Of the 9,709 breweries currently operating in the U.S., only 23 percent are owned by women in tandem with male colleagues. If that statistic gives you a jolt, here’s another: Only 2 percent of all breweries are fully women-owned.
Put a spotlight on a state as small as Massachusetts, and the gender disparity balloons. While Massachusetts is home to a respectable number of breweries co-owned by women—Trillium Brewing Company, Bone Up Brewing Co., and Lost Shoe Brewing and Roasting Company, to name a few—the total of women-owned breweries is considerably smaller, comprising establishments like CraftRoots Brewing and Redemption Rock Brewing Co.
That tally ticked up by one in April 2022, when Twisted Fate Brewing, the first brewery and taproom in Danvers, opened its doors to the public. The brewery’s status as majority female-owned is the first detail that deserves noting. The second is its family dynamic: Brother-sister duo David Pinette and Kim McNamara co-own the company along with their spouses, Erica Tritta and Bill McNamara, respectively; Kim and Tritta own a majority interest combined.
Any armchair business consultant will blurt the old saw that one should never go into business with family and list the challenges that face women running businesses in traditionally male-dominated industries. Those people haven’t met the Twisted Fate team, for whom the women-owned and family-owned designations are their greatest assets. “We all have the same goal, which is to be as successful as possible, right?” says Tritta. “And you think, ‘Well, that’s obvious,’ but it’s not always obvious in some small businesses I’ve known to exist. Everyone has their agenda.”
With Twisted Fate, there’s just one agenda: Making great beer in a comfortable, inviting setting, where good times can be had by everyone and anyone. Pinette, Tritta, and the McNamaras strive for inclusion, in every aspect of the brewery’s function.
Until recently, for example, the taproom was fully staffed by women, excepting Bill and Dave, and the taproom regularly hosts women’s groups, notably the Pink Boots Society, a nonprofit organization advocating for women’s participation and presence in the beer industry. The presence of women on both sides of the bar is like a pressure valve release: It makes the experience much less intimidating than the standard dude-heavy brewery atmosphere. “To toot our own horn, when women come in, they feel comfortable coming in,” says Kim. No one feels like they’re going to stand out with more equitable gender balance.
“I’ve had women come in, people come in, and comment on it too,” Kim adds. “Like, ‘We love that this is woman-owned.’ We’re still getting a lot of new customers, too.” And when those customers come in, they inevitably ask about Twisted Fate’s background as a majority women-owned brewery. “They like to hear that it’s different,” she says. “Two percent in the country, and we’re one of them? I love that. That makes me feel even better.”
In large part this dynamic—the comforting atmosphere, the inclusion, the conviviality—is a product of that difference, because in the broadly homogenized craft beer culture, a little difference goes a long way. What may be more surprising for some are the ways that the Twisted Fate crew’s admitted lack of industry experience has aided that inclusive agenda. “We didn’t have anyone telling us, ‘This is the right way, this is the wrong way,’” says Pinette. In his case, the “right way” meant hiring Ashley DeFuria as his assistant brewer. (A third statistic: Only 11 percent of brewers in the U.S. are women.)
“One of the first things I said to Ashley was, ‘I don’t know how other breweries do things, but this is how we do it here,’” he explains. “And you know, it’s working, so this is how we’re gonna continue to do it.” It’s a profound point. Any industry where men have called the shots and made the rules will have guardrails in place against hiring women in key jobs. There’s value in knowing the ropes of your industry; there’s also value in spinning your own ropes.
Bill takes satisfaction in DeFuria’s role in Twisted Fate. Her position in the brewery lets the team buck old craft brewing conventions. “As a business owner, having somebody in a very male-dominated area move into that space very quickly and be very successful at it, it’s prideful,” he says. “We’re opening doors for other people to say, ‘Hey, it doesn’t have to be just a male-dominated role.’” That pride is shared among him, Kim, Pinette, and Tritta, and trickles into every aspect of Twisted Fate’s operation, right down to the bathroom amenities: Tritta points out that unlike many breweries, or for that matter most businesses, theirs include feminine products.
This feels almost revolutionary, but, as Tritta puts it, “It’s not that hard!” In fact, Twisted Fate’s women-owned side almost sounds as if it comes more easily than the family-owned side. But anyone considering going into business with their siblings or spouses could learn from Pinette, Tritta, and the McNamaras. “I would say 95 percent of the time, we’ve agreed,” says Kim. As to the other 5 percent, she says, “we’re not gonna agree on everything, but we work it out.” It helps that from the very start, each of them felt the same desire to work together, especially Pinette. “I wanted to go into business with my family and friends, and I wanted to be successful with them,” he confesses, as if defying every warning against doing so.
As the person who dreamed of opening a brewery, and as the resident home brewer, Pinette had, and still has, a lot on his shoulders. Being an IPA-forward brewery has clear advantages: IPA is still king in the craft beer world, even considering the current hunger for lagers expressed by consumers who want options. “That’s what gets people in the door,” he says, “and that’s what we all like to drink.” Pinette managed to get his hands on Nectaron, one of the more coveted and hard-to-get hops du jour, for the I Won’t Let You Down IPA, while Kim is fond of My Promises Are Lies Tonight, which features the somewhat more polarizing Sabro hop. (If “shaving cream with lime zest” sounds good to you, this is your beer.)
But just as it’s important for people to feel at ease when they’re visiting the taproom, it’s important that they find something on the tap list that they want. To that end, Twisted Fate has several lagers on tap, like Papa Pils, plus their TFB Hefeweizen, a Kölsch called Relax, You’ll Live Longer, and in acknowledgment of pumpkin spice season, Mature Winter Squash Ale—a respectable variety for the group’s having only a year and a half of brewing under their belts.
Pinette, Tritta, and the McNamaras took a gamble going in on Twisted Fate together. If anything, however, as the brewery itself grows, that familial bond grows stronger, and they’re passing that bond on to their customers with one of the North Shore region’s all-embracing breweries.
120 Andover St., Danvers, 617-833-2791, twistedfatebrewing.com