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'I try to focus on the positive': Female craft beer store owner defies industry norm

Erika Goedrich started a beer rating website as a hobby, not expecting it to materialize into a store. But in August 2016, Goedrich opened a craft beer store and defied the industry norm of not being a white male owner.

By Aidan McClain

Erika Goedrich didn’t expect to open her own business — she just had a taste for beer after her college friend became a self-identifying beer snob after studying abroad.

It wasn’t the prospect of running her own business that made her want to do it. She simply wanted to educate people about beer and create a community.

She laughs when asked about how she got her start in the beer business.

It all started as a hobby. Goedrich started a beer rating website and explored the options available to her. In August 2016, the work from the website materialized into a brick-and-mortar store: Craft Beer Cellar on H Street NE.

Now she’s defying industry expectations by being a woman who owns and manages her own craft beer store. The disparity extends beyond stores, too: 76% of craft brewery owners are men, according to Forbes.

“The beer industry is overwhelmingly white and male, and Erika and I hope connecting more people and holding ourselves and everyone else more accountable can make it a more equitable and inclusive one, that everyone can be part of and enjoy,” said April Shettle-Magee, an employee at the store.

For Goedrich and Shettle-Magee, that accountability includes hosting events that empower women. Before the pandemic, they hosted a meet up of women in the craft beer business, and more recently they held an event to pair Girl Scout cookies with the best beer.

“It wasn’t so much owning my own business as much as I wanted to educate people about beer,” Goedrich said.

And that’s what Goedrich does as the owner of Craft Beer Cellar — she runs her business on the three pillars of amazing beer, hospitality and education.

Even if a customer doesn’t know much about craft beer, Goedrich is there to answer questions and pinpoint the perfect beer to match your description.

But it isn’t always a perfect day — especially as a woman in the beer business.

“I try not to focus too much on the negative,” Goedrich said.

When men assume she doesn’t know anything about beer, she sets the situation straight.

“When they find out that I’m the owner, things change,” Goedrich said. Then she does what she does best: knocks them over with her knowledge.

It’s for this reason that Erika describes the life of a craft beer store owner as stressful, but she also says it’s rewarding and communal.

As one customer told her, the store feels like “a warm hug.” The comment brought Goedrich to tears.

One bad customer can ruin the day, Goedrich said, but it all comes back to community and trying to make the beer industry a better place.

She’s not just trying to get a hold of better beer, she’s trying to change “the dynamic of how things work.”

Goedrich plans to bring back in-person tastings in April to get back to a sense of community — for women in the beer industry, hospitality and education.