The Craft Brewjas: Meet the Women Who Love Beer

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Known to be a white liquor city, Miami is enjoying a craft beer explosion. With Schnebly Redland's Winery and Brewery becoming the area's first to export its beer, and Wynwood Brewing Company on the cusp of opening its doors, Magic City cicerones have a lot to look forward to.

Among the commercial ventures are the beer clubs that gather to profess their faith. One of those is the Craft Brewjas, the ladies who love beer!

Cofounded by Arwen Lehman and Yislin Castellanos, the Craft Brewjas is a local informal social club primarily composed of women who gather to spread the knowledge of craft beer. Less than a year after forming, they now boast more than 120 members.

New Times: Besides the love of craft beer, what is Craft Brewjas all about?
Arwen Lehman: The Craft Brewjas are about creating awareness that craft beer exists and exploring what small breweries have to offer. We knew there was a gap among women in the community of beer enthusiasts in South Florida and felt compelled to aid the development of women in that group.

What is your role in the organization? Who are its principal members?
For the most part, I head up the social media: Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr--though I suck at Tumblr--and events coordination. I'm also a home-brewer and use the moniker on my brew. Other founding Brewjas are Kristy Quiros, Vanessa Safie, Natasha Albornoz and Lena Chambless.

When and how did the Brewjas form?
Last summer, upon having "beer brunch" at Lou's Beer Garden in North Miami Beach with four of my female friends, we realized we were enjoying our brews, had ordered unique choices and were evaluating them, looking up the breweries as we ate and really "tasting" them. After talking about how great it was to discuss beer with other women, myself and one of the other "brunchers", Yislin Castellanos and I, decided to start an organization to continue what we stumbled on that Sunday. From there, my excitement took off.

Can you explain what Brewjas means?
Brewjas is a play on words. As Yislin and I played around with ideas, the word bruja, which is Spanish for witch, popped into her head as we threw the word brew around. From there it went to Brewja, incorporating the word brew. It was perfect because what do witches do? They get crafty. And what do Brewjas do? They get crafty with their beer!

The craft beer scene in Miami is, shall we say, brewing. Why do you think it took so long?
Indeed the "brewing" craft beer scene took this long to take off because for so long there were few resources for quality artisanal and craft beer, though at the time they were mostly referred to as micros. The biggest game changer was when Brown Distributing--then Fresh Beer--nailed Publix as an account and expanded their customer base in South Florida.

Is Craft Brewjas a women's club only?
While we focus primarily on spreading knowledge to women by women, we would never discriminate against men. We invite everyone to embrace craft and artisanal brews.

Why did you feel that a women's-only beer club should be formed?
Because it simply did not exist. I initially looked into other organizations like Ladies of Craft Beer and Girls Pint Out, but went the route of working on an independent project. My goal in the near future is to link up with Christina Perozzi and Hallie Beaune of LA's Beer Chicks, Stevie Caldarola of The Ladies of Craft Beer and Ginger Johnson who heads up Women Enjoying Beer.

How do the Craft Brewjas hope to change the perception of beer as a man's beverage?
If anything, The Craft Brewjas bring men and women together and alleviate the misconception that women do not like beer and that it is for so much more than football. All you have to do is walk into a beer garden or gastropub and it certainly looks like more women have chalices, snifters and tulip glasses sitting in front of them filled with our favorite fermented brews.

What do you want to see here in craft beer?
What I would love to see in the craft beer scene in South Florida are more places like The Funky Buddha. We implore retailers to expand their craft beer portfolios and take more risks than what the distributors suggest are the "should haves" of craft beer on their shelves. Give us some crazy imperial stouts and stronger Belgians! Give us more than Delirium!

What can craft beer in Miami do without?
I really believe that there isn't anything craft beer can do without in Miami. It is a developing movement and personally, I embrace all of it.

Want to meet the Brewjas for yourself? You can catch them co-hosting the Brews & Bellies tasting event with Patrick Lunn, AKA the Miami Malt Bomb, on April 19 at The Federal.

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