Friday, May 31, 2013

Mary (a.k.a. "Hops Diva"): A Lady Who Loves Beer

With a real thirst for Imperial IPAs and 17 years of Atlanta craft beer drinking to her name, this New Jersey born, hop-loving Scorpio is also a fan of live music, comedy, and theatre. While the work week has her putting her considerable talents to good use planning and promoting events both on and offline, off the clock she lives life as the "Hops Diva" frequenting some of the best downtown Atlanta bars and brewpubs, all within "stumbling distance" of her Atlanta residence.

This is Mary, and she loves beer.
Mary and her husband Joe.

If you have a beer alias (like “heybrewtiful”), why do you use it and where did it come from? What’s the story?
“Hops Diva” was born in 2010. After years of trying local beers while we were on vacation, my husband and I were planning a Beercation to Seattle and Portland where all we planned to do was visit bars and breweries. To keep my family and then colleagues from worrying I had a drinking problem, I created an alias.
Can you tell us the story of how you got interested in beer?
When I was 16, I went to Paris, France with my high school French class. I expected to come back fluent in French, but the phrase I used most often was “Kronenbourg s'il vous plaĆ®t.” It was legal to drink in Europe and we took full advantage of the opportunity for those nine days. A lot of my friends drank wine, but even then, I preferred beer.
In college, I drank the beers my roommates and I could afford - Busch, Miller Lite and when we wanted to splurge, Killian’s Red. Once I got my degree I also graduated to better beer. I moved to Atlanta in 1996. One of the first female friends I made took me to Taco Mac (it later became Summits Wayside Tavern) on Roswell Road where she was working on her passport. I signed up and never looked back.
When my husband and I were first dating I told him we couldn’t get serious until he also earned his passport mug for drinking 100 new beers. He did, and we’ve been together ever since.
Can you tell us about what it’s like being a woman involved in the craft beer culture? (Is it even an issue where you are? Are the men supportive (or at least interested)? What’s the best and worst of it? Are there women-driven beer groups in your area? etc.).
I’ve been drinking craft beer in Atlanta for 17 years. There are still some events where the men outnumber the women, but there are a lot more women who appreciate good beer today. The Georgia Ale and Lager Sirens (GALS) started three years ago and while I’ve made some great friends through the organization, I’m not sure their mission of "Infiltrating the Sausage Fest of Beer" is as necessary now as it would have been maybe ten years ago. In my neighborhood alone there are at least four bars/brewpubs that are owned or co-owned by women. 
My husband, Joe, enjoys Mai Tais and the occasional cocktail while I generally stick to beer. There have been a few instances where a server has incorrectly assumed the fruity drink was for me. Since I’m a hop head, I gravitate towards Imperial IPA’s. I’ve had a few bartenders “warn” me the beer I ordered (that I’ve most likely had before) will be bitter. I’ve seen other female beer lovers get indignant over things like that. But we generally go to good beer bars and places where people know us, so if a rare event like that happens, I don’t let it upset me.
Is there anything you’d like to see the craft beer scene do differently? How would you change it and why?
Since I live in Georgia there are lot of changes I would like to see made to our current laws... 
The ABV cap raised. Yes I was here before the law changed in 2004 and we’ve made great strides, but I would still like to be able to get Dogfish Head 120 minute and World Wide Stout without having to go to Florida or somewhere else out of state to get it.

HB 314 Passed. I would love to be able to get a growler filled at a brewpub.
There are too many beer festivals! I have attended, poured beer, coordinated volunteers and chaired a festival so I can tell you from experience that there are just too many. When there is a beer festival every weekend people get burned out and it hurts the festivals that are trying to offer something different. It’s unfortunate that some organizers are happy to throw events where people are just getting wasted. 
Aside from liquid interests, what do you do with your spare time?
I love to read, go to the theater, and enjoy live music and comedy. I’m also a big baseball and football fan. I cheer for the teams I grew up loving (Yankees and Giants) first, and my current home teams (Braves and Falcons) second.
Do you brew? Tell us about that. Do you have a brew partner? What do your friends and family think of it? What’s up next? What’s your favorite brew been so far (and why).
I wish I had room to brew! Between my beer books, extensive glassware collection and cellar, my love of beer already takes up a lot of space. A few years ago I joined the Beer Brew Girls for a brew day and learned the basics. I have since been lucky enough to watch/help other people, but I haven’t ever pitched my own yeast or formulated my own recipe. I have come up with ideas for casks though. So far the Thin Mint was my favorite.
What are your current seasonal favorites and can you find them on tap? A suggested pairing to go with that beer (can be food, a certain someone, anything goes here)?
My go to beer is Bells Two Hearted Ale. Because it is accessible, I can, and usually do, drink that daily. This spring, I’ve really enjoyed Stone’s Enjoy by series. I hope they continue to do it. It would make my life much easier if I thought the harder to find beers like Founders KBS and CBS were overrated, but they are so smooth and balanced, I don’t. 
What’s the best place to grab a beer where you live (and what do you love about it)?
I’m fortunate to live in stumbling distance of The Porter Beer Bar and the Wrecking Bar Brewpub so I’m usually at one or the other. If I decide to leave my block, I like to go to Decatur Square. The Brick Store Pub is iconic and I love the guys at the Square Pub. When I venture OTP I go to Summits Wayside Tavern in Snellville. They still have my passport mug that I earned back in 1997 so I like to make sure it doesn’t get too many cobwebs between visits.
Are there any beer-related events you’re looking forward to?
Many of my favorite bars will be celebrating big anniversaries in the coming months:
  • The Wrecking Bar Brewpub’s 2nd anniversary - they will have 30 house made beers pouring June 14-16 
  • The Porter Beer Bar will celebrate their 5th anniversary September 7th and they always have an impressive list with rare beers. 
  • Summits Wayside Tavern in Snellville will celebrate 20 years in September with a special keg tapping each day for 20 days. 
  • As far as events, HOToberFest October 5th always has an insane VIP list. 
How can people connect with you (twitter, facebook, untapped, etc.)?
Hops Diva is everywhere, but I’m probably the most active on Twitter. I'm also on Facebook, Untappd, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Are you a lady who loves beer? Do you know someone who is? Meet me here each Friday for a weekly focus on women and beer, or meet the ladies who've already contributed to the growing collection of interviews. To get in on the already evolving lineup, email me at heybrewtiful{at}gmail{dot}com with your story.

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