Women’s History Month Brewery Feature #1
Marika | Co-Owner & Brewer, Scratch Brewing Co
In honor of Women’s History Month, we will be featuring local female owned, or co-owned, breweries all month.
Meet Marika, co-owner and brewer at Scratch Brewing Company, a southern Illinois microbrewery and farm. Scratch Brewing Co focuses on beers brewed with home grown and locally farmed and foraged ingredients. When Marika isn’t at the brewery, which is located just outside the Shawnee National Forest, she’s hiking, paddling, and watching her amazing 3-year-old daughter experience life.
We wanted to dive into her experience as a woman in the beer industry and learn more about her challenges, advice, and beer goals in our TOB Q&A:
What’s your favorite thing about the beer industry?
Everybody’s experience with the beer industry–especially among women–is a little different I think, but I’ve been lucky to have a really good experience in a very welcoming industry. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve experienced plenty of misogyny and often felt like I’ve had to work twice as hard to be seen among my peers because I don’t have a beard; but in general, when we started it was a really warm, exciting, and friendly industry, unlike academia and much of publishing–the two other domains I’d worked in before joining the brewing community.
Do you have any advice for women interested in the industry?
I think I was lucky to start when I did because the industry was so open then… three home brewers with little to no commercial brewing experience could conceivably open a brewery. Since then, the industry has exploded and evolved so much that it’s increasingly more difficult to do something like that. But because I started my own brewery, I didn’t have to start as a shift brewer or in some other positions where I think it would be difficult to work your way up as a woman because of how you’re perceived. I know that’s hard work and a hard place to start. I will say that there are women everywhere in the industry–more than we even realize. We just look past them or they’re behind the scenes; often the bearded brewers get the publicity photographs so those are the only people we think work in breweries (or the only people that matter). If you’re working hard and you feel like you’re not being respected, we’re lucky that now there are thousands of other breweries in this country and there are thousands of women working in them who want to help other women succeed. Find those breweries and find those women.
What’s your favorite beer you’ve brewed?
My favorite beer is probably our Chanterelle Biere de Garde. It’s just so expressive of the woods around our brewery in the height of summer. If you go out walking in July or August, you spot chanterelles everywhere and you can even catch a whiff of their characteristic buttery apricot aroma. I think they’re the perfect complement to a cellared French farmhouse style and each year I think we get that beer more and more dialed in.
Let’s talk beer goals. Dream collab? Brewery expansion?
Our goal is exactly what we’ve created. We wanted to make a place that celebrated the woods around us and by staying small it’s allowed us to stay true to that vision. We started on a 2 bbl system and now we’re on an 8 bbl system and it’s just the right size for us to stay experimental and make what we want. We have a log cabin on our property that Aaron disassembled from another area near us, and we’ve been wanting to finish it and turn it into something special so that’s probably our next project. Perhaps a little farm-to-table restaurant or a cocktail bar…
Since we’re all about women supporting women, what’s your favorite female owned brewery?
I have to mention Kim Jordan because she was a pioneer who stayed true to a practically unequaled vision of sustainability and leadership in brewing. Deb Carey of New Glarus is also inspirational in her tenacity and dedication to quality. I’ve been nothing but impressed by the beers from Adair Paterno’s Sante Adairius. Averie Swanson is always creating beers that are interesting, surprising, and push me to be a better brewer. And I can’t forget to mention Shyla Sheppard and Missy Begay, the amazing women at the helm of Bow and Arrow in New Mexico, who are bringing their Native American heritage to craft beer. More often than not, when you find a woman in charge of a brewery, it’s a brewery on the cutting edge. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
What does life look like outside of the brewery?
Literally looking out the window right now, it looks like a bunch of trees! Metaphorically, outside of the brewery, I spend time hiking and paddling when the weather permits. I watch my amazing 3-year-old daughter experience life. I do some wood working and wood carving and am deep into some research about my Norwegian food heritage.