The first female-owned and woman-run brewery and taproom in New York City opened in Williamsburg on March 8, and the two mothers behind the gender-pioneering hops house are looking to create drinks for women who have shied away from craft beers because of their masculine packaging and bitter flavors.
“For whatever reason, when it became a boy’s club, there’s a lot of craft beer that’s always looking to ratchet things up to the next level of intensity,” said Tara Hankinson, who co-owns Talea Beer Co. brewery with LeAnn Darland. “It’s not very accessible to novice hop palettes.”
Unlike the dark and heavy India Pale Ales that modern breweries typically sling, Talea’s beers boast refreshing, summer flavors that often include fruity twists. The taproom, on the corner of Leonard and Richardson streets, features sours that contain two pounds of fruit per gallon — giving many of them bright colors and an almost Kombucha-like flavor.
“[It’s] easy to love, low in bitterness, relatively low in alcohol, and either utilizing actual fruit or hops that have fruity characteristics,” Hankinson said.
Hankinson and Darland, who both live in the neighborhood, crossed paths in 2018 while working at a beer startup called “Hopsy” in Manhattan, and decided to start Talea within three months of meeting each other. Darland had become interested in craft beer during a stint in one of the country’s beer capitals, San Diego, where she was based while serving in the US Navy, whereas Hankinson’s love for beer stemmed from her experience working in food and wine.
The pair launched Talea Beer in 2019, and began selling their brews in supermarkets, but soon looked to expand with their own taproom.
“We thought New York City had an appetite for another brewery, and hopefully, a brewery like ours,” said Hankinson.
Hankinson and Darland, who both have infant children, purposefully created their taproom to cater to women and mothers of all ages with a bright and family-friendly atmosphere, a place to leave strollers, and a menu with non-alcoholic options. The taproom also doubles as a coffee shop — the space opens at 8 am, and once it’s safe to open fully, the owners hope to turn it into a vibrant workspace during the day.
In addition to reaching women, Hankinson and Darland are trying to bring women into the craft brewing industry. Few women work in beer because most entry level jobs require tough, manual labor, Hankinson explained — and without those jobs, it’s difficult to work your way up the ranks.
“A typical keg of beer is 160 pounds,” she said. “That’s more than I weigh, so how am I going to get that down the stairs of a bar in Manhattan? I can’t, so I can’t even apply for that job.”
Talea’s kegs weigh only 50 pounds, and rather than relegating female employees to the front of the house — as many taprooms do — all the positions at Talea rotate, meaning that all the employees get to try their hand at brewing.
Currently, 13 of Talea’s 17 taproom employees are women, and Hankinson said that she hopes to create a safe and encouraging environment for all her employees.
“We’ve heard from some of our staff members that they left other places in the industry, not necessarily breweries, because of sexism,” she said. “[Brewing] just set up for men to succeed and women to not even feel qualified to apply, so that’s something we’re trying to change.”
Here’s a rundown of some of Talea’s most popular beers:
6.5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV)
Talea’s signature brew, Sun Up is a bright and fruity hazy IPA, with a slight pineapple and mango flavor and just a hint of “hoppiness.” (Talea’s beers contain plenty of hops, a type of plant used in beer, but the hops are added at the end of the brewing process to increase their aromatic flavor and reduce their bitterness.) The summery ale has a touch of sweetness and a creamy consistency almost reminiscent of a smoothy.
8 percent ABV
Another hazy IPA, Power Couple uses two well-known hops, Strata and Riwaka, that have notes of berries and passion fruit. The beer starts off light, but has a complex and slightly bitter finish with subtle notes of pineapple.
5.2 percent ABV
This German-style wheat beer, known as a Gose, has a deep red, raspberry color, since two pounds of berries are packed in every gallon. The intense berry flavor makes it taste almost like a kombucha disguised as a beer (but without all the sweetness). Talea also serves a raspberry-lime flavored Gose.
Raspberry Peach Tart Teco
7.5 percent ABV
A part of Talea’s sour IPA series, this aromatic beer has a noticeable raspberry and peach smell and a rusty red color. The fruits come together to form a tart flavor with a rich and creamy texture and a gentle sweetness, which comes from the milk sugar that’s added to the beer during the brewing process.