Whose Brews?   Our Brews!

A place for musings, sharing stories, trying new things, and exploring the intersections of beer, social justice, and privilege.

Leigh Pajor and Ray Florant

Leigh Pajor and Ray Florant

Leigh Pajor and Ray Florant
Homebrewers and a
Digital Health Program Coordinator and Creative Director, respectively
Alexandria, VA

 Do you remember the first beer you ever had?
Leigh: In high school, my friend was Czech. Her mom would just give her drinks with dinner because they were European. For six months she just stashed them under her bed and one weekend, her mom was away, and she shared them with all of us.

Ray: I don’t think I could tell you what it was. It was something Miller Lite-esque. I was a rambunctious teenager, so I was sneaking out and drinking out in a field somewhere.

What was the first beer that turned you on to craft beer?
L: The thing I didn’t like about all the beers I had in the past was it was so close to water, but not water. And I would have just rather had water! I wanted to know if there was anything that would have more weight to it, which I learned later was mouthfeel. When I had the Trois Pistoles by Unibroue, it hit the bull’s eye so well that it was my conversion beer.

R: I used to only drink darker beers, malty beers, nothing too hoppy. I recently had a really good IPA that I loved and it was New Belgium’s WhizBang. It’s light and crisp and chock full of Mosaic hops. I blow off a lot of hops but those Mosaic hops made a massive difference.

How did you get into homebrewing?
R: I got my actual beer introduction in Germany. I lived there for about four months when I was doing an internship as a toy designer. That was my birth into the beer world. German beer is, I think, unparalleled. Every little town has their own brewery, and you can always tell where you are from based on your accent and what kind of beer you drink.

I didn’t even know what homebrewing was until I did this backpacking trip across the world. When I was in New Zealand, I ended up running into my fourth grade teacher’s sister. I stayed with her for about a week, and she and her family taught me how to homebrew. When I came back and was living with one of my old kindergarten friends in Arlington, and one of his old apartment mates had left behind a Mr. Beer one-gallon kit. I said, “Leigh, we have to do this! It looks so cool!”

L: May I interject here and say it was eight years old.

R: Yeah, it was pretty expired. We made it just to see.

L: We were bottling on election night, and it came out as bad as the election was. But we spend a lot of time doing that kind of thing. We make our own hot sauce, we make our own bread, and we just started a garden so we have our own vegetables. We tried cheese; that was a little questionable, so we’re still working on that one.

How has misogyny and racism shown up for you in your personal experiences in the beer industry?
L: Sometimes when I go out with my guy friends, I’ll order the darker, perhaps more “masculine” beer, and then a server would place it in front of my friends. And I’d be like, “No…that one’s actually mine.”

R: I have noticed that when we’ve been out.

L: I had two friends who used to live here and we’d go to karaoke every week. There was one time where Guinness was testing out their Guinness Blonde. They came up to our table of all women and offered us samples and asked for feedback. They were explaining how Guinness Blonde is lighter and has all these characteristics that are the watered down, more feminine versions of regular Guinness. I said, “so this is the women’s beer?” He said, “We’re not saying it’s the women’s beer – anyone can drink it.” But this is the light version for women because supposedly they can’t experience regular Guinness.

It’s more so when we are out and not homebrewing that we experience things like that. Even so, when I experience it outside in the world, it’s just one of the more minor things that I typically encounter.

R: It doesn’t rank too high on your scale of infuriating patriarchal outrage?

L: Exactly.

What’s in your fridge right now?
R: We usually keep some kind of crappy beer on hand as a comparison to our homebrews when we do the taste test.

L: Ray works at an events company that often has leftover beer, so he’ll bring that home, and it’s often something like that.

You haven’t convinced them to expand their selection?
R: As much as I would love them to, Diageo is one of our sponsors. Nothing against Diageo. They have a huge portfolio of stuff, everything from Smirnoff to Guinness – like when Guinness Blonde came out, we had a case of that.

L: When he brought it home I was like, “oh yeah, I’m familiar with this.”

R: In the fridge, we’ve got the cream ale, the Belgian, the porter we’ve done, those are the homebrews. Then we’ve got Radlers, a German export beer, and a German weissbier.

What was the last beer you drank that’s not a homebrew?
R: I think for both of us it would have been the Benediktiner.

The apocalypse happens and there is only one beer left. What would it be?
L: It would probably be the Trois Pistoles from Unibroue for me. Trader Joes uses Unibroue as their beer producer so I could probably just raid a Trader Joes and be fine.

R: My mind goes to the beers that I have really warm memories with, so probably a German helles, a classic German crisp lager, in a beer garden.

L: The only place left after the apocalypse.

If you were in a 711 or a mainstream grocery store and you have to pick up beer in a pinch, what would you get?
R: You know we used to get Yuengling when we were going someplace and needed cheap beer.

L: We used to do that.

R: Yeah, until the owner publicly endorsed Trump.

L: It was amazing how quickly that disappeared, like overnight it was gone. If I was stuck in a grocery store, I’d probably get Corona. Yuengling would have been it, but not anymore.

Are there other things these questions are bringing up that you want to share?
R: I volunteer at a bike co-op called Velocity Bike Co-op in Del Ray. We actually struggle with the exact same issues that craft beer struggles with because it’s all straight white men with beards. We all are like, yeah, we don’t know how to deal with this.

L: I give you ideas all the time.

R: That’s true.

What are some of your ideas?
L: Like how to bring more women in. Ray saw some sign that was trying to get women involved in beer at a pub in Del Ray. They were trying to do a “bringing women into beer” kind of thing. I had issues with their sign, but I was like, you should partner with them because bikes and beer, there is some overlap with those people. You have to let people know that you’re there, because if you are just walking by the shop and see a bunch of guys inside, you’re going to think, “oh, it’s not for me.” 

Melissa Rogers

Melissa Rogers

On Credibility and Community: AKA the Infamous Taste Test Fail of 2017

On Credibility and Community: AKA the Infamous Taste Test Fail of 2017