Pride in Their Craft: LGBTQIA+ Brewers Build Community

Share Post

Link to article
woman pouring grain in brewhouse

In 2024, craft beer is in a period of transition. Women, BIPOC, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community have smashed down barriers of entry in the industry, forming meet-up groups, advocacy initiatives, and, of course, breweries. There’s still a substantial amount of work to be done, but there has been encouraging progress.

A necessary milestone for the industry to hit is the day when brewers are no longer boxed in by their backgrounds and how they identify, but are simply acknowledged and appreciated for the beer they brew.

However, it’s always vital to recognize the incredible work LGBTQIA+ brewery owners and brewers are doing to get craft beer closer to being a meaningfully diverse industry. These are the movers and shakers who are not only brewing top-notch beer, but who are also finding time to lead cause-driven collaborations, engage in community outreach, raise money for charities, and make game-changing steps toward a craft beer industry that intentionally welcomes all. In honor of Pride Month—but with the important caveat that these breweries call for year-round acclaim and support—we’re spotlighting some of the most inspiring LGBTQIA+ brewers in 2024.

Tanya Sapula | SaltFire Brewing Co., South Salt Lake, Utah

Tanya Sapula and SaltFire’s staff intentionally create a gathering place that welcomes all, a necessity everywhere but especially meaningful in a more politically conservative state such as Utah. Sapula says she feels that good craft beer can bring good people together, and that the brewery’s taproom could provide a venue for that and fill a void.

“As a 39-year-old queer female brewer, I noticed a large gap in Utah’s gay scene,” she says. “While we have several nightclubs, there really wasn’t a lot of ‘neutral’ gay space. I’m talking about a place to gather casually, have conversation, and still be home in bed by 10.”

With an “if you build it, they will come” approach, Sapula and the SaltFire team—Sapula says the production staff is by pure happenstance predominantly LGBTQIA+—brew an annual Pride beer for which they invite all local LGBTQIA+ brewers to come help brew; partner with local organizations such as Project Rainbow (empowering the Utah LGBTQIA+ community and providing financial support through a community fund) and Rift (bolstering community and inclusion among LGBTQIA+ individuals via outdoor activities); and hold year-round events to create space for the LGBTQIA+ community, from low-key tie-dye nights to big Pride Month parties. To Sapula, it’s about “meet-ups where you can find new friends, or even just look around and feel surrounded by your community. Growing up, being able to even do the latter would have made a world of difference to me.”

For members of the LGBTQIA+ community who love craft beer and are trying to find their way in an industry that hasn’t always felt the most inviting, Sapula says she thinks it’s “extremely important to be visible, to be an advocate, and to compassionately educate others when needed…[And,] find a brewery or employer that supports you no matter what creed you come from. The thing about craft beer is it brings people together. I truly believe there is space and a pint for everyone at the table. We’re here, we’re queer, we belong in beer.”

Bri Burrows | The Big Rip Brewing Co., North Kansas City, Missouri

It was a big risk for Bri Burrows to dive into the world of craft beer professionally, but it’s one that’s paid off in dividends from the beer she’s been able to brew to the causes she’s been able to lift up. Burrows started homebrewing when her family thought it would be fun to make their own beers for each other, and she was inspired by how creative brewing turned out to be. She left a “pretty cush 9-to-5 desk job” in 2016 to start bartending, and at The Big Rip, she worked her way up from bartender to head brewer to co-owner.

woman with beer posing in front of the big rip brewing

Burrows is proud of her lagers throughout the years, especially considering how intimidating lager brewing can be, and also loves a gluten-free beer she made called Fire Tree, brewed with sorghum and honey with pineapple puree, jalapeños, and roasted tomatillos. In terms of the collaborations, partnerships, and advocacy Burrows’s position as The Big Rip co-owner has provided the platform for, she is excited that she recently got to brew at Side Project Brewing in St. Louis. “I [also] brewed with Lady Justice in Colorado, a female queer-owned-and-operated brewery. My favorite collab so far, though, is when I brewed with Lily [Waite] from Queer Brewing out of the UK…We jammed to Good Charlotte while brewing a boysenberry IPA called Try and Tear Me Down! and donated all the proceeds to a local LGBTQ+ charity organization.” Burrows also partnered with Missouri’s first Black-owned brewery, Vine Street Brewing Co., on a Pride beer honoring Stormé DeLarverie, “a butch lesbian who was a pioneer for Gay Liberation in New York and protector of all young queers.” That beer will be released at The Big Rip’s first ever Queer Dyke Night event on June 21.

While Pride celebrations are a vital element of June and all that it represents, Burrows stresses the importance of this kind of work during the 11 other months. “Most breweries in [Kansas City]—and most businesses everywhere, honestly—only focus on the LGBTQ+ community in June. As a member of this community, I know how it important it is to take care of it year-round.”

Burrows says she is excited to see growth in craft beer, with more female, queer, and/or BIPOC brewers working now in the Kansas City area. She sees a bright future with organizations such as the Pink Boots Society and Crafted for Action. “I love seeing more and more rainbows on beer cans and more rainbow tap handles from folks that actually support the LGBTQ+ communities year-round.” There’s still a ways to go, though, and Burrows plans on being part of that progress, from educating queer-owned bars and restaurants on the brands they’re supporting to making sure queer events include queer-brewed beers.

Danielle Snowden | Earthbound Beer, St. Louis, Missouri

Danielle Snowden discovered Earthbound Beer upon moving to St. Louis in 2014 and trying their Chicken and Waffles blonde ale. Struck by the brewery’s creativity, Snowden asked about bartending there after returning from a year living in New Zealand for AmeriCorps and further honing a beer appreciation. Starting in 2017, she bartended, washed kegs, guided tours, worked the canning line, and started brewing, working her way up to head brewer.

out and about beer label

At Earthbound, Snowden has been able to flex some serious creative muscles, from her Cookie Brown ale, with a recipe she wrote inspired by oatmeal raisin cookies, to the Out and About braggot, which Snowden releases every year for Pride. Now in its sixth year, Out and About is a hibiscus and lavender braggot that debuted for 2024 on June 1.

“Every year we choose a local LGBTQIA+ nonprofit to collaborate with and donate funds to,” Snowden says. “In the past we have worked with Metro Trans Umbrella Group, PROMO, and SQSH; this year we are partnering with Food Outreach. [They] provide nutritional support and enhance the quality of life of low-income men, women, and children living with HIV/AIDS or cancer. My uncle Brent lost his battle with HIV/AIDS back in 1990 when he was only 25 years old. I think about him all the time and try to honor him whenever I can.”

danielle snowden at posing at earthbound brewing

Community and collaborations are Snowden’s favorite part of being in the craft beer industry. She says she loves using the taproom space for getting people together and raising awareness and funds, and also for pushing for a more diverse industry. Snowden is especially proud of collaborations with Bow & Arrow’s Native Land, Blacktoberfest, Earthdance Farms, Arch City Defenders, and Metro Trans Umbrella Group. Most recently, Earthbound partnered with The ExBeerience to create a beer for Juneteenth, picking a local historical Black figure to highlight and a local nonprofit to donate proceeds to. In addition to all of these projects, Earthbound makes its space intentionally inclusive by offering affordable wedding options, a concept launched by co-owners Stuart Keating and Kristina Goodwin. “Unfortunately, a lot of LGBTQIA folks don’t have that generational wealth and raising funds on your own is really difficult,” Snowden says. For a nominal fee, couples can book Earthbound’s space, choose from Snowden or Keating as an officiant, and have flower and dessert options.

From collaborations to maintaining a meaningfully inclusive atmosphere, Snowden says it’s important to the Earthbound team to be politically involved. “By getting involved in these various projects we are using our platform to raise awareness, promote diversity and inclusion, support local businesses and organizations, and foster community engagement and dialogue.”

Kelissa Hieber | Goldspot Brewing, Denver, Colorado

Kelissa Hieber was professionally involved in organizing around racial, worker, and queer rights in Ohio when she picked up homebrewing as a hobby. Feeling burned out by work and inspired by the creativity of brewing, Hieber decided to apply her passion for advocacy to craft beer.

“I did love all the things that craft beer could offer but I wasn’t seeing a lot of diversity, even just straight white women, at the breweries we were going to,” Hieber says. “I wanted to create a space that could change some of that and turn it into more of a real community.” She moved to Denver and completed a college craft brewing certification program, following that with an internship and then a job at TRVE Brewing. In 2015, she started bartending at the just-opened Goldspot Brewing. Within a few months, she was an assistant brewer there; by 2016 she was head brewer; by 2018, a 25 percent co-owner; and by 2021, Hieber was full owner.

woman posing in brewhouse

Hieber sees opportunity for inclusion in beer itself. By brewing beers such as Prickly Pear Hibiscus Sour; Tropicolo, a tropical stout with tea; and Brut IPA with Pinot Gris grapes, she opens Goldspot’s doors to those who have never before felt that craft beer is for them. “When I was bartending and brewing, whenever anyone came in that wasn’t a white guy, I’d have them try three different [beers of the moment],” Hieber says. White men coming into a craft brewery tend to have existing ideas of what they want, Hieber believes, whereas new-to-beer consumers especially from marginalized backgrounds are commonly subjected to wrong, overly simplified, and often gendered stereotypes about their preferences. Many women come to craft beer as wine drinkers, for example, Hieber notes, and may lean toward something like a saison. “They don’t necessarily want a Kölsch or light beer, and a lot of people are just serving them that.” Hieber sees these stereotypes as a form of gatekeeping she wants to break down.

In addition to brewing with all palates and experience levels in mind, Hieber leads her team in hosting regular community events and participating in cause-oriented collaborations. She appreciates opportunities for intersectionality; one of her favorite partners is Frontline Farming, a BIPOC women-owned farm focused on racial food justice. One of the things she is proudest of as Goldspot’s owner is the environment she has created for staff. Hieber intentionally hires queer people, women, and BIPOC. The majority of her staff happens to be LGBTQIA+, and they have an equal voice in what beers are brewed, what causes are supported with donated proceeds, and what events are held in the taproom. Hieber pays for employees’ health insurance out of pocket, including coverage for gender affirmation surgery for transgender staff.

“I’ve been in the service industry for 20 years now and it’s very rare to find an owner in the beer or food scene [providing this level of insurance],” Hieber says. “It’s about trying to be the boss you never had.”

Courtney Iseman is a Brooklyn-based writer covering food, drink, and culture, but mostly craft beer, for outlets including Craft Beer & Brewing, VinePair, Good Beer Hunting, PUNCH, and Thrillist. She writes the beer column for metal magazine Decibel, pens a weekly craft beer culture newsletter called Hugging the Bar, and is a proud pug mom. is fully dedicated to small and independent U.S. breweries. We are published by the Brewers Association, the not-for-profit trade group dedicated to promoting and protecting America’s small and independent craft brewers. Stories and opinions shared on do not imply endorsement by or positions taken by the Brewers Association or its members.