The craft beer industry is full of fun, camaraderie, and innovation. It’s also full of men. According to the Brewers Association’s latest survey, men still make up 75 percent of brewery owners across the United States. But with more than two million industry jobs associated with craft beer, numerous women are helping to shape the future of the industry. Here are a few of the women moving our scene forward in San Diego.
Cara “Bunga” Wilson
34, brewer, Athletic Brewing Company
Hometown: Middletown, New Jersey
Beer years: 2
What do you love about San Diego beer? The variety of beer styles, events, and backgrounds. San Diego really is a melting pot in the beer world and I look forward to getting to know it better.
Favorite local beer: Currently anything from Harland or Second Chance.
Advice for women who love or work in beer: Give yourself more credit—you’ve worked hard to get where you are, even if it’s just the beginning of this career journey. You bring such a different perspective—speak up and ask questions.
37, co-owner, Machete Beer House
Hometown: San Diego, California
Beer years: 10 working, 13 drinking
What do you love about San Diego beer? How influential and impactful it has become to other regions in the US. It makes for some killer collaborations. I also love the vast array of options available at any given time.
Advice for women who love or work in beer: Take up space! There is room for you at the table.
41, co-owner, Chula Vista Brewery
Hometown: Calistoga, California
Beer years: 8 working, 20 drinking
What do you love about San Diego beer? The camaraderie—the genuine love and support from everyone in the industry and the customer base. I know when we sip beer produced in San Diego, we are blessed in how incredibly great it is.
Backup plan: I come from a health care administration background—physical therapy, to be exact—and something about helping others in care, seeing results long term, and building relationships is still very dear to my heart.
Advice for women who love or work in beer: Be authentic to yourself and be fearless. Our voice matters. Stay true to your inner voice and do not be afraid to speak up.
45, field market manager west at Yakima Chief Hops
Hometown: Johnson County, Kansas
Beer years: 6 1/2
Favorite local beer: Pizza Port Swami’s is my go-to, but my current favorite is Burgeon Beer’s Chief Greens fifth anniversary beer made with YCH Frozen Fresh Hops.
Backup plan: I would invest in a co-op living space targeting business travelers with a garden, fitness area, and space for collaborative dinners. Just need those big dollars to make that happen! Anybody want to invest?
Advice for women who love or work in beer: Be authentic and stand your ground. We all deserve a place at the table regardless of gender. Make goals for your future and pursue getting that job that you think is out of reach. You just never know what you might accomplish.
Paige McWey Acers
35, executive director, San Diego Brewers Guild
Hometown: Vista, California
Beer years: 9
What do you love about San Diego beer? The strong community was what drew me to the craft beer industry and is the same thing that keeps me going. The impact of craft beer goes far beyond the beer itself; it reaches and brings communities and people together. Breweries create space for creativity, collaboration, and genuine human connection.
Favorite local beer: AleSmith Nut Brown. It was one of my gateway beers and remains a staple for me.
Advice for women who love or work in beer: Know your value, advocate for yourself, and seek out opportunities that challenge you.
Samantha “Sam” Olson
30, head brewer at Mujeres Brew House, Barrio Logan
Hometown: New Brighton, Minnesota
Beer years: 7
What do you love about San Diego beer? The community. Even though we’re all “competitors,” there’s so much room for friendship and, of course, beers.
Favorite local beer: Queen of Tarts by Karl Strauss
Backup plan: I have a chemical engineering degree, so I’d probably be obsessing on how to make the perfect production line for potstickers or coffee (two other big loves for me).
Advice for women who love or work in beer: Don’t let roadblocks stop you. The next avenue over may actually be a freeway.
39, co-owner, O’Brien’s Pub, West Coast Smoke and Tap House, and The Pub at Lake Cuyamaca
Hometown: Gilroy, California
Beer years: 18
What do you love about San Diego beer? When there is a need to support a business or industry member, people come, no questions asked. I love the innovation and evolution and the respect of where SD beer started from to where it has grown today.
Backup plan: Owning a bookstore and coffee shop on the beach in Costa Rica.
Favorite local beer: At home cooking: Karl Strauss’s Aurora Hoppyalis. At West Coast: Societe’s The Pupil. At O’Brien’s: Port Brewing’s Mongo Double IPA. At The Pub: Nickel Beer’s Lake Cuyamaca Lager. For a PTA meeting on Zoom: Burgeon’s Treevana IPA.
Advice for women who love or work in beer: Don’t give in or give up. Work smarter, not harder. Failure is not an option. Always keep reinventing yourself.
50, CEO of Modern Times Beer
Hometown: Johnstown, Colorado
Beer years: 13
What do you love about San Diego beer? I met IPAs here. When New Belgium was first hatching the idea of IPAs, a group of us spent time tasting in San Diego. This is my home for IPA styles. Hazy is my favorite!
Backup plan: A behavioral economist—I really do geek out trying to understand why people make the choices they do.
Advice for women who love or work in beer: Stay centered on your self-worth versus your ego. Self-worth builds community and expands the Venn diagram of wonderful people. Ego can narrow that diagram and drive groupishness. Beer and food have a powerful history of bringing people together, and we need to constantly continue to expand our community—it’s just more fun.
38, senior sales and brand development manager at Pizza Port Brewing Company, Carlsbad
Hometown: Ballston Lake, New York
San Diego beer years: 12
What do you love about San Diego beer? Each neighborhood across the county, and each brewery or beer-focused establishment within it, has a unique story to tell. We’re a collective of dynamic, innovative, and resilient humans whose passion for beer is only matched by our love for community, the causes we believe in, and the quest for betterment of our industry at large.
Favorite San Diego beer: A current sample would include Societe’s The Pupil, Burgeon Beer’s Carlsbad Crush, Craft Coast’s Agua Baja, and anything McIlhenney (though ask me again in a week and you might get a different answer!).
Backup plan: Working on a boat studying hydrothermal vents, deep sea ecology, and plate tectonics. Or I’d be a baseball commentator. Go Pads!
Advice for women who love or work in beer: Everyone is a teacher; there is always something to learn, even when we least expect it. Check that—especially when we least expect it!