The Feed / Mujeres Brew House

Esthela Davila knows beer and she knows Barrio Logan. As a kid she played in these parks and streets. If she steps out the front door of the newly opened Mujeres Brew House and looks to the right, she can see the green house she grew up in. Her parents still live there. Mujeres serves a beer named after that house—La Casa Verde, a single IPA with 6.5 ABV whose hops blend comes from Pink Boots, a global nonprofit that supports women in the craft beer industry.

“The whole intention of Mujeres is to make girls comfortable,” she says.

Davila and her business partner, Carmen Favela, who co-owns Border X Brewing in Barrio Logan with her husband, David, started Mujeres Brew House as an informal monthly gathering at Border X. Their intent was to help Latinas feel at home in the world of craft beer, which has been tirelessly and somewhat fairly lampooned as the realm of bearded white men. They’d gather, taste various styles, demystify the brewing process, run through basic vocabulary, and just commune. As more and more women showed up (men, too, who are always welcome), Carmen felt a need for a home that wasn’t borrowed.

“It was never my intention to have a brewery,” Davila laughs. “Carmen recruited me. She said we should take over the Alta Brewing space. We laughed it off. But David overheard her and said, ‘Why don’t we talk about that?’”

David emailed Jim Brown, who owns Bread & Salt—the 45,000-square-foot gallery and experimental center for the arts housed in a former bread factory (the city’s first to deliver bread by car, a century ago). “They’d been looking to get into a project with women,” Davila explains. “The next morning we had a meeting. By 1 p.m. I had the key in my hands.”

Women have been brewing beer ever since humans discovered fermentation. They were iconic bootleggers during Prohibition. But the industrialized beer business marketed mostly to men, and that left a lingering gender gap. Slowly but surely, women are coming back to beer—as consumers, as employees, as brewers, as owners and entrepreneurs—with encouragement from groups like Pink Boots, Women in Craft Beer, and Mujeres Brew House. According to Imbibe, 11 percent of women drank beer more than once a week in 2020, up from 6 percent in the 2019 report.

Today, Davila will work her accounting job for an auto parts company. She will drive from San Ysidro to Valley Center handing invoices to mechanics. Then she and Favela will spend nights and weekends bringing Mujeres to life in a pandemic. A mural is being painted. The old bread-loading docks will be turned into a beer garden. Their head brewer, Samantha Olson (Fourpenny House, Bivouac Ciderworks), will fill the tanks with their first batches. Eventually it will be part brew house, part educational center, part gathering space for women in beer.

“The brewery will be all female run, with female brewers,” Davila explains, clarifying that men, kids—everyone—is welcome. “In January we hope to have brewing classes where people learn the entire system, including how much you have to clean—because brewing is 90 percent cleaning.”

For her, doing this here in Barrio Logan is everything.

“I get to do this in the neighborhood I grew up in,” she says. “People still think pretty bad about Logan, but it’s not like that—at least to me. Yeah it was pretty bad back in the day, I’m not going to lie. But more and more people are feeling more comfortable coming here. I took a moment during our soft opening to look up from the bar and I saw this room full of people who wanted to come celebrate women in beer. My dad came; half my family was there. I try to be a badass, but I teared up.”

Troy Johnson is the magazine’s award-winning food writer and humorist, and a long-standing expert on Food Network. His work has been featured on NatGeo, Travel Channel, NPR, and in Food Matters, a textbook of the best American food writing.

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