This Female-Focused Fest Brings Rare Beer From Around the US to Your Door

Beers With(out) Beards' celebration of women in beer is going digital.

Beers With(out) Beards
Photo: Hop Culture; Illustration: Maitane Romagosa/Thrillist
Photo: Hop Culture; Illustration: Maitane Romagosa/Thrillist

In 2018, Grace Weitz had a simple mission -- to change the conversation about who drinks and makes beer. 

“Picture the last beer you drank… Now picture the person who brewed that beer,” she says. “Nine times out of 10 people picture a big burly man, probably wearing flannel with some type of scraggly beard. That’s the stereotype that we want to change and evolve.”

Now, two years after her inaugural Beers With(out) Beards festival hit big with New Yorkers looking to celebrate women in beer, Weitz is faced with a new challenge: changing the very concept of what a beer festival looks like during a pandemic. To do that, the festival is nixing the need to travel and bringing the party straight to consumers, complete with beers from around the US.

The festival takes place on October 10. To receive beer in time, orders must be placed by September 18.

Beers With(out) Beards
Beers With(out) Beers was a huge hit in New York before shifting to digital | Hop Culture

Weitz came up with the idea for Beers With(out) Beards as a student at NYU and executed the first event along with Hop Culture, a company that specializes in thematic festivals for which she works as head of partnerships. Right out the gate, BW(O)B moved beyond the typical festival, with a weeklong slate of events that included beer yoga and brewers dinners, workshops, and even panels on beer history held in conjunction with the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History

Then, well, 2020 happened. But just as the ancient Sumerian women who started brewing 5,000 years ago couldn’t be kept down, neither could Beers With(out) Beards. Weitz, Hop Culture, and partner Bumble did what everybody has been forced to do: They changed lanes. 

“A lot of organizations had to roll with the punches and change their tactics. We’re no different,” Weitz says. “Festivals have been our bread and butter. We knew this was too important a festival to give the axe to, so we morphed it into this digital event.”

This year, BW(O)B participants can video conference into panels: a sensory workshop with the women at Connecticut’s Two Roads; cooking classes with Colorado legends New Belgium and Queer Food Foundation; a look at how beer gets from the tank to shelves with Pennsylvania stalwarts Troegs, and more. 

More crucially, BW(O)B is providing a full festival experience by shipping out boxes of beer. “Attendees” can opt for a Hop Culture-curated six-pack ($25) or VIP 11-pack ($60). Participating breweries include Connecticut newcomers Rhythm Brewing; Long Island favorites Fifth Hammer; Cambridge, Massachusetts beloved Lamplighter; and Ontario’s inventive artist/brewer teamup Collective Arts.  

(Note that due to legal restrictions, beer boxes can only be sent to people in certain states. Beer boxes can also be picked up in person at Oozlefinch Beers & Blending if you happen to be swinging through Monroe, Virginia.)

The combination of digital events and IRL tastings don’t just provide a balm for those who miss festivals. It actually opens doors in a way live festivals can’t: By eliminating the need for travel, the pandemic version of BW(O)B becomes a truly national event, one where participants can try regionally exclusive beer they otherwise couldn’t get.

“We realized we have the opportunity to reach thousands of people all across the country as opposed to being limited geographically,” says Weitz.

BW(O)B still manages its mission of shifting the craft beer paradigm away from its loudest and most prevalent voices -- the stereotypical bearded beer snob -- in an industry with a bad track record of inclusion. And in its evolved form, it and Hop Culture might be pointing to the future of the beer fest in more ways than one.

“In the craft beer space… the demographics are heavily more in favor of men. So women feel a barrier to entry. Those are the barriers that we’re trying to break down. If you’re able to cultivate spaces where you see (and interact with) other women drinking beer… it has a ripple effect,” says Weitz. “I see the change happening. If we have this conversation five years from now, it could be very different. “

Thrillist senior travel editor Andy Kryza is a bearded man who likes beer, but that doesn’t mean he makes it. Follow him to the (female) future of digital drinking @apkryza.