Aloha! My name is Tigger (she/her) and I'm the Director of Diversity of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Hana Koa. I've taken on some new projects, with some new blog posts being one of them, and I'm stoked for you to be reading my first one. It's my absolute pleasure to be writing this spotlight post for our very own resident Bad*ss Brewer Chick, the legend herself, Roxayne Spruance (she/her)! This powerhouse not only has years of brewing experience under her belt, but a passion for creating safe space within the brewing and fermentation industries for womxn to come together and build each other up. She's been a zookeeper, a park ranger, a sailing and kayaking instructor... the world will never know the bounds of what she can do. I had the joy of traveling to California with her to attend a Womxn in Beer event where I got to see firsthand just how infectious her energy is in a large group. Over the course of our trip, we had the special opportunity to bond over some of our shared and very polar opposite experiences. Those late-night talks over some local brewskis will stay in my heart forever. I am thrilled to be able to call her my friend and to highlight her here for all of you, dear readers. Please enjoy these little insights to our very favorite Rox.
1. Can you tell us about how you first got into brewing?
"I loved beer and there was a really good beer bar in California that once a month when they were closed on Sundays, would offer a class on how to homebrew. For $40 you got lunch and all the beer you wanted to drink during the 5-hr. class. How could I pass that up?? ….in the end I had waayyy too many Firestone Walker Double Jack DIPAs so of course handed over the $200 for the homebrew kit they were selling not knowing what I was about to embark on. …….fast forward 3 yrs and we move to Hawaii, I am a boat captain and still homebrewing, and through outrigger canoe paddling, meet the couple building what would become Honolulu Beerworks. I started volunteering during the construction phase as I thought it would be cool to help 'build' a brewery. When the equipment arrived the brew master at the time, Dave Campbell, the true Original Brewer 'OB' of Hawaii, asked me if I wanted to be his asst brewer and I jumped at the opportunity….and the rest as they say, is history. Here I am over 8 years later and making beer has become my passion."
2. What is one of the biggest challenges you see in the industry as a whole?
"Finding the balance between staying relevant in an ever-changing fermentable beverage market, yet staying authentic to what your brand is, why you created it, and what you want to brew."
3. How has being a female in this industry noticeably impacted your experiences?
"As with most things, some noticeably bad, some good. People, most often men, either shocked and THEN impressed (why???) that I am the brewer, or just assume, despite my steel toed boots, dirty Carhartt pants & ball cap that I am just the 'admin' or 'office manager' of the brewery and talk around, through, or condescendingly to me. I have often felt that I must overachieve at all levels just to reach the same level of respect (not to mention pay grade) as a mediocre male counterpart. Not being trained on driving the forklift, scissor lift, etc. until I insisted on it.
On the flip side, I have also had opportunities through organizations like the Pink Boots Society to meet other women in the industry, have access to beer education and be a part of a supportive community.
I look forward to the day that I am not known as a 'bad ass woman brewer' but as a 'bad ass brewer' and being a woman is irrelevant."
4. How easy or difficult is it for you to find similar and likeminded folks to share support with?
"The beer community as a whole is utterly amazing, I literally have friends all over the United States through brewing, and the women in beer community is a ridiculously small subset of that larger group but it bonds us even tighter. No matter how much or how little experience you have in brewing, almost everyone is excited to share any knowledge they have with you. It is amazing to get together with other brewers and swap stories and 'nuggets' of information. Every time I brew with someone else, I learn so much because whether they have brewed 20 years or 2, everyone’s experiences, brewhouse system, regulatory environment, etc. are different."
5. What is your vision for the industry in the next 3 years?
"In Hawaii, I really want to grow both the number of women and Native Hawaiians on the brewing side of the industry. While I recognize that am a white kid from California, from my own experience in this industry, I see so much untapped potential in the Native Hawaiian community who may not have the opportunity to go to college, or like me, just not want a career where you must wear business clothes in a stuffy office every day. Brewing is still one of the few careers you can learn from the ground up with no prior experience if you are just willing to show up, work hard and listen. Much like women, ethnic diversity is extremely unrepresented in the beer industry, and I feel like we have an opportunity in Hawaii to change that over the next few years, especially since there are so few people in the islands with previous beer related experience in an ever-growing industry. We all love beer! I would be ecstatic to help show everyone the ins and outs of an industry beloved by so many."
6. If you could have any fancy brewer's toy, what would it be?
"OOOOh that is tough! Either a chain driven feeder system to get the grain to the mill and then from the mill to the mash tun or an Anton-Paar C-Box ….an instrument that measures CO2 & Dissolved Oxygen in your beer allowing you to make a better-quality product with more consistency."
7. Favorite snacks on the island?
"7-Eleven musubi warmed by sitting on the dashboard in the sun."
8. What would be your dream pet?
"Being a former zookeeper, I do not ethically believe that exotic animals should ever be 'pets' so as tempting as it may be for me to say a cheetah, I will have to go with one, who most already know I absolutely adore……. another female, blue eyed, Siberian Husky…."
We are so very grateful to have this gem of a human on our team and in our house. Rox makes everyone feel welcome, is always enthusiastically happy to share her wealth of beer knowledge, and is a constant support for those around her. During this month of celebrating womxn and all that we contribute, let's raise a glass to Rox and those in the industry that make the drinks go round. Cheers!