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It’s about time.

If the words ‘craft beer’ conjure up images of bearded dudes with nautical tattoos poking out of their flannel shirts, you’re not alone. ‘Hipster’ men have managed to position themselves as the figureheads of brewing, but the reality is plenty of women are not only working but also leading the charge in the beer world.

In 2020 a woman-owned brewery called Shippingport Brewing Co. will begin operations in Portland at 1217 W. Main St., with Against the Grain brewhouse alumnus Amelia Pillow at the helm and an accompanying dispensary, Sally Forth Taproom, running at 1221 W. Main St.

This announcement provides Food & Dining Magazine readers with two excellent refresher courses, the first concerning the increasing profile of women in the craft brewing business, and the second about the history of Shippingport itself.

In 2018, Kevin Gibson (LEO Weekly) profiled three women brewing in Louisville: Pillow, Leah Dienes of Apocalypse and Maggie Bray at Gordon Biersch/3rd Turn.

Bring it on. That seems to be the consensus among Louisville women who are brewing or work in the industry.
Everyone, really.
When people at beer festivals find out Dienes is an owner and head brewer at Apocalypse, they are “happy and amazed,” she said. That, she believes, is proof that there isn’t an underlying agenda. It’s just people being people.
“Once people realize who you are, they have a different mindset,” Dienes added. “You can learn something from everyone — everyone has got something to teach you. I think it’s gotten a lot better.”

With Pillow soon to follow in the path of Dienes — who inherited her symbolic mash paddle from the pioneering Eileen Martin — these words in Vice from brewer Megan Stone (Laine Brew Co., United Kingdom) are relevant.

“I didn’t think anything of [being a woman] when I first got into the industry. It was others that made me realise I was different … my hope with this (diversity apprenticeship) scheme is that the brewing industry becomes much more approachable to minorities. I hope other breweries see what we are doing and start to make some changes that makes their own spaces much more inclusive.”

Pillow, who’ll be partnering with preservationist and developer Gill Holland on the Shippingport and Sally Forth projects, also is helping to extend Louisville’s craft beer perimeter to the west, where the city was first conceived two centuries ago owing to a quirk in the Ohio’s course. 

The Ohio River runs 981 miles from western Pennsylvania to its junction with the Mississippi in southern Illinois. In the nation’s early days the only obstacle to navigation from Pittsburgh to the Gulf of Mexico was the “Falls” of the Ohio, in reality a series of rapids atop 380-million-year-old fossil beds, dropping the river level 26 feet and leading directly to the establishment of Shippingport, Portland and Louisville in Kentucky and New Albany, Clarksville, and Jeffersonville on the Indiana side.

Today we know Shippingport as the island in the river between the McAlpine Locks and the dam, with Falls of the Ohio State park situated on the Indiana side, but it was once a settlement with a population of as many as 600 people prior to 1830, when the first canal was cut through to bypass the rapids. 

Pillow told Louisville Business First that her brewery’s and taproom’s chosen identities are tied to the history of Shippingport and Portland: Sally Forth “just sounds like a bar that could have been there for 50, 60 years already.”

And it does.