Pintful: Bombshell Beer defies craft beer stereotypes

January 30, 2014 

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— Inside the new Bombshell Beer Company taproom on a recent Friday night, men easily outnumbered women 3 to 1.

It’s no surprise. The brewing industry is dominated by men, from the drinkers to the brewers.

But the area’s newest craft brewery is trying to break those stereotypes and appeal to one of the growing segments of craft beer drinkers: women.

It doesn’t take long to notice that Bombshell Beer is different than others. The taproom is well appointed and features a pinup girl logo; the Pick-Up Line Porter is flowing; and the two women pouring pints and explaining the beer styles to customers are the owners.

“We are not hiding the fact that we are three women, because a lot of people think it’s real cool and people are looking at women who break into the man’s world,” said Ellen Joyner, the president and one of the blond bombshells.

The other is Michelle Miniutti, who along with Jackie Hudspeth (a brunette), are the driving force behind the state’s first entirely women-owned brewery.

“Not everyone in this business has to have a beard,” said Margo Knight Metzger, the first full-time executive director of the N.C. Brewers Guild. “It’s really refreshing to see women get involved. They bring a new perspective to an industry that’s all about creativity.”

Other North Carolina breweries feature women in high places, like Leah Ashburn Wong at Highland Brewing in Asheville and the husband-wife teams that own local breweries Deep River, Double Barley, Raleigh Brewing and Haw River Farmhouse Ales.

Bombshell takes it to a new level as more and more craft brewers are looking to appeal to an emerging growth segment in the industry, women aged 25 to 34. The research, Knight Metzger said, shows that women in general have better palates than men, meaning they can detect the nuanced flavors of craft beer. “They are just better sensory tasters,” she said.

Dawnya Bohager, the co-owner at Haw River Farmhouse Ales, said she can see the industry changing. She helps lead the local chapter of the national Girls Pint Out society, which connects women who enjoy craft beer. She said interest from women is growing and the group is helping to educate newcomers about craft beer.

“For a long time, it’s been seen as a masculine thing, when that’s not necessarily true. Women like beer, too,” she said. “Craft beer is definitely not just for boys.”

For Bombshell, emphasizing the woman angle only goes so far. “We are just using it a little bit,” Joyner said, while a fermenter bubbled loudly nearby in the brewery. “The drinker is still the man.”

Co-owner Hudspeth put a finer point on it: “People aren’t going to come because it’s owned by three women,” she said. “People are going to come for the beer.”

So far, the reception is good. Hundreds visited the 15-barrel brewery’s opening Jan. 4, and even more came for the grand opening party Saturday.

Located in a former News & Observer distribution facility just north of downtown, it is the second major brewery in Holly Springs. (Carolina Brewing is 2 miles west.)

For their head brewer, the women hired Stephen O’Neill from The Church Brew Works in Pittsburgh, which won the 2012 Great American Beer Festival medal for large brewpub. Even though Joyner and Miniutti are devoted homebrewers, they decided to focus on the business side.

Both women still work full-time at Siemens and master of business administration degrees. “We made good but we didn’t make great beer,” Joyner said. She added: “If you’re going to open a business, you need great beer on day one.”

What I’m tasting

The brewery has eight taps with four flagships and four season or unique offerings at all times. When I visited, I enjoyed the Polished Pilsener, the brewery’s most popular beer. It’s a difficult style to brew well and not one many area brewers attempt, but O’Neill specializes in traditional German beer styles.

His pilsener is full-bodied with biscuity malt flavor but not too heavy with soft hops in the background.

To check out the latest offerings, visit

What’s on tap

Foothills Sexual Chocolate Release

10 a.m. Feb. 1 at Foothills Brewing, 638 W. Fourth St., Winston-Salem

• Start making plans for the release of one of the state’s most anticipated beers: Foothills Brewing’s Sexual Chocolate. The sales start at 10 a.m., but the line will begin forming just after 2 a.m. to get numbered wristbands for the limited release, which are distributed at 7 a.m.. The brewpub opens at 8 a.m. for breakfast and a bottle share party with Sexual Chocolate on tap.

Ponysaurus Tasting

5:30-7:30 Feb. 6 at Tasty Beverage Co, 327 W. Davie St., Suite 106, Raleigh

• Tasty Beverage bottle shop is offering a chance to taste Durham's newest brewery Ponysaurus Brewing. The event includes a fig saison, India pale ale and Biere de Garde. Limited bottles available, too. Info:

Carolina Brewery anniversary celebration

Feb. 6-8 Carolina Brewery, 460 West Franklin St., Chapel Hill

• A series of events will celebrate the 19th anniversary of the Triangle's oldest brewery, including the release of a limited edition beer Feb. 6 and logo pint glass give away Feb. 7. Info:

World Beer Festival - Raleigh

12-4 p.m.; 6-10 p.m. April 5, Moore Square, Raleigh

• Tickets are now on sale for the World Beer Festival in Raleigh, an annual event that draws hundreds to try the latest, greatest craft beers. More than 200 beers are expected to be available. Info:

Contact John at 919-829-4698 or

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