Red Bear Brewing is Washington, D.C.’s only 100% gay-owned brewery, an honor which they are proud to hold. Before them, Julie Verratti and Emily Bruno’s Denizens Brewing Company was the only other majority LGBTQ-owned brewery in the area, located in Silver Spring, MD. The three Red Bear owners, Van Den Oever, Cameron Raspet, and Simon Bee named their company after the gay men’s subculture known as “bears,” and two out of the three of them are redheads, hence “Red Bear.” But there are also queer women involved in the brewery.
Chief among them is Liz Cox, the Taproom Manager at Red Bear. She does everything from hiring the house staff, the daily management of the taproom, to creating the menus. She identifies as an LGBTQ woman, and says that being in a queer-owned and queer-run space has had a huge effect on both the employees and the neighborhood.
Just last weekend, we had two independent queer Deaf groups show up,” she says. “Out of everyone there that night, there were only about ten patrons that were hearing, everyone else was Deaf or signing, including some of the bar staff.”
In this and other ways, Cox says that Red Bear wants to be a step up from people’s expectations of beer culture. “For example, I plan on making a quarterly event for Women in Beer,” she says. These coalitions educate, connect, and promote diverse groups of women in brewing. They can include groups such as the Pink Boot Society and Girls Pint Out.
But by far, the biggest event she’s planning will be Pride 2019. “We joke around here that there’s no sleep until Pride,” she says. Red Bear will be heavily involved with celebrations, fundraisers, and events at the brewery itself. Cox excitedly details all their plans: they will have a float in the annual Pride Parade, and a fundraiser on the rooftop of the Uline Arena (near the brewery). Red Bear will be partnering with a local organization that works with homeless LGBTQ youth. “We’ve gotten a lot of traction with people wanting to partner with us,” she says, “so there’s going to be a new beer release, a rooftop party, drag queens… and that’s not even starting on the parade.”
Queer representation is rare in the brewing industry, especially when it comes to LGBTQ women. The standard in brewing is straight, white, bearded men. But there are communities out there who are trying to break into the industry. Not only do they include women like Cox at Red Bear, but there are other groups too. But it’s places like Red Bear—with their quarterly Women in Beer events, and opportunities for growth and mentorship—that create a place where the community can band together for a good brew.