The Mothers of Brewing

Managing a successful Canadian brewery or cidery in a time when craft beer and cider have never been more in-demand can be challenging. Add to that the hours and dedication required to raise a family and the job description reads something like that of a super hero. Many moms across Canada have accepted the challenge and are multi-tasking their way to success fueled by passion, commitment and coffee. TAPS chatted with five of them. They shared how motherhood has changed their career, offered tips for surviving on little sleep and gave advice they hope to pass onto their children.

We chatted with:

Crystal Luxmore
Certified Cicerone, Beer Writer and owner of Experience Beer, Toronto, ON.

Mary Beth Keefe
Head Brewer, The Granite Brewery, Toronto, ON

Melissa (Missy) Dobernigg
Owner & Cidermaker at the BX Press Cidery & Orchard, Vernon, BC


Leslie Fenn
Co-owner of Howe Sound Brewing and R&B Brewing Co., Vancouver and Squamish, BC.


Manjit Minhas
CEO and Co-founder of Minhas Breweries, Calgary, AB.

HOW HAS MOTHERHOOD CHANGED YOUR CAREER?

Being a mother hasn’t changed my career too much. I work one day less a week and I schedule my days off when it works best for everyone in the brewery (I work with three other people who are all incredibly supportive). It is a bit more of a balancing act and I really miss my son when I’m away from him. However, while I’m at work I am focused and I do the job that I love, same as before!  – MK

I was a mother before I fell in love with craft cider – in fact, being part of a third generation orchard and wanting to pass
a viable, vibrant farm to our children, the fourth generation, was the impetus for starting the cidery.  Because my youngest was only 18 months when we started the business, my work and my children have always been intertwined – making it difficult to say how motherhood has changed my career. On stressful days it is easy to fantasize about how ‘easy’ the business would be without the demands of raising and juggling children, yet I know, even in those darker moments, that my girls really are the best part of all of it. – MD

I knew I wanted to spend more time with my little ones, but when you own your business it’s tough to slow down. So before my second was born I consulted with a corporate coach, Julie Zuzek, who helped me form a plan. I hired my sister, Tara Luxmore, cut my hours drastically, and found an amazing caregiver. I work way more efficiently now because I don’t have time to procrastinate. My business has grown much faster and in ways I didn’t anticipate, and I have a much better separation between work and home. Sadly, though, I don’t get out to beer events, bars and breweries as much as before. – CL

My degrees are in anthropology, biology and resource management and for years I worked on First Nations issues and management resolution. As a mother, I had to be organized, focussed and deadline-oriented as much of my initial work was technical, legal and creative.  Motherhood has brought greater compassion and understanding to my home life and in all fields of work. The brewing industry provided a base for owning my own business and growing our ideas with passion, dedication and love. Motherhood creates vulnerability, compassion and openness which carries through in other roles of your life, especially work. – LF

Motherhood has changed my career by forcing me to have some work-life balance and really made me realize the importance of taking a break from working to enjoy life and my family more
(when possible!). It has made me become even more organized and scheduled to make sure each day is as productive as possible. – MM

WHAT EXPERIENCES IN CRAFT BREWING PREPARED YOU FOR YOUR ROLE AS A MOTHER?

Multi-tasking is what initially comes to mind. Often there are a handful of things on the go at any given time in the brewery and it can be the same at home: trying to clean up, entertain Tommy, make meals, do laundry and MAYBE catch up on sleep when he is napping. My husband is a fantastic cook and big help around the house so the load is shared and the house doesn’t always look like a hurricane passed through it. – MK

Because I was a mother first, I was already accustomed to always being tired and the constant selflessness required to raise a child. That same outpouring of myself was easily transferrable into my “fourth child” as I refer to it, the cidery. I am glad I did not fully appreciate at the beginning how much sacrifice and work starting the cidery would take, as I don’t think I would have felt like it was ‘ok’ for me to place that burden on my children or our family members who have helped so much. Now, however, the self-confidence resulting from seeing my dream come to life and all the lessons learned through that process are very transferrable  to mothering.  – MD

Nothing can prepare you for the absolute jubilation, unconditional, mad love, and never-ending sacrifice of being a mom. – CL

The craft brewing industry and Howe Sound Brewing is like a large extended family and it involves creative spirit, dedication, conflict resolution, passion, love and belief in an enterprising mission. Passion, the ability to listen and the ability to change and inspire have helped in my role as a mother. It is also a business that involves multitasking and as a mother we are masters of the ‘juggle.’ – LF

[Treat motherhood] just as I treat my craft beers and nurture them to become a brand from start (developing a recipe, name and packaging) to finish (when they take on a life of their own).  – MM

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE OF RAISING A FAMILY WHILE RUNNING YOUR BUSINESS?

Balancing work and family. For the most part this is no issue. I love what I do, I love being at work and am a part of a very supportive team. We have a schedule that works well for everyone. My mom watches Tommy when my husband and I work which has been huge for us. Of course there are times when things come up and I may need to work more one week than another but in the end it all seems to even out. Like most things in life, you adapt to the changes that come your way, and it has been a smooth transition for me. On those days where being away from him is a bit harder, I am thankful for Skype, Facetime and lunch time visits! – MK

I need to frequently remind myself that where I am at, and what I am doing – both with the cidery and with my children – are enough, that “I am enough.”  Not in a sense that I am settling for something less than excellent on any front, but rather letting go of the persistent guilt that I am failing either the business or my family with so much left undone each day. – MD

Dividing work and home life, and making my family my first priority. – CL

We are celebrating 20 years in business in late July and the challenge has been time, focus and having family time outside of business. When you run your own business it is easy to become consumed by ideas, events, deadlines and the stresses of work. It is imperative to have detached family time away from work and enjoy your children for those beautiful moments and holidays you have together. – LF

Not enough time in the day! It’s hard not to feel guilty when you miss soccer games and birthdays. – MM

WHAT’S THE BEST PART OF BEING A MOM IN THE CRAFT BREWING INDUSTRY?

There is a familial feel to the craft brewing industry in Ontario and this is me adding to the ever growing brood! – MK

So many women, whether by choice or circumstance, put their dreams on hold when children enter their lives. I do not believe I should tell my daughters to pursue their dreams and then expect them to abandon them once they have children – I think it’s important that they can see their mom pursuing her dream, alongside raising her family. Starting the cidery has allowed me create meaningful work that I love, while raising my girls, and this is something I do not take for granted.  – MD

Many brewery owners and long-time staff have children, and tons of craft beer drinkers do too, so there’re lots of shared experiences, empathy and plenty of family-friendly events and festivals. – CL

Women and mothers have an essential role in brewing today and historically. Some say women have a more sensitive palate to certain esters and flavours in beer and wines, but one thing I have noticed in the last 20 years of brewing, is that women are more involved in craft beer today. The demographics around craft beer consumption and new and innovative ales have created a niche for women, mothers and the female palate. Women are interested in richer-bodied flavours such as malted, chocolate stouts, fruit-flavoured ales, malted lagers and seasonal ales,  just to name a few. In the early years of Howe Sound, we would see a few women at the brewery drinking craft ale, but now it is on average 40-50%.
In the last 20 years, our marketing philosophy has shifted to seasonal ales, one-off beers and new additions that we bring to market through seasonal distribution. This philosophy and agricultural niche is much the same as buying local produce and fresh fruits. In so doing, you appeal to the female mindset as they are used to local farmers’ markets and the idea of freshness. There is a connection with women and mothers supporting local farmers, local production, local agri-businesses and then pairing the foods with certain wines and beers. I think there is a female philosophy around local and sustainability that has really moved into the genre in terms of micro and craft brewing. – LF

Having a different outlook on business than my male counterparts. Sometimes I like to think of an easier quicker solution to a problem because I don’t have the patience to sit through meetings upon meetings and just want it done to move on and go home  and sleep!  – MM

WHAT’S YOUR SECRET TO GETTING THROUGH THE WORK DAY AFTER A SLEEPLESS NIGHT?

When I wasn’t pregnant, coffee!!! Now, I just motor through and try not to appear too miserable. – MK

Fear. I drained my husband’s life savings, incurred a lot of debt, and potentially risked his family’s third generation orchard in starting the cidery … not wanting to lose all of that kept me going through those years with very young children and a start-up cidery. – MD

A large pot of coffee and an afternoon nap. – CL

If I can’t sleep, I make sure I work out and get physical exercise either swimming, gym workout, biking, squash or swimming.  For me, exercise and healthy food are essential to a sound mind, body and business. – LF

Making sure I nourish myself with good healthy food options. I am a vegetarian and that helps. If possible, taking a 20-minute nap to recharge and saying no to late evening events or meetings to get some extra sleep the next night!  – MM

WHAT CAREER ADVICE DO YOU HOPE TO PASS ONTO YOUR CHILDREN?

I feel very fortunate to love what I do, as that isn’t always the norm. I want my children to experience the same with their career and I will support them with whatever they choose. It would be wonderful if one or both chose to continue in my footsteps but I would never put pressure on them to do that. – MK

1.  Mistakes are not only ok, but it’s important to make them and learn from them. If my girls aren’t making mistakes they are probably not trying enough new things.
2.  That no experience in life is wasted – everything they do, even if seemingly disconnected, will someday tie together to create a meaningful career if they keep their eyes open to opportunity, and work hard for what they want. – MD

Decide what you want to do, do it well, and the money will come, eventually! – CL

My career advice to my children and others is always, love what you do and be passionate in all things. Work is about passion, creation and with great passion comes great opportunities.  One’s heart and mind will create expansive opportunities and experiences with this knowing philosophy. – LF

I want to pass onto my daughters that they can do anything they are passionate about but will only be successful with hard work and true dedication.  – MM

It’s said the phrase, “working mother” is redundant; motherhood is a full-time job regardless of other endeavours. Balance, support and dedication run through the daily lives of each of these women making it possible for them to thrive as parents and business women in addition to craft brewing ambassadors. Short naps and coffee are helpful on the path to success but hard work and passion are the legacy these moms hope to leave with their children. As Canadian beer and cider varieties continue capturing the palates of women there’s no doubt we will see the number of mothers in this industry increase. In the meantime, the pitter-patter of tiny feet will continue to encourage innovation, creative working solutions and new ways to inspire our courageous group of brewers.