- Associated Press - Saturday, December 20, 2014

LONGMONT, Colo. (AP) - When 300 Suns Brewing owners Candace Lusher and Jean Ditslear decided to open a brewery with their husbands, the pair began preparing themselves for the challenges they expected to face in a male-dominated industry.

The women hoped a tough facade and savvy business minds would help them break down barriers as they joined the good ol’ boys club. But Lusher and Ditslear were pleasantly surprised by the welcoming atmosphere they have encountered since opening the Longmont tasting room in February.

“There’s a difference between a male-dominated industry and an ol’ boys club industry,” Ditslear said. “Brewing may be male dominated in a natural way, but it’s not intentional and that’s a different thing.”

There is no question that Lusher and Ditslear are among the minority, the women said. Men always outnumber women at local gatherings of brewery owners and employees, they said. But Boulder County seems to have more diversity in brewing than the nation as a whole based on the turnout at conferences the pair have attended.

“It’s usually a room full of men with beards,” Ditslear said. “It isn’t much of a stereotype because it’s true, a lot of brewers have beards. It’s like a badge of honor that they wear on their face that says ‘I’m a brewer.’”

Despite being the minority, Lusher and Ditslear are not the only beardless brewery owners in Boulder County.

Including 300 Suns Brewing, seven Boulder County breweries reported women owners or co-owners in a recent survey conducted by the Times-Call: Bootstrap Brewing, The Industrial Revolution Brewing Company, Odd 13 Brewing, Shine Brewing Company, Very Nice Brewing Company and Wild Woods Brewery.

Women owners are less common than women employees who hold about 34 percent of the jobs in Boulder County breweries, according to the survey.

Among the county’s women brewery owners are sisters Jill, Jessica and Jennifer Emich, who own Boulder-based Shine Brewing Company.

The triplets were initially hesitant brew beer as part of the venture, which began with food, because of the perceived challenges, Jill Emich said.

“I pictured a lot of men with beards and a lot of masculine energy,” Emich said. “But my sisters and I have always been about breaking down paradigms and doing it our own way, so we decided to bring a more feminine energy to beer and we’re really excited about it.”

Though the women hired a man as their brewmaster, the nearly three-year-old restaurant and brewery does not suppress its feminine flair.

Beers like Kali, a collaboration porter named for the Hindu goddess, flaunt the owners’ aim to reach the less conventional beer drinker.

“We’re not anti-men by any means but we’re bringing a feminine craft to it,” Emerich said.

Like the 300 Suns owners, Emerich said, the sisters have experienced fewer barriers than expected since plunging into the beer industry. But there is one challenge that Emerich still struggles with when she pulls up a seat at the men’s table.

“My biggest challenge is that I can’t drink like the boys can,” Emerich said laughing. “At the end of the day, they are still good ‘ol boys who like their beer, but they’re always really glad to see us at the table and I do feel really welcomed.”

The feminine touches are less obvious at 300 Suns, but Lusher and Ditslear’s fingerprints are all over the Longmont tasting room.

The women added color and plants to the modern space, which makes it a bit warmer than the industrial design that is common among breweries in the county, the women said.

“We do provide a girls’ perspective to the business but we’re also careful not to turn men off with too many feminine touches,” Lusher said. “We want a balance in our beer and a balance our atmosphere that everyone can enjoy and that’s a concerted effort, but it also comes naturally with the two of us and Dan (Ditslear’s husband) and Mark (Lusher’s husband) all giving our input.”

The foursome provides an array of opinions and perspectives that give 300 Suns its laid back vibe, the owners said.

Ditslear runs the brewery’s marketing and communications and co-owns a graphic design company with her husband, Dan, who manages brewery operations. Lusher’s husband, Mark, is the brewer and is an information technology consultant.

Lusher manages finances for the brewery and works as a part-time accountant for an information technology company, another male-dominated field, Lusher said. But finance and brewing almost seem like an estrogen overload after four years in the Marines, she said.

“The Marine Corps is more like 99 percent men so it feels normal for me to be in a male-dominated industry,” Lusher said. “I actually see being woman as a strength, now, like I have an opportunity to fill in the missing pieces.”


Information from: Daily Times-Call, https://timescall.com/

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