The sixth edition of the annual FemAle Brew Fest, an unofficial opener of the fall festival season, will set up its largest and most diverse version yet on Saturday in downtown Fort Lauderdale’s Esplanade Park.
As always, there is much to recommend at this unique event, especially if you happen to drink beer or know a woman.
After two years at the Kimpton Shorebreak Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort (preceded by a pandemic cancellation), FemAle Brew Fest 2023 will take place in one of the city’s most popular event sites. Set along the New River, Esplanade Park is next to the Broward Center for the Performing Arts and its parking garage, a half-mile from Fort Lauderdale’s Brightline station.
This year’s FemAle Brew Fest features its longest and strongest roster of participating breweries, currently 40, which includes craft-beer makers from Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia and Missouri.
The afternoon, of course, will offer the chance to taste beers created locally while chatting with women who help make it happen as brewery owners, brewers, marketers or all of the above. They include Lisa Siegel (co-owner, Tarpon River Brewing in Fort Lauderdale), Jaime Martin (co-owner, Orchestrated Minds Brewing in Fort Lauderdale), Kristen Lorow (home brewer and marketing manager, Funky Buddha Brewery in Oakland Park), Stephanie Cortina (co-owner, King Fox Brewery in Hialeah) and Molly Flynn (brewer, Tripping Animals Brewing in Miami).
Other locals represented will be 3 Sons Brewing Co. in Dania Beach, 3 Mavins’ in Lauderdale Lakes, Brewlihan Mead Co. in Oakland Park, Odd Breed Wild Ales in Pompano Beach and Cove Brewery in Deerfield Beach.
Along with the unlimited tasting and confabulating, there will be a beer-and-food pairing, an “off-flavor” training course, music, small-business vendors and FemAle swag for sale. Tickets for FemAle Brew Fest start at $45+ at FemAleBrewFest.com. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Fort Lauderdale-based, no-kill shelter Abandoned Pet Rescue.
FemAle Brew Fest is an idea brewed up by Frances Antonio-Martineau, of Fort Lauderdale, who launched the event in 2017 as a spin-off of the Fem Collective, her organization of local female entrepreneurs.
“FemAle Brew Fest has always been about celebrating the incredible women who contribute to the craft beer industry,” said Antonio-Martineau, touting “an incredible day of fun, learning and, of course, fantastic beer.”
The history of beer begins with women, the original brewers, who as far back as ancient Egypt brewed beer as an inexpensive way to preserve and conserve nutrient-rich grains for consumption at home and as part of religious traditions.
“Wherever beer has existed, societies have thrived,” said Kristen Lorow, a certified level-2 cicerone who brews beer in the home she shares with husband Lee in the North Andrews Gardens section of Oakland Park.
A South Florida native, Lorow, 36, has a degree in hospitality from the University of Central Florida (where she played lacrosse) and has been working in the local beer industry for nearly a decade — first at LauderAle as operations manager and currently at Funky Buddha Brewery, where she is the marketing and brand manager.
Lorow is an advocate for exploring the possibilities of beer, especially beer found at FemAle that has been filtered through the female experience. She spoke about beer making, FemAle and what guys should not do when they get there. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Why brew your own beer?
Lorow has been one of South Florida’s small tribe of female home brewers since 2013, before she took her first job in the beer industry. She used to bake, then turned to beer.
“I’m an incredibly curious person. I thought it’d be cool — like, ‘I’m a girl and I make my own beer’ — but when I started to read about the science behind it, it’s very fascinating. I wanted a challenge, I wanted a new hobby, I just wanted to learn a new skill. My first experience was with one of those little Mr. Beer kits, like everybody starts out. It cuts down on the brewing time and equipment. I made a double brown ale and bottle-conditioned it with maple syrup.”
Brewing sounds complicated
Lorow developed the beer-training program for new employees at Funky Buddha and will lead an “off-flavor” training course on Saturday at FemAle.
“Anybody can brew. You follow a recipe. It’s very, very simple. But it gets more challenging when you start creating your own recipes and temperatures. It’s kind of like puzzle pieces, putting together what grains you want to use and what you want the end result to be.
“The way I compare it, when I’m teaching people, it’s almost like picking your fantasy football team. Like, this defense will perform the best against this. It’s fun because you spend time planning, you spend time brewing, You’re, like, taking care of this baby for a few weeks, and then you see the end result. It’s very rewarding when it comes out good.
“The first thing I would say is brew something you’re going to want to drink. One time we brewed a coconut hazy IPA with lactose sugar and vanilla. My first pour of it was delicious, but 5 gallons is a lot to drink. We had to have a lot of parties to get through that keg.” (Laughs)
Craft beer is complicated
Lorow says a good bartender can recommend a beer based on the food or wine you prefer. She just created a beer to honor her mom, Cyndi, inspired by the Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc they drink together. She brewed it with phantasm powder, an extract from New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc grapes, and named it Cyndi Crawford’s IPA.
“If somebody comes in and they like a pinot grigio, something very light, I might recommend a very clean pilsner. If they like chardonnay, something a little more full-bodied, you could recommend a hefeweizen or a wheat beer. Or cabernets, maybe they’d like porters, with the dark, cherry notes like a cabernet. And Belgian dubbels have a lot of that dark, fruit characteristic.
“Or if you tell me what kind of cocktail you like, it can help drive your beer preference. Or what food you like. Do you like white chocolate, milk chocolate or dark chocolate? Do you prefer fish or ceviche, or do you like steak? You can use that as a guide on what to do.”
Home brewers aren’t all guys?
Lorow admits to brewing with a chip on her shoulder. She grew up surrounded by boys in her family and while playing on boys’ travel soccer teams in Weston. When the subject of home brewing comes up, people invariably ask her husband for details.
“Working in the industry, no matter what you do, men will always assume they know more than you. No matter what certification level you get. It’s exhausting. If you’re a girl, they’re just throwing shade. The first question they ask, if you home brew, is like, ‘Oh, extract?’ Which is, like, the easiest method.
“I think I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder, to prove myself. That I can do this, too. That it’s not just dudes. I can do it and I can be successful at it. I do tend to be a little annoying about it and try to pick something more challenging to make. And where I am right now, I really wanted to nerd out.
“So when someone is like, ‘Oh, what kind of beer did you make?’ I’m like, ‘I made my own sour and I inoculated it with bacteria that I got from yogurt from a sour starter I made myself.’ It’s annoying, but it’s just to shut that conversation down.” (Laughs)
Why go to FemAle?
Lorow says FemAle Brew Fest is for anyone interested in celebrating local artistry and the women who create it. Plus, you can drink it.
“It’s a very inspiring experience. It’s a celebration, it’s very good vibes, we’re all happy. Anytime you go up to a tent, there is a woman standing there, like, ‘This is a beer that we made, and there’s a story behind it.’ This is our day to show you what we can do. … Also, it’s a beer festival. You can’t not be happy, on a Saturday afternoon, walking around, tasting beers. It’s just a good, happy time.”
Do’s and don’ts for guys
Lorow says men are encouraged to attend FemAle and to ask questions. But, she says, don’t do that guy thing …
“Yes, guys should go, too. Definitely. And ask questions. Here’s the first question a guy should not ask, how about that? (Laughs) … Guys are always like, ‘I want a girl who likes baseball.’ And you’re like, ‘Oh, I like baseball!’ And they’re like, ‘OK, who was the pitcher in 1997 … ‘ (Laughs) Don’t ask these questions where you’re trying to trip them up, or make them prove that they know something. You know, just ask open-ended questions about what they like.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT: FemAle Brew Fest
WHEN: Noon-5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 9
WHERE: Esplanade Park, 400 SW Second St, Fort Lauderdale
COST: $45+ (2-5 p.m. entry), $55+ (1-5 p.m.), $65+ (includes noon entry, “off-flavor” training course, tasting glass)