Jersey Women in Beer Gather to Brew a Special Collaboration

Last month, more than 100 women attended Women's Brew Day at Forgotten Boardwalk in Cherry Hill to make a Belgian triple called "The Strongest Woman on Earth."

The group of participants at Women's Brew Day 2020. Photo by Laurel A Baker

There are plenty of good ways to learn about women in beer this Women’s History Month. But what better way to spread the good word on women in the beer industry than with an all women-brewed beer? Now in its second year, “Women’s Brew Day” is the brainchild of Jamie Queli, owner of Forgotten Boardwalk Brewing Co. and president of the New Jersey Brew’s Association, and Alexis Degan, executive director. Important note: there is already an International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day (this year on March 8), but Women’s Brew Day is entirely independent—not to mention, New Jersey’s own, and not associated with the women brewer-based Pink Boots Society, which has no chapters in New Jersey as of yet.

That means what happened on February 3 at Forgotten Boardwalk was a completely unique, Jersey-born initiative to gather upwards of 100 women from over 34 New Jersey breweries to brew something historic: a Belgian tripel, aptly dubbed “The Strongest Woman on Earth” (a nod to women’s innate strength and maybe a wink to the beer’s own categorically high ABV). The beer began statewide distribution just over a week ago, so we caught up with Queli to ask how Women’s Brew Day first came together, how she envisions it evolving (hint: tap takeovers, to start), and where we can get a taste of this year’s beer—the largest collaborative beer brewing effort in New Jersey history.

Table Hopping: This was your second year doing it. How did Women’s Brew Day first come about?
Jamie Queli: Alexis [Degan] She came to me last year, though we were a bit behind the ball on it—we had to get it done quickly. She came to me in March and wanted to do something for Women’s History Month. It was like, “Okay, we should do a beer together.” We did a small batch—a lavender pale ale—with maybe 17 or 20 women. After the event, I thought “I know we can do this better and bigger for next year.”

TH: What would that mean?
JQ: I knew we could take the project and do it much larger. And it would be a good way to showcase smaller breweries, showcase the state, what this type of project can look like.

TH: How has it grown since last year?
JQ: We did a two-barrel batch last year. This year we did a 60-barrel batch. There were over 34 breweries.

TH: Are they all female-owned breweries?
JQ: No, it was all females from any brewery. The idea was for anyone female in the brewhouse, from a salesperson down to a beer tender, I mean some people don’t get the opportunity to see how the beer they’re selling is being made. So it was really important to us to involve everyone.

TH: Speaking of “involving everyone,” how did you manage to actually brew a beer with so many people?
JQ: When you’re brewing beer, every step of the way you have to do things at different times. So we split into groups. We had people in charge of milling; we milled close to 2,000 pounds of bagged grain. We had another group in charge of weighing hops and putting them in at a certain time.

TH: And how long was the day? Did you lose people?
JQ: It’s a long day. Brewing beer generally takes around eight hours. This took a little longer than eight hours with the set-up and break-down. We saw a little bit of a drop off right around the time, you know, normal people would get out of normal work! But there were people there from start to finish.

Photo by Laurel A Baker

TH: And the finished product was a beer called “The Strongest Woman on Earth”?
JQ: It’s a Belgian tripel. A tripel is just a strong Belgian ale—almost triple the amount of alcohol. It hits around 9% ABV.

TH: For year one you did a lavender pale ale—fairly assertive in flavor. Was there any reason for choosing this tripel style in particular this year?
JQ: I chose it because in collaboration form, it can make a base beer. We gave the recipe to all the other breweries who came, so they can take it and say “If we were just working on this, you and me, what would we do differently?” So they can add fruit or spice, for example. The base of the beer is pretty simple.

TH: So other breweries can make the beer, but you only produced it at Forgotten Boardwalk on Women’s Brew Day. Is it available there?
JQ: Yes. The finished product is only available at Forgotten Boardwalk. I haven’t yet heard what other breweries are deciding to do with it.

TH: And what about next year? Any specific goals for year three?
JQ: We want to it to be a women’s space, where any woman professional in beer can come in and collaborate with one another, ask questions they maybe normally don’t have the space to ask in or resources to ask from. Not everyone in the industry is an owner so sometimes, having a whole group of saleswomen in this room who can talk to each other about certain things, it just makes for a really great networking and collaborative event. And, of course, the byproduct is a great beer.

And smaller breweries appreciate such a large brewing day, seeing a large system in action, a beer they’d contributed to distributed in areas they’d never seen their beer in.

JQ: We could definitely make more beer! Next year we’ll try to have coordinated release parties and tap takeovers for female-fronted breweries. Expanding it is certainly an option and we’ll see if we want to flex our muscles and do a different beer altogether. Unless everyone really loves the tripel!

You can find where you can buy “The Strongest Woman on Earth” with Forgotten Boardwalk’s “Beer Finder,” which shows New Jersey pretty much happily drowning in Jamie Queli’s beers. Forgotten Boardwalk just released a photo of the four-pack 16-ounce cans on Reddit, with a list of upcoming events for Women’s History Month. You can get the beer on tap at Forgotten Boardwalk at 1940 Olney Avenue, Cherry Hill; 856-437-0709

Among participating breweries this year were Bolero Snort, Ghosthawk, Montclair Brewery, Two Ton, Jersey Girl, Alementary, Alternate Ending, Four City, and Kings Road Brewing. (All of the participating breweries were given the recipe on Women’s Brew Day, meaning they might release a version—tweaked or untouched—of “The Strongest Woman on Earth” in the coming weeks.)

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