Women's History Month

NYC’s New Woman-Owned Taproom Has 'Easy-To-Love' Brews for Beer Skeptics

Talea celebrates women throughout every square foot of its Williamsburg taproom.

talea beer nyc
Tara Hankinson and LeAnn Darland | Photo by Cory Smith
Tara Hankinson and LeAnn Darland | Photo by Cory Smith

In a notoriously male-dominated beer industry where just 2% of breweries are owned by women, Tara Hankinson and LeAnn Darland knew there would be challenges when setting out to start their own beer company. It was no surprise when they often found themselves as the only women at industry events or in meetings with investors, and they got used to defending their brand against suggestions that they make “chick beer, beer for girls, or skinny girl beer” instead.

However, they never anticipated that minute details—like that the few entry-level positions in the industry require hauling 160-pound kegs down narrow stairwells and across busy streets—would be obstacles for themselves, and had been challenges for generations of women before them.

So at Hankinson and Darlan’s Talea—which became the only exclusively woman-owned taproom in NYC when it unveiled a flagship 9,000 square-foot space in Williamsburg earlier this month—visitors won’t find any of those cumbersome kegs because they opt for smaller sizes to make the hiring process more inclusive. In addition to expanding the ever-changing NYC beer scene, the two hope their visibility encourages more women to get involved with brewing. And inside the new Williamsburg taproom, the co-founders further their goal of championing women by stocking products, buying ingredients, and highlighting the work of other women-owned businesses.

“There are a lot of systemic problems in the beer industry,” Darland explained. “We’re trying to get more women into beer and eliminate the barriers that exist and are a reason why women don't pursue beer.”

Talea brewery
Photo by Sydney Butler

Talea first launched in 2018 as a retail business, selling cans with punchy designs and bright colors at NYC-area Whole Foods locations and other retail stores. But the duo always knew they wanted to expand into a taproom, because it’s what inspired them to start Talea in the first place. 

Darland, a U.S. Navy veteran, started frequenting taprooms when she was stationed in San Diego in 2012. When she later landed in the San Francisco area, she found that her female friends and family preferred going to wineries because when it came to breweries, they often felt unwelcome in the male-dominated realms. On the other coast, Hankinson was using her years of service industry experience to do consulting work for brands like Moet Chandon and Brooklyn Winery—but even with that background, she also found herself feeling more comfortable at wineries when out on Long Island. “I just didn't see anything on the tap handles that felt like they were thinking of me as a customer,” says Hankinson. Coincidentally, they both started home brewing around the same time and later became coworkers at a beer startup in 2018. As the only two women in leadership positions within the office, together, they began dreaming up a beer company with easy-to-drink brews that would make wine drinkers and the sparkling seltzer set feel at home—and less than a year after meeting, they both quit their jobs to launch Talea.

When creating their beer varieties, the duo’s main focus was keeping non-beer drinkers of all genders and lifestyles in mind. So in the taproom, some brews are compared to classic cocktails and wine to signal that they may be a good choice for those who don’t typically drink beer. Another way the duo tries to make their beer more approachable is by listing tasting notes like Very Berry Captain Crunch and pineapple Push Pop that may be easier to decipher than traditional descriptions like a particular hop variety.

talea brewery
Photo by Sydney Butler

“Beer is supposed to be fun and approachable,” says Hankinson. “So the way we present our product is all about making customers feel comfortable, even if they don't self identify as a craft beer drinker.”

The menu is entirely made up of hazy IPAs and sours, most with playful names like the Power Couple, a double IPA that blends strata and riwaka hops, or the Mixed Berry Tart Deco, a sour IPA that tastes like passion fruit gelato and raspberry glacé. The brewery currently has 11 beers on tap that can be sold individually or in tasting flights for $20, and the pair also plans to offer guided tastings in the coming weeks to bring in the educational component that first inspired them.

The brand is on a mission to make “easy-to-love” beers, so part of the vetting process involved getting their creations into the hands of people who claim they don’t like beer at all. Darland and Hankinson visited companies like SoulCycle and Elle Magazine to walk self-described beer skeptics through a tasting of their brews. “Nine times out of 10 people would say, Oh I’ve never had anything like this, or, Is this beer? This doesn't even taste like beer, so our hypothesis was starting to provide itself true,” Darland said.

talea beer
Photo by Sydney Butler

Darland and Hankinson already made history as one of the few strictly woman-owned breweries in the country, but they aren’t stopping there. The co-founders highlight other women in the beer industry and beyond in every corner of their new brewery. Starting at the very beginning, many of the hops used in Talea’s slate of beers are grown by Diana Gooding, a sixth generation hops farmer who runs Gooding Farms with her two sisters. In addition, Talea’s food offerings—which cover classic bar snacks like cheese plates and spiced nuts—are made up of ingredients that are sourced from women-owned farms whenever possible.

Other little touches throughout the facility further prove the duo’s dedication to uplifting other women. Local ceramicist Helen Levi was tapped to create all of the tiles guests see throughout the taproom, and in the front of the retail portion of the shop, Darland and Hankinson intend to carve out a small nook where other local artists and vendors can offer their creations alongside Talea’s cans, crowlers, and merchandise. Talea is also offering non-alcoholic options like kombucha from Pilot, a Brooklyn-based company run by former chef Alex Ingalls, and to round out the beverage options and double down on their commitment to inclusivity, the brewery also offers a selection of wine from three different family- and woman-owned wineries on the North Fork.

“The ultimate evolution of creating an inclusive beer company is recognizing that beer isn't for everyone,” Darland said. “But we still want those people to come with their friends and enjoy the experience.”

How to order: Located at 87 Richardson Street, make reservations for indoor and outdoor seating via website, order pickup and delivery via website, or stop in to the brewery during operating hours from 8 am - 8 pm on Monday through Wednesday, and 8 am - 10 pm Thursday through Sunday.

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Liz Provencher is an editorial assistant at Thrillist. You can follow her on Twitter or see what she eats on Instagram.
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