Meet Portland's Self-Proclaimed Lady Brewer Girl Gang

The three women talk homebrewing, deadlifting, and eyelash extensions.

By Katie Vaughan August 14, 2017 Published in the September 2017 issue of Portland Monthly

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Left to right: Lee Hedgmon, Madeleine McCarthy, and Natalie Baldwin

Edgefield’s Lee Hedgmon, Ground Breaker’s Madeleine McCarthy, and Breakside’s Natalie Baldwin call themselves the Lady Brewer Girl Gang.

How did you get into brewing?

LH: I started out homebrewing around 2004. I was at the University of Minnesota for grad school, and brewing was a good way to procrastinate. I never finished my dissertation because my passion for brewing took over.
MM: My husband and I homebrewed for years. We even brewed the beer for our wedding—we had a kegerator with six different homemade beers. I grew up in Oklahoma, and it’s just a lot of Coors Light. Homebrewing was a gateway to good beer.

How did you all meet?

NB: Mostly at beer industry things. When you see another woman at an event, you’re like, “Oh, who is that?”
LH: I try to go to industry events to stay positive and make sure things get done. There’s still so much work to do. I feel like if I don’t participate it’s like saying, “Oh, it’s enough.” Also, we all see the same lash person [for eyelash extensions].
MM: Natalie got them first, and then we all started going.
LH: When you wear grungy clothes all day, you want one nice thing.
MM: Yeah, I’ve sprayed myself in the face with yeast all day, at least I have these.

What’s the industry like?

LH: Other breweries won’t defeat you; bad beer will. People want there to be drama, and there really isn’t. I don’t deal with as much sexism, racism, or BS as I have at other jobs. All breweries operate the same. Guys in the industry know we do the same thing every day. A long day of deadlifting 180 lb kegs hurts everyone.
Honestly, I expected more of a fight. Everyone has been welcoming and supportive. Oregon specifically has a great community.
NB: The only time I have issues is with the public. It’s not my coworkers. It’s people who are like, “You’re the brewer?” And I’m like, “Yeah, fuck you.”
LH: I always get mistaken for Annie Johnson at (brewing equipment supplier) PicoBrew, and she gets mistaken for me. We look nothing alike. I finally had to tell someone, “No, that’s the other black woman.”
MM: I do a lot of dock sales, and I had a guy on Friday picking up six full pallets. He was like, “Honey, is there anything I can do to help?” I was like, “Yeah, you can go sit in the office and fill out paperwork. Also, that’s not my name.”

Do you think your gang will grow?

NB: I see more women working at breweries: making beer, running marketing departments, GMs, running labs. I recently looked through a booklet of résumés from UC-Davis’s brewing science program, and the résumés from women were only slightly outnumbered by men.
LH: People don’t know what they can do until they see someone else do it. It’s important for women to see other women brewing. Then they can see themselves brewing.

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