughing. “Thirteen years later, I’m still brewing, so it was clearly a good decision.”

Her start in the beer industry wasn't making beer but serving it, when she worked behind the bar at White Rabbit in Geelong. Chelsea quickly became enamoured with the industry, moving onto the packing line and looking to broaden her skills.

She says the beer industry often feels like a big family, but admits there have been times when she's turned some heads.

“When I first joined a homebrewers group, it was all blokes, no girls,” she says. “They were all very to the point and liked to stick to the traditional brewing guidelines whereas I, as a creative, wanted to just do whatever.

“I wanted to throw marshmallows and lollies and ice cream into my brews, which ruffled a few feathers in the early going.”

While she doesn’t brew at home as often these days, and is now found at Stone & Wood after working as a maltster for Barrett Burston, Chelsea looks forward to the opportunity to showcase her skills in the brewery's internal League of Extraordinary Brewers competition.

“That gets me all excited again; I want to brew different, really exciting stuff. The competition brings out so much creativity which is really important for growth.”

Completing her Cicerone qualification is next on the cards, as well as staying involved in the wider industry. Last year, Chelsea was a finalist in the Keeping Local Alive Beer Swag Day competition thanks to this epic video.

“I just want to continue growing my passion for the industry,” she says. “That includes using some amazing local ingredients and continuing to push the Keeping Local Alive movement.”


Lindsay Astarita
Sensory and Quality Coordinator – Stomping Ground

The passion to discover what makes a great beer a great beer can drive some people to go to great lengths. For Lindsay Astaria, it took her to the front gates of a Belgian brewery – only to be quickly turned away.

“The Duchesse de Bourgogne was the first beer to really blow my mind,” she says. "It was amazing, with the cherry and balsamic... just so tart and tangy.

"I tried to go to the brewery in Belgium while I was there. It was this factory with big iron gates. They were not really into the idea of me just walking up.”

Nevertheless, a love for great beer was sparked, one that has taken her to Stomping Ground in Collingwood, where the Certified Cicerone runs the sensory program.

“It was a move for me to learn about the science behind beer and the process behind turning great ingredients into great beers,” she says.

It's something she hopes to take beyond the team at Stomping Ground too.

“I’m very passionate about education,” she says. “I want to expand sensory training for the rest of the industry. It’s so fun and interesting to see people take part and see them fine tune their palates.”


Bronwen Williams
Sales & Marketing – Impi Brewers

Bronwen Williams never thought she would enter the beer world in a professional sense, let alone leave a career in agriculture and forestry for a full-time job at a small brewing company. However, with her partner, Jason Marais, and his dad Leon launching Impi Brewers, she found herself disappearing down the rabbit hole; today, she's responsible for sales and marketing for the brand.

“Without downplaying it, I more or less just fell into the industry," Bronwen says. "It happened very passively.

“Even when I wasn’t technically working for Impi Brewers, I was still heavily involved in the name, logo, decisions, and beers.”

She says the transition into the beer world – from one traditionally male-dominated industry to another – wasn't a difficult one, in part thanks to the work of the Pink Boots Society. Now, with Impi fully up and running in the northern Perth Suburb of Wangara, she's keen to continue to build on the achievements of those who've blazed a trail for women in the local beer world.

“I’m always interested in bringing women into male-dominated industries,” she says. “When we purchased the Pink Boots hops, we really started thinking about how we could try and make a difference.”

So they invited someone interested in getting into the industry, Juliet, to join them for the beer they were creating with those hops – to design the recipe, brew the beer and assist with packaging design.

"We're looking for creative ways to actively involve more women in the industry," Bronwen says. "We want to leave the door unlocked and provide opportunities that are open to all." 

You can read a profile of another young woman making waves in the beer world, reigning AIBA Best Media champ Marie Claire Jarratt, here.


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