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Saturday Night Special – Women’s Brew

Every now and then I like to post something non-food/recipe related and talk about brewing. I’ve been hanging on to this one for a bit because I took about 435.26 bizzilion pics and needed to organize.

A couple of months ago I had the pleasure of participating in the annual Women’s Brew event.  I’m fairly certain that it’s obvious I love craft beer and all things boozy.  I’m not just a lush though – for those of you who may be new visitors to this blog – I brew beer (hence the blog name?).  Chris and I both do.

Women’s Brew is an annual event that pairs up experienced women (no boys allowed) brewers with women who want to learn to brew.  We, the experienced brewers, are mentors to women who are brewing for the first time or have little experience and would like some coaching.  It’s very educational and a total blast.

I absolutely love this event and not only because I get to look like an expert in something other than law stuff and drink delicious craft beer provided to me by my mentees.  It’s just a really fun event and I love seeing and helping women brew beer.  The free craft beer is just a bonus. 🙂




Meet Lisa.  She taught Chris and me (and many others) how to brew and she’s one of my absolute BFFs. (I always tell her that I “love her more ‘n my luggage” (Steel Magnolias) and she says she “would throw her pie for me” (OITB) – yeah, we’re disturbed).  Lisa started the Women’s Brew annual event and used to host it in her back yard.




It started getting pretty big over the years, so last year our friends Suzie and Todd Ford generously offered to host us at their brewery – NoDa Brewing Company.  Thanks Suzie and Todd!




That’s Suzie making sure Amy’s on track.  That’s me in the Chucks.




Lisa always has some groovy aprons made.  I find it hilarious that no dudes are allowed to participate and we wear aprons.  I will say though that they add another layer of protection when someone gets the dropsies.  You know what I’m talking about, right Lisa?








Another Lisa.  Girl is getting busy with her fancy pants infrared thermometer!


The easiest way learn to brew is to start with an extract.  The all grain process is more complicated and time consuming and one of these days I’ll talk about that – but not today. 🙂

The bare-bones explanation of the extract brewing process is that you have your base grains that have gone through some kind of magic and are turned into a powder.  So you have the extract (base grains) and the specialty grains. You heat up some water, drop in your specialty grains in a mesh bag to steep (think about making tea), kill your fire, and  after a certain amount of time the specialty grains are removed and discarded.

At this point you will start up your fire, add your extract and after a bit, start your boil.  During your boil is where you do your hops additions.  The type of hops and the number of additions will vary depending on the type of beer you are brewing.

When you are done with your boil (typically 60-90 minutes) you will kill your fire again – this is called flame out. The product you now have is called wort – it’s not beer yet because it has not fermented and has no alcohol.  It’s very important to note here that once you flame out, you obviously no longer have a boil – EVERYTHING has to go through a sanitation process from here on.

Now you have to get your temperature from 212 (because we just finished boiling) down to 68-70 degrees because you still have to add your yeast.  Like when you make bread, if your liquid is too hot it will kill your yeast and your bread won’t rise – here your wort will not ferment, you will not have alcohol and therefore no beer.  Trust me – that will break your heart and make you cry.  So you chill your wort (with a special piece of equipment), pitch your yeast, seal it up, and set your baby aside for a while until it matures into a delicious beer.

Ok.  That was exciting, right?  On to more pics and I’m going to stop talking and only interject some descriptions of what is going on in the pics.





First I have to say that Lisa totally called me out because I have almost no pictures of myself on my own website. There are reasons for that. 1. Go visit my About page and I’ll tell you that I absolutely despise having my picture taken and hate the way I look in pics.  Always have.  Probably always will. 2. Um… I’m usually the one taking the pictures?

So here I am with my friend and one of my mentees, Amy. I’m on the right.

We did not plan or intend to dress alike.  Those shirts came from an even that I competed in at The Unknown Brewery.  You can read about it here.




I’m adding the extract for Amy while she stirs it in.








Lisa, are you happy now?




Enough of that.  Moving on.  Here is the boil.




The chilling process.




The food truck.  Yesssssss!

BTW – those to fellas on the right?  The one on the left is Amy’s hubby, Brent.  Steven is the hubby of one of my other mentees, Heather.  They dropped off the girls and came back several hours later to dine at the food truck and transport their wives brewing accessories home.




Transferring wort into their primaries for fermentation.




Don’t fear the bubbles.  It sanitizer and absolutely 100% necessary.




That’s Heather.  Of course, there’s cleanup involved.




What in tarnation is going on here?

They are tasting the wort and taking a gravity reading.  She’s not looking to see if land is in sight. That’s a fancy pants refractometer (not to be confused with the fancy pants infrared thermometer). The rest of us have glass hydrometers.  We actually keep several on hand because… well, let’s just say accidents happen. The purpose of this process is to get an indication of how the beer will taste and the ABV – alcohol by volume – i.e. how potent it will be.




You go girl!  That’s Bethany.  She is the fearless leader of the Charlotte Beer Babes and teamed up with Lisa last year and this year to make this event happen.  The Beer Babes are educators and aficionados of craft beer.




Now we’re just being silly.










I’m not getting in those pictures. 🙂


12 Responses to Saturday Night Special – Women’s Brew

  1. I LOVE this post! Not only is it a fun break from your regular blogging, it’s also extremely informational! I know zilch about brewing, I just know beer tastes good 🙂 so this was very educational! Thanks for sharing, lil lady!
    P.S. you should totally be in more pics- you are very pretty!! But I understand, I haaaaattte having my photo snapped too!! Cheers♡

    • Thanks so much, Cheyanne! You should totally come up here for a weekend and Lisa and I will show you how it’s done! We would have such a blast! And good beer definitely tastes good! 🙂 P.S. You are too sweet and I appreciate your kind words. Cheers! XOXO

  2. Wow, this sounds like it was a lot of fun! Of course, since no guys were allowed, I would have just to come over later and drink beer at the end of the party. I hope that beer turned out awesome! 🙂

    • It was a total blast, David! There were definitely dudes hanging out drinking beer because NoDa Brewery was open for business. They just weren’t allowed to participate in the brewing event except to watch and ask questions. No boys allowed! 🙂

  3. Love this! For so many reasons, but mostly to say I attended a brew-fest this past weekend, and loved everything about it; I love that you’ve given me the chance to say – need more pics of beautiful you, and…love your chucks!

    • Awwww, thanks Annie. I wish you could come brew with us – we’ll even let you wear chucks! 🙂

  4. What a fun day and a fun post Rachelle! This is something that my husband and Alex would love to do. I’m not a beer drinker, but it would be fun to learn how to brew it.

    I’m like you, I hate the way I look in pictures! And you look great BTW. 🙂

    • Thanks Linda. Pictures are no fun to be in! I never really liked beer until I learned how to brew what I like. Your hubby and Alex should totally learn to brew! It’s a whole lot of fun!

  5. Y’all look like you’re having such a great time! Women who make beer are the coolest people. Really. I want to be part of your gang!

  6. What an awesome opportunity! I have wanted to start brewing my own beer for a few years. My boyfriend is buying a house and I told him I’d buy some hops plants for us. He seemed excited because he also loves craft beer.

    • Good for you! You could start by looking for a local home brew club and meet some people. One of the great things about this event is that we bring our equipment for the new ladies to use, so they can try it without a huge investment. Be careful where you plant your hops – they’re toxic to dogs. They sure make pretty vines!

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