All In the Family

By Greg Zilis

One of the greatest attributes of craft beer is the community that surrounds it. That community can largely be attributed to the prominence of family-owned and operated breweries around the country.  Family is a word that elicits thoughts of playing baseball in the backyard, dinners at home, comfort and togetherness. From the regional craft breweries like Rogue Ales, to state-only brewers like New Glarus, family has always played a large part in how these businesses operate.

Although the craft beer scene has only come into its own in the last few decades, some breweries have been paving the way since before prohibition. Matt Brewing Co./Saranac Brewing was founded in 1888, and has endured the trials and tribulations of craft brewing throughout its century-long existence.  Founded by German-born immigrant Francis Xavier Matt, this fourth-generation brewery is now run by Fred and Nick Matt.

Sierra Nevada, based out of Chico, CA, is a pioneer of the craft beer industry. A first craft beer experience for many was the taste of a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Such quality and dedication to the craft has been a central point in the lives of the Grossman family since the brewery’s founding in 1979.

Some breweries create a family business from the opposite direction.  Bear Republic Brewery, located in Healdsburg, CA, began as the dream of Ricardo Norgrove. Instead of employing his children, he brought his parents into the business. Norgrove’s wife Tami and his parents, Sandy and Richard, are all very active in the business.

Family-Run Breweries

Avery Brewing | Boulder, CO – Adam and his father Larry founded Avery Brewing. Larry has since retired after 16 years of service.  Adam’s older sister also worked in the brewery as the vice president of sales in the mid-90s.

Bell’s Brewery | Kalamazoo, MI – Larry Bell founded the brewery and his daughter, Laura, serves as the marketing director.

Bold City Brewery | Jacksonville, FL – Bold City is owned and operated by mother and son team Brian (head brewer) and Susan Miller (CEO). Brian’s wife, Robin, is inventory manager and his brother and sister, Jennifer Boccio and Kevin Miller, are head of customer relations and a warehouse assistant, respectively.

The Bruery | Placentia, CA – The Bruery was started by husband and wife team Patrick and Rachel Rue. Patrick now serves as the CEO, and Rachel is the director of office and retail operations. Patrick’s father, Michael Rue, serves as president.

Cape Cod Beer | Hyannis, MA – Todd Marcus serves as the brewmaster and president of Cape Cod Beer. His wife, Beth, is the business manager.

Captain Lawrence Brewing Company | Pleasantville, NY – Scott Vacarro is the owner and head brewer at Captain Lawrence. His father, Vincent Vaccarro, is the CFO and a tour guide. His mother Linda works in the tasting room along with Scott’s sister, Jill. Megan Vaccaro, Scott’s wife, is on-board as the beer festival assistant.

Chuckanut Brewery and Kitchen | Bellingham, WA – Chuckanut was founded and is run by Will and Mari Kemper. The Chuckanut team was awarded the 2009 Great American Beer Festival Small Brewing Company of the Year Award.

Coast Brewing |North Charleston, SC – David Merritt is the brewer and owner at Coast Brewing, while his wife, Jamie, is co-owner, sustainability advisor and lab rat.

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery | Rehoboth, DE – Sam Calagione is the founder and president of Dogfish, with his wife, Mariah Calagione, is in place as co-president and social-media guru.

El Toro Brewing Co. | Morgan Hill, CA – El Toro was founded by Cindy and her husband Geno Acevedo, who serves as the head brewer.

Hangar 24 Craft Brewery | Redlands, CA – Brewmaster Ben Cook co-owns Hangar 24 with his wife, Jessica Cook, who heads-up accounts receivable. Ben’s parents, Paul and Sue Cook, helped with the start-up of the brewery and continue to be consultants of the business. Ben’s nephew, Richard Hughes, is a bottling technician and his uncle, Mike Talarico, an ex-sheriff, handles security.

Independence Brewing Co. | Austin, TX – Independence was founded by Rob and Amy Cartwright.  Rob is the head brewer and Amy leads the sales and distribution teams.

Iron Fist Brewing Co. | Vista, CA – Iron fist is co-owned by Greg and his wife Eve, their sons Brandon and Adrien are the brewmaster and handle sales and support, respectively. Eve’s Parents, Les and Edith, and her brother and sister-in-law, Phillip and Anne, also volunteer and help run the taproom.

Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales | Dexter, MI – Founded by Ron Jefferies, Jolly Pumpkin is now the place of employment for his wife Laurie, who serves as the office manager and their son, Daemon, works with labeling and distribution.

Kassik’s Kenai Brew Stop | Kenai, AK – Kassik Kenai is owned by Frank Kassik and his wife Debora. Frank is the head brewer, and Debora is a brewer’s assistant and the marketing director.

Laurelwood Public House & Brewery | Portland, OR – Laurelwood is owned and operated by Mike De Kalb and his wife Cathy.

Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company | Kiln, MS – Lazy Magnolia is a product of the Henderson family. Mark is the head brewer, and his wife Leslie is the CEO. Mark’s father, Ed acts as quality auditor, quality engineer, and quality manager.

Mother Earth Brewing | Kinston, NC – Stephen Hill and his son-in-law, Trent Mooring, co-founded and brew for Mother Earth.

New Glarus Brewing Company | New Glarus, WI – Deborah Carey is the founder and president of New Glarus, while her husband, Dan Carey, is the co-owner and brewmaster.

Old Schoolhouse Brewery | Winthrop, WA – Old Schoolhouse is owned by Casey and Laura Rudd. Their son Blaze is a brewer.

Peg’s Cantina and Brewery | Gulfport, FL – The wife and husband team of Peg Wesselink and Tony Dodson own Peg’s Cantina. Peg’s son Doug Dozark is a brewer, while Peg’s sister, Gayle Collins, works at the brewery as Peg’s right-hand.

Rising Tide Brewing Company | Portland ME – Rising Tide is owned by Nathan and Heather Sanborn. Nathan also works at the brewery as the head brewer.

Rock Art Brewery | Morrisville, VT – Rock Art is owned by husband and wife duo Matt and Renee Nadeau; Matt is also the brewmaster.

Rogue Ales | Newport, OR – Rogue’s Founder Jack Joyce now acts as the “Chief Wisdom Officer,” while his son Brett is president of Rogue.

Russian River Brewing Co. | Guerneville, CA – Originally the Head Brewer, Vinnie Cilurzo bought and co-owns the brewery with his wife, Natalie.

San Luis Valley Brewing Company | Alamosa, CO – San Luis Valley is owned by the husband and wife brewing team of Scott and Angie Graber.

Sprague Farm & Brew Works | Venango, PA – Sprague Farm is owned by Brian and Minnie Sprague. Minnie runs the pub and Brian is the brewmaster.

St. Elias Brewing Company | Soldotna, AK – Zach Henry is the president of St. Elias Brewing Co., while his sister, Jesse, is the restaurant manager.

Stoudt’s Brewing Company | Adamstown, PA – Ed and Carol own and run the brewery/restaurant/antique mall, while daughter, Elizabeth, is the baker at Eddie’s Breads.  Their daughter, Carey, is the graphics designer and son Eddie Jr. is in charge of distribution and wholesales.

Three Floyds Brewing | Munster, IN – Three Floyds was founded by brothers Nick and Simon Floyd, with the help of their father Mike.

Thunderhead Brewing Company | Kearney, NE – Thunderhead is owned by Trevor and his wife Jenny Schaeben who is the vice president and handles tech support and marketing.

Tröeg’s Brewing Company | Harrisburg, PA – Brothers Chris and John Trogner own and brew at Tröeg’s.

Two Brothers Brewing Company | Warrenville, IL – Two Brothers is 100% family owned and run by brothers Jim and Jason Ebel.

Weasel Boy Brewing Co. | Zanesville, OH – Weasel Boy is owned and run by the husband and wife team of Jay and Lori Wince. Jay serves as the president and head brewer, while Lori is the vice president and assistant brewer.

Wild Wolf Brewing Company | Nellysford, VA – Co-owner and Operator Mary Wolf employs her son Danny as a brewer.


Greg ZilisGreg Zilis is a graduate of the University of Colorado and recent alum of the Craft Beer Program Internship. Greg is an avid craft beer fan, budding homebrewer, and has just begun his journey into the brewing industry.