Brazo Fuerte Artisanal Beer’s Sessionable Brews to Launch in Boston
In a crowded craft brewing scene, Bev Armstrong stands out for many reasons: She’s an athlete, a former law and finance executive, and the first female African-American brewery owner in New England.
UPDATE, February 25: Brewer Bev Armstrong is sharing her beers at a free tasting event tonight at Workbar Union. Check out the Boston Area Beer Enthusiast Society on Facebook for more information.
Bev Armstrong’s entrance into the brewing world started the way many others have: With an at-home beer kit. She decided to make the beers she wanted to drink.
But that’s pretty much where the comparison ends, because Brazo Fuerte Artisanal Beer, launching in the Boston area this month, is unique, and so is the brewmaster.
About 10 years ago, Armstrong was a competitive rugger with the Beantown Rugby Club, one of the nation’s preeminent women’s rugby teams. She started homebrewing because after rugby matches, the rival teams would go out for a few pints together. Armstrong found herself alternately unimpressed by mass market offerings, or overwhelmed by big, boozy craft options. So, Brazo Fuerte Artisanal Beer was born: lower-in-alcohol brews, made with fresh, often organic ingredients.
“I’m a little bit of a health nut in some ways. I have always been into eating as healthy as possible, but I enjoy my beer as well. My compromise was to put as much health into the beer as I can,” she says.
Oh, and she’s also a Harvard-educated JD. And MBA. And she was a high-level law and finance executive in biotechnology when she started homebrewing. And she’s black.
“I don’t lead with that, because to me, that’s the least important thing. Making great beer is the most important thing,” she says. “But for me, I go to the [Brewers Association] Craft Brewers Conference, walk into a room of 9,000, and I’m the only woman of color.”
Armstrong is the first African-American brewery owner in New England, and, to the best of her knowledge, she’s the second in the United States. Celeste Beatty founded Harlem Brewing Co. in 2000.
“I was serving beer at a tasting demo about a year ago at a festival with three other friends, who are also women. Every single person asked, ‘So where’s the brewer?’ When I said I am, they could not believe I was the brewer of the beer that they were enjoying,” Armstrong says. But beyond frequent quizzical looks, she has never felt unwelcome in the beer world, she says.
And rightly so: Armstrong knows her stuff. She has completed the Beer Judge Certification Program and is in the process of getting her Cicerone certification; she has completed the Concise Course in Pro Brewing from Siebel Institute of Technology; she’s an active member of the Master Brewers Association of America; and she has won numerous homebrewing awards from the National Organic Homebrewing Competition and others.
And, she is a recipient of funding and professional development from the Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream program. Jim Koch has personally advised her on topics like distribution and quality control.
“I like to master the things I take on,” Armstrong says.
Brazo Fuerte means “strong arm” in Spanish. It’s a play on the brewer’s name; it was her rugby nickname, but the broader meaning represents her particular position in the craft brewing world and her goals for the company. The beers—Big E, a West Coast-style session IPA; Pony Rye’d Rye Pale Ale; K-Wags Chocolate Coconut Porter; Green Tea Pale Ale; and Brazo Fuerte Pale Ale—are all 4.3 or 4.4. percent ABV, aimed, in part, at active people like herself, who care about what they put in their bodies.
“But a lot of people are looking for that,” Armstrong notes. “We’ve gotten away from McDonald’s. [The beers are] for people who want high-grade, high-quality ingredients.” She plans to seek organic certification once she has her own brewhouse, and strives for a sustainable brewing operation.
Armstrong plans to eventually build in the greater Boston area, but for now, she’s brewing out of fellow Brewing the American Dream recipient Rob North’s Manchester, New Hampshire, brewery, Great North Aleworks. She is also in contact with Dorchester Brewing Company, Boston’s first contract brewery, to potentially brew there once it opens this spring.
But you can try Brazo Fuerte Artisanal Beer well before then. She is planning a tasting at the new Workbar in Union Square this month, and she is firming up commitments with bars in downtown Boston, Allston and Brighton, Cambridge, Somerville, Jamaica Plain, and Watertown, where she lives.
“I’ve designed my beers over almost a decade to be unique, flavorful hand-crafted offerings with appeal to a wide range of craft beer drinkers,” Armstrong says. “Given my background, this whole thing seems like a complete left turn, but it really is my passion. I love beer, beer culture, and brewing.”