Like us, when you read this, you’re going to want to be Hannah Gohde’s BFF. She says, “I’m an aggressively friendly storyteller with beer that has a penchant for Genny Cream, bubbles, smashing the patriarchy, funky beer, yoga, themed brew days, the beach, fun costumes, good energy, pushing for a more inclusive and equitable beer industry (and the world), being creative, kayaking, summertime, friendship tattoos, music I can move to, being 1% better every day, #shotgunfriday, traveling, whiskey (Scotch in particular) and lipstick. I always wear lipstick. It’s the one piece of femininity that I can easily display among the hard, physical, grueling labor of being a brewer.”
In the meantime, spend a few minutes with Ship Bottom Brewery & Barrel House’s Madame de le Barrel + Brewer. You’ll be glad you did!
You started homebrewing in college, then worked at Keystone Homebrew Supply (KHS). How did you go from homebrewer to brewer at Free Will Brewing Company?
Right place, right time?! John Stemler (former brewmaster at Free Will, currently at Chatty Monks Brewing Company) had previously worked at Keystone before and during the early days of opening Free Will, so there was still a close connection to KHS. I came on board at KHS after he had left, but I got to know him pretty well; then, he asked me if I would be interested in working in the tasting room.
For those who don’t remember, this was before the laws changed that allowed breweries with that type of license to sell pints for consumption on-premises; at the time, it was only beer to-go or free samples. I worked part-time for 18 months at Free Will and full time at KHS until John offered me a full-time gig as a brewer and social media coordinator and event coordinator. It was a lot. I have worn many, many hats over the years.
What sparked your interest in homebrewing?
Well, beer, for one. I was a broke college student, and while I was fine drinking the $10 case of Natty Lite, I really enjoyed the taste of more complex beers, but couldn’t afford them on the regular; so, I became interested in homebrewing it myself. Unfortunately, I only got to do it a few times before I realized how much time and work it was, and had to give up my short-lived college hobby. It wasn’t until I was out of college and homebrewed a few times with my brother that I became more interested. My now-husband and I had each homebrewed with others, but never on our own. I moved in with him as a roommate, and we decided to invest in the equipment together. That was 10 years ago — I upgraded from roommate to wife, and from homebrewer to professional.
What are your favorite styles to brew, and why?
Honestly? I’ll brew anything and find enjoyment in it. I enjoy the hard, physical labor of brewing. I enjoy the mental challenges. I enjoy the creative process needed to develop a recipe and understand how malt, hop and yeast choices influence the final product. I’m a very intentional brewer. I do everything with intention, from designing a recipe, to hop choices, to unique ingredients, to the label art, to even envisioning the experience that I hope people will have while drinking that beer — it’s all done with intention. I’m also a storyteller with beer. From start to finish, everything is part of the story. One of the things I love most about this industry are the connections that I have had the opportunity to make. Connections to people, places, things, memories — it’s what makes me really tick. I like to think that those intentions and connections help to give a little something extra to each batch that I brew.
What are your favorite styles to drink?
Cream Ale is 100% hands-down my favorite style. Genny Cream Ale is the ultimate beer in my book. But aside from that, my favorite beer is the one in my hand. There’s a time and a place for every commercially available beer — yes, even the macro beers. There’s a reason why PBR is still around. It’s delicious. I know what it’s going to taste like every single time. I don’t have to think about it. It’s uncomplicated.
That being said, I absolutely love saisons and mixed-culture beers/sours. It’s possible to have an incredibly simple beer be incredibly complex, and that’s what I strive for when I create new beers.
Why a blendery for the Swarthmore Ship Bottom, and what makes that so unique?
We’re actually a blendery and barrelhouse — and, it is rather unique! Here you’ll find barrels of various types of beers, with each wooden vessel its own ecosystem. That means flavors, aromas and attributes vary from barrel to barrel, even if it’s the same beer. The magic happens when we blend beers from different vessels together to get the desired flavor profile. It’s science meets art! I’m a creative. I trend right-brain, but with an analytical side as well, so this type of beer production resonates with me.
Blending is very subjective, yet we try to be objective, too. Make sense? It’s driven by the sensory — aroma and flavor, for example — but requires vision, finesse and attention to detail. Blending differs from traditional brewing in that the wort production is done off-premises; in our case, at our Beach Haven, New Jersey, production facility or, at times, with contract partners. When it reaches us, it’s transferred to barrels for fermentation and aging.
How did COVID impact your industry — what was your experience?
To make a long answer short, I’d been on leave for about six months when I was offered the head brewer position at Naked Brewing Company with a July 1, 2020 start date. I was adjusting to literally everything when I returned to brewing, and that included the “new normal,” which was really nothing close to normal. A huge change? The severe turn to packaged product — cans were royalty. Draft beer didn’t move because places weren’t open, so canning became a necessity for survival. If you were canning prior to COVID, then you were able to more easily transition to can-heavy packaging versus kegs. But if you weren’t canning already or were doing small runs of certain brands, then you had a much harder time dealing with the changes. Aluminum became costly. Shortages of empty cans became a thing. It was an abrupt pivot that many breweries were not poised to make without a lot of stress. Many breweries didn’t make it through to the other side, and honestly, I’m thankful that we’re still in it; I expect to see more beverage manufacturers shutter or sell. It’s sad.
Why did you move to Ship Bottom?
I made the decision to join the Ship Bottom team because of the immense growth opportunities that exist here. I was not unhappy at all at Naked. I loved my time there and am so very grateful to have had the opportunity that I did, but when a new opportunity knocks and it just feels right in your soul, ya’ gotta take it, right?! As I stated above, I love mixed-culture beers, I love blending, I love barrels and so when owner Rob Zarko approached me with this unique opportunity and offered me the chance to spearhead this new endeavor with an already existing and established brand, I jumped on it.
I believe in the culture that exists at Ship Bottom. I am heard. I am respected. I don’t have to work harder than my co-workers to prove myself just because of my gender. I think one of the most reassuring moments I’ve had so far happened on my very first brew day at our facility in New Jersey. Our packaging manager asked me what my pronouns are (she/her for the record) within the first 20 minutes of my being there. That is such an easy question, but dang did it ever do wonders to make me feel like this is a place, a culture, that actually cares about doing the right thing and being good humans. That’s just amazing, and has sadly not always been my experience in this industry.
Delco is a unique place with a strong culture — and, strong opinions! What kind of vibe do you get from working in Delco?
I love Delco’s diversity — and, I don’t just mean in terms of inhabitants either. The landscape is so different as you move from east to west. I love that there are places reminiscent of extravagant horse farms in Kentucky just a few minutes from industrial complexes and urban land use. There’s so much history here. I love that in certain parts of the county you can see a cyclist, a Ferrari, and a horse and buggy share the road.
I’m absolutely in love with the little town of Swarthmore. It’s artsy, eclectic and inclusive, and has strong support for the LGBTQIA+ community. It’s a place that has been very, very welcoming and accepting of what we’re doing. I love our neighbors and love that I can walk to a coffee shop, boutique, food co-op, vintage shop, nail salon and old-school hardware store that feels like it belongs on Sesame Street, all within about 90 seconds. I love that there’s a train stop 44 steps from our front door, making accessibility better for our patrons.
You’re a member of the Master Brewers Association of the Americas DEI Task Force, Brewers of Pennsylvania Equity & Inclusion Committee and the Pink Boots Society. Why are these particular organizations important to you and to the industry?
Because until equity and inclusion are at the forefront of our minds, my work and advocacy will never be finished. (Editor’s note: Read that statement again!)
It’s important to understand the difference between equity and equality. It’s important to recognize and celebrate our differences as humans, and then it’s even more important to create spaces where those differences are accommodated. Let’s break down barriers to entry. Let’s understand that diversity is not your driver — it’s the end result of creating a more inclusive and equitable environment.
In January 2020, I was sexually assaulted at an industry event, and while that was not the first time that it had happened, it was probably the most egregious and became the final straw for me. I put my fists up in opposition and said, “Never again.” Never again will I allow this to happen to me, and I’ll do my best to make sure it doesn’t happen to others. But the reality is that it will, and if I can be a support, a voice of reassurance and/or a warm hand to hold to help someone else to feel less alone and help them navigate through the aftermath, then let me do it. I have a voice and I’m not afraid to use it.
Where do you see the industry and women’s roles in the industry going in the next few years?
I think we’re going to continue to see the industry expand, even with the brewery closures that we all thought were untouchable. I think we’re going to continue to see new breweries open, but I also think we are going to see breweries diversifying themselves more and more to include producing other types of fermented products. We’ve already seen it with hard seltzers (personally, I’m a fan of hard seltzers, so this is fine by me), but I think consumers want to keep pushing and exploring new products. Ready-to-drink cocktails are the hot topic right now. They’re taking shelf space away from beer brands and honestly, I’m not mad about it from a consumer standpoint. From a business perspective, though, it’s something we have to be mindful of to keep our finger on the pulse. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw more breweries branching out into other beverage realms. Hard kombucha, mead, cider, spirits and even non-alcoholic beverages — these are the things I think we’ll see breweries start to produce, especially as legislation changes to allow for these things.
I also think — and this is the part that really excites me — that we’ll see a more diverse workforce in the beer industry. For as much of a dumpster fire as the last few years have been, it has certainly propelled the topics of diversity and inclusion to the forefront of everyday life. In my opinion, the national push for STEM-based learning curriculums has been a huge springboard for craft beer. More marginalized groups — women and people of color — are being exposed, and at a younger age, to these fields of study that were once considered to be predominantly white male. I think that is huge, not only for the advancement of STEM-based technologies, but also for normalizing diversity and inclusion. The beer industry is hugely STEM-focused, so as more women and other marginalized populations are exposed to these disciplines, then I think we will see a shift in the race and gender split. To some extent, we already have, but we can certainly do better. Education is the key to all of this.
A little more about you — tell us about your family!
The aforementioned husband is Andrew. He’s not in the beer industry. We’re both hugely into whiskey — Scotch whisky in particular. We have over 210 different bottles of whiskey in our collection (it’s also insured, of course!). We have three animal children: Kasey June (who has more nicknames than most children like KJ, Kase, Junies, Juniper, JuneJune, BigBooty, BabyGirl, etc.); she’s a blonde-haired American Staffordshire Terrier (aka a Pittie) that we rescued as a puppy from Harley’s Haven. Also Mika, a fussy cat with the softest fur you’ve ever felt, and Axl, a red Betta fish.
Do you have time for any hobbies?
I enjoy yoga, kayaking, being creative in any way possible (pottery, watercolors, photography, sketching — I’m not great at any of them but I enjoy them!) and traveling. Being on/in/by water is a necessity in my life and the beach is my favorite place. Also, bubbles are my favorite thing.
Find Ship Bottom Brewery Blendery & Barrel House at 5 Park Ave., Swarthmore, (610) 467-5804. Open Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 9 p.m., Friday from 4 to 11 p.m., Saturday from noon to 11 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 9 p.m.; closed Monday and Tuesday.
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Want to know more about everything Delco? We’re more than just your source for good eats — we’re your source for where to stay, what to do and more in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. We’re Visit Delco, PA, and we’ve got you covered from Philly to the Brandywine. Contact us at (610) 565-3679, by email, or online.
— Nina Malone
All photos by Ship Bottom Brewery Blendery & Barrel House