By Tom Reardon, March 2020 issue.
Photos courtesy of Greenwood Brewing
Change is brewing at the corner of Fifth Street and Roosevelt Avenue in Phoenix and the pun is definitely intended.
For the first time in Arizona, there will be a brewing company that is solely owned and operated by a woman. Let that sink in for a second, friends, maybe as you let the foam on your own beer settle. Megan Greenwood is opening Greenwood Brewing on Roosevelt Row later this Spring (late April, early May) and the landscape of Phoenix beer culture is going to change forever.
Some of you have been enjoying Greenwood’s craft beer at local establishments since 2018. Restaurants such as Ocotillo, Pita Jungle, and The Arrogant Butcher, to name a few, have added Greenwood brews to their menus since it became available and currently, this brand is available at over 50 local establishments.
When Greenwood Brewing opens their physical location, though, they will brew onsite, have a beer garden, and offer a brand new and inviting event space at the edge of downtown.
At 31, Greenwood has been living in the Valley since 2012, after growing up in Iowa. She went to the University of Iowa and has a degree in Industrial Engineering. During her early professional life, she worked for manufacturing firms and her career eventually landed her in Chandler, where she was working on alternative energy products. During this time, she had a roommate who was interested in home brewing and a spark ignited.
Greenwood’s enthusiasm for craft brewing is obvious when you speak to her and also refreshing. There is no hint of typical “beer snob” arrogance with the young entrepreneur, and if you’ve got a friend or family member who is a self-proclaimed know-it-all about beer, then you understand the reference.
She is not going to bore you with beer facts, but she’s more than willing to celebrate a tasty brew by saying how much she loves it and truly wants to know why you love it, too. This will serve her well as she gets to know her customers in the coming months.
A busy person, as well, we finally found a moment to chat over the phone a few weeks ago about how she found herself in the position to be the first of her kind, her new brewery, and her love of craft brews.
Echo: How did your love of beer unite with brewing?
Greenwood: I had a roommate and he got me a brewing kit for my birthday. He told me he thought I would really enjoy brewing. I didn’t just enjoy brewing, though, I totally fell in love with it. My first beer that I ever made with it was a Belgian Trippel, which I am re-releasing on February 14th. I made it again for the first time since my first time, but this time on a commercial scale. It’s called, “First Love,” which is very fitting for Valentine’s day week. It was the first beer I ever brewed, and it was absolutely delicious. It was also 10% alcohol.
Yikes. You weren’t messing around. So, it blossomed from there?
My roommate also really enjoyed brewing and my neighbor, so it was kind of a hobby. We built a microbrewery in my garage and it was a 25-gallon system. It was fully electric, all-grain (which is a brewing process where the wort is made from malted grains and water) … (pauses) those are like homebrew words. We were brewing weekly and just developing recipes and I had eight beers on tap in my garage.
Wow. What year was this?
It must have been in 2015.
You must’ve been popular in your neighborhood.
Yes. We had parties all the time. Everybody came to our house and our garage and we had big dinner parties. I was much more popular then (laughs). All our friends were enjoying the benefits of our hobby. When it was brew day, though, it was serious. We were trying to brew delicious beer.
You went from zero brewing to serious home brewing and are now the proprietor of the first solely woman-owned-and-operated brewing company in Arizona. How did you make that last leap?
I was working in corporate America at the same time (2014/2015) and I was having a lot of my important conversations over craft beer. I was working in sales and a lot of my customers were men and liked craft beer. I felt, at the time, the beer industry was a little stuffy. If I wasn’t ordering an imperial stout or a double IPA then I really wasn’t welcome in the beer industry and I didn’t love that feeling.
I was brewing at the time so I knew what I was doing and I was making good beer, so when I would go to these places and felt like I wasn’t included because I was ordering a pilsner or whatever, I thought there was an opportunity for inclusivity or to build something that was more inclusive for other people that, maybe, are intimidated by beer, which includes a lot of women.
That idea never left my head. I loved my job and I was living a very comfortable lifestyle. And you know, you hear these stories of people who didn’t love their job and needed to get out, but that was not me. I loved what I was doing, but I just could not get this idea out of my head and it took me four years to actually launch it.
I finally got the courage to do it. So, I launched a marketing company to understand if what I was feeling was actually real. I wanted to know if my market existed, the one that I thought that felt underrepresented in the beer industry and that primarily included women. In the beginning of 2017, I started a company called The Elegant Beer Drinker and we started to survey women on how they chose their beer.
What did you learn?
I hired a marketing team and we did 200 surveys with women to understand how they chose their beer to see if they felt this same underrepresentation that I was feeling. At the same time, I was figuring out how I was going to launch this brand. We got the results back and at the same time, which was so ironic, the brewers association was doing similar work and asking women if they felt underrepresented in the beer industry and 65% of women felt underrepresented in the beer industry.
It was very cohesive with what I was finding with my own research on women. Then I did some research on who the owners of these breweries were. I found out in 2016 it was 2% of breweries that were owned by only women. 20% were owned by owned by women and men throughout the United States and that meant 78% of the breweries were owned solely by men. So, it made sense that they’re thinking of themselves, you know, when they’re brewing the beer, which is why I wasn’t feeling represented as a woman in the industry and other women weren’t feeling that way.
Greenwood Brewing came out of these results and it was more of a brand that women could resonate with, but it is also a beer for everybody. I don’t just think about, and this is a stereotype, the typical beer drinker being a male with a flannel shirt and a beard and that’s not the only person I’m thinking about when I’m making my beer. I wanted to create something that I could resonate with, and other women could resonate and feel comfortable with, as a consumer, so I launched the brand on December 5, 2017.
And now here you are, on the verge of opening your own microbrewery. What do you look forward to most about the physical location of Greenwood Brewing?
The first time we brew, for sure, the first brew day. They’re always my most fun days. I love every aspect of this business. Don’t get me wrong, but our brew days are, I mean, it’s just a different energy because you’re making a product. You’re actually creating a product and adding value to someone’s day.