Women-owned brewery taps bay area market

You are here

Women-owned brewery taps bay area market

Brewers Sarah Fenson and Regan Long build loyal following at San Francisco's Local Brewing Co.

by Karen Powroznik on Tuesday, July 9, 2013 - 1:10pm

Sarah Fenson and Regan Long

When San Franciscans Sarah Fenson and Regan Long launched their craft beer label, "Local Brewing Co.," people were surprised to learn that the beer was brewed by women. Fenson and Long got their start by giving away beer samples in Dolores Park and teaching home brewing workshops at Forage SF’s Underground Market. At these events, the duo were met with enthusiasm for their beer and astonishment that they, as women, were the brewers.

"So, who does the brewing?," one fan asked, under the assumption that the craft beers must have been brewed by a man.

Women have made important gains in many industries over the past several decades, but one sector that has remained solidly male-dominated is the beer industry. Beer is primarily produced by, marketed towards, and consumed by men. Even as small-scale craft beer production has challenged the large industrial brewing companies and allowed individuals to start their own small-scale breweries, finding women in the beer industry is still a rarity. As the founders, owners, and brewers of Local Brewing Co. in San Francisco, Sarah Fenson and Regan Long are the exceptions. 

"So, who does the brewing?," one fan asked, under the assumption that the craft beers must have been brewed by a man.

Fenson and Long have been brewing beer together for over eight years. Three years ago, they decided to tap into their entrepreneurial side and turn their beer-making hobby into a business.

“Regan and I wanted to start a business together," explains Fenson. "In the background we had been doing this hobby for years and then the light bulb went off and we said, wait a minute, this hobby can be a business”. 

Local Brewing Co. builds a following

The duo started by field-testing their brews. They brought kegs of beer to Dolores Park in San Francisco’s Mission District and gave out samples to locals. The response was overwhelmingly positive, and Fenson and Long soon started teaching home-brewing workshops at San Francisco’s Underground Market.

Keg tap

Overall, people were excited about the beer, and the positive response encouraged Fenson and Long to team up with Thirsty Bear Brewing in SF to create a beer for San Francisco’s Beer Week 2010. It was a success. Soon restaurants and taprooms around the city were serving Local Brewing Co. beers. 

In 2011, Fenson and Long launched an ambitious Kickstarter campaign to fund the building of their brewery. Kickstarter is an online crowdfunding platform where artists, designers, craftspeople, and other individuals can raise money for creative projects, asking the public to make a financial contribution. If the goal amount is not met, the project does not receive any money.

When Local Brewing Co. failed to meet its goal amount, Fenson and Long could have easily walked away from the business. According to Long, “There are a million reasons not to do it. We could have stopped a few years ago and said, hey this is too hard.” But motivated by the local following that had developed over the years and the continual requests for their beer from fans and restaurants, they continued to brew and are now finding investors to make their dream of building a brick and mortar brewery in San Francisco a reality. 

Fenson and Long seek to ‘keep it local’

Brewing in San Francisco is not an easy task. Many San Francisco brewers end up brewing at larger facilities in other parts of the Bay Area, but Fenson and Long are committed to keeping it local. According to Long, “We are a local brewing company and we felt very strongly about starting and brewing in San Francisco.”

This commitment to keeping it local is reflected in the names of their beer. These reference local neighborhoods or landmarks and include such brews as Ocean Beach Porter, Glen Park Ale, Mission IPA, and Sutro Tower Stout.Locally named beers

A large part of the motivation for keeping it local is to foster a sense of community around beer and have personal interactions with customers. According to Fenson, “We love the social aspect of this. Having those interactions is a ton of fun and is a big part of this.” These personal interactions allow Fenson and Long to provide beer education and convert some non-beer drinkers on the way. Many of these non-beer drinkers are women.

“The assumption is that a beer drinker is male and a wine drinker is female,” explains Fenson. According to data from Neilson, women make up a minority (less than 30%) of the craft beer market. This means that while men are considered the target demographic, there is a lot of room for growth as more women become consumers.

Brewers focus on beer, not gender

Local Brewing Co. shirt logoThis area—recruiting women as beer drinkers—is one place where being women in a male-dominated industry could have its advantages. According to Long, “We’ve had so many women come to the tastings. A lot of women come right up to us, because they might see us as more approachable.” 

While other brewers have attempted to lure female drinkers with beer marketed as “chick beer,” Local Brewing Co. has decided that the best way to bring in new customers, male or female, is to provide more education about beer and talk with consumers. So while being women in the industry might make them more approachable, Fenson and Long aim to keep the focus on their beer and not their gender. 

According to Long, “One of the things that is unique about what we bring to the table is that we are women, but we wouldn’t want it to define us.” Fenson adds, “We’re a business and a brewery and we want to be measured on those merits and not our gender.”


Sarah Fenson and Regan Long

Sarah Fenson and Regan Long are the founders, owners, and brewers of Local Brewing Co. in San Francisco, CA. In addition to their roles as brewers, Fenson works in executive communication and Long is a business strategist for Mercedes-Benz Research & Developement North America, Inc.

Karen Powroznik
PhD Student

Karen Powroznik in a PhD candidate in the department of sociology at Stanford University. She received her BA in sociology and history from Dickinson College. She is a member of the Clayman Institute's Student Writing Team.