Crooked Can cellarwoman creates brew in honor of Women's History Month

Crooked Can Brewing Company cellarwoman Jillian Farrell shares her perspective on the craft-beer industry and creating her own brew, ‘Lady Like.’

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  • | 2:29 p.m. March 27, 2019
Photo courtesy of Mary McGinn
Photo courtesy of Mary McGinn
  • West Orange Times & Observer
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Jillian Farrell knows all too well just how much work — both mentally and physically —goes into brewing beer.

She’s lifted 50-pound bags of grain over the shoulder. She’s sweated in 90-degree-plus temperatures in the back while working with the beer. She’s read many books and studied for hours to learn more about the science and biochemistry of the brewing process.

And she’s done it all as a cellarwoman working in a historically male-dominated industry.



The Longwood resident has been working at Crooked Can Brewing Company in Winter Garden since October, but she got her start in the craft-beer industry a couple of years ago. She previously worked as a bartender but knew she wanted something more challenging and fulfilling.

“I started drinking craft beer at 22 … and two years ago, I got a job at World of Beer, and their training there is really intense,” she said. “You have two weeks of training where you try about 100 different beers, and they walk you through the process of how beer is made. It opened up this whole new world for me. Immediately after, I went straight to the library and just looked up any books on beer that I could. I rented around eight books — all about beer.”

On her search for books, she read one called “My Beer Year: Adventures with Hop Farmers, Craft Brewers, Chefs, Beer Sommeliers, and Fanatical Drinkers as a Beer Master in Training,” written by a journalist named Lucy Burningham. Burningham wrote about her experience with her journey to obtain her Level 3 certification as a cicerone. Her travels and talks with brewers, yeast experts and more inspired Farrell to pursue her own passion.

“It occurred to me that this was a normal, everyday woman doing these amazing things and following her dreams,” she said. “If this woman can do it, so can I. I thought it was amazing.  That book kind of gave me the itch to learn about beer.”

Farrell worked at World of Beer for a few months before realizing she wanted to work somewhere that not only sold beer but also brewed it.

“I ended up getting hired at another local brewery with five other male bartenders,” she said. “I got chosen to go in the back to assist the brewer. He was watching me carefully to see if I was going to physically be able to do it, and that made me push myself even harder. At first, it was hard to lift these 55-pound bags of grain up the stepladder and into the mill. Now, it’s nothing.”

Brewers actually spend only about 10% of their time brewing, Farrell said. The other 90% is spent cleaning to ensure the back rooms are as sterile as possible and that the beers don’t get affected.

As grateful as she was to work with the home brewer, Farrell wanted to work for a trained commercial brewer. That’s when she met Todd Glass, head brewer at Crooked Can.

“There’s a lot of science involved in brewing that I never realized before — specifically biochemistry,” she said. “You need to know what minerals and salts are in the water, and a couple of degrees can completely change the brew that you’re making. It’s such an exact science. The conversion of different sugar chains depends on the varying temperatures for each style of beer. … With Todd and the other employees at Crooked Can, it feels like a family, and we all depend on each other. It’s nice, because we all help each other out.”



March marked the start of Women’s History Month, and International Women’s Day was celebrated March 8. As a woman working in a male-dominated industry, Farrell is proud to call herself a member of the brewing industry. In recent years, there has been a shift toward more equality and respect for women, she said.

“I think this Women’s History Month is the first where I really appreciated it more than I ever have (because) I’m working in a male-dominated industry,” she said. “All the hurdles women in the past have had to overcome to make it as easy for me to get a job in the industry as it was … even five to seven years ago it was more difficult for women to break into the back of the house, which was full of flannels and beards.”

Although great strides have been made, there are still challenges. There are times when she will be standing with a male co-worker at an event, and people will direct questions about beer toward him — even if she brewed that beer, she said.

In other places she worked, men would occasionally watch her to ensure she could lift the kegs and bags of grain. Sometimes, she wasn’t allowed to wear shirts that showed her shoulders — even in the back, where it can get extremely hot during the brewing process. 

“There are a lot of really awesome feminist brewers, and a lot of men who have reached out and told me that what I’m doing is awesome, and they’re very supportive,” she said. “There’s always going to be a couple of bad apples, but for the most part, I think (it’s gotten better). … There’s always that preconceived judgement that we (as women) are not going to be able to do it, but it just makes us work harder. For the most part, everyone is great and supportive.”

In honor of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, Farrell was given creative liberty to come up with a special brew of her own. She created a New England IPA that she called “Lady Like.” It was double dry-hopped and brewed with citra, El Dorado and Mosaic.  Farrell oversaw the process from the project’s inception and partnered with women from Florida Distributing Company to bring this specialty craft beer to life.

“It’s a lot less bitter, and you get more of the hop aroma versus the bitterness,” she said. “I wanted to make a hoppy IPA that other people might enjoy as well, even if they think they don’t like traditional West Coast IPAs.”

As she created Lady Like, it was only her second time brewing and she was nervous about messing it up. However, it was her easiest and smoothest brewing process to date, she said.

“It was so cool the first night we had it on, seeing all these people drink my beer,” Farrell said. “It was awesome to see your hard work come to fruition (because) it was the first recipe I created.”

Farrell loves working at Crooked Can and said everyone is supportive and truly cares about helping each other reach their goals. Working in the industry is a lot of hard, physical labor but also is extremely rewarding. Her advice for other women trying to break into the industry is to talk to people at breweries, volunteer at keg washes, go to festivals and try different beers.

“I’m constantly being challenged daily with new knowledge and information,” she said. “I eat, sleep and breathe beer now. There’s always something new to learn about — whether it be in yeast or brewing sciences, or all the different hop varieties, malts and flavors and the way they interact. It’s nice to be challenged in that regard. It’s very fulfilling.”


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