Kimberly Johnson, co-owner of Final Draft Taphouse, began Couve Brew Bevy to bring women together to share their love for craft beer. Johnson participated in a similar group in Portland and wanted to bring the same mix of sisterhood and suds to Vancouver.
“I have a passion for bringing women together around a pint. There’s so many connections to be made,” Johnson said.
The group’s monthly meetings, which began in 2017, provide a mix of social time and beer education. For example, at the first meeting, Michelle Svendsen of North Jetty Brewing in Seaview spoke to Brew Bevy about owning a brewery. Another time, the group hosted a panel of women to talk about their journey in the beer industry.
One of Couve Brew Bevy’s more outrageous pre-pandemic outings was a beery Christmas caroling event in downtown Vancouver. Members dressed up in outlandish holiday garb, rewrote carols with beer lyrics, and wandered into breweries and taphouses in downtown Vancouver to sing songs like “We Wish You A Beer-y Christmas.”
Brew Bevy does more than drink beer, however. A couple years ago, Vancouver Brewfest organizers asked Brew Bevy if the group would collaborate with a local brewery. The women were thrilled by this new opportunity. They took a bus to North Jetty Brewing and brewed a collaboration beer served at Brewfest. The beer, called Bevy’s First Draft, won an honorable mention at the Washington Beer Awards. The group went on to brew a yearly festival beer until COVID-19 hit.
At the beginning of 2020, the group began planning a Brewfest collaboration with 54°40’ Brewing when the pandemic shut their plans down.
Brew Bevy’s monthly meetings, which had attracted 35 to 40 women, migrated online. In June 2020, the group returned to meeting in person at Final Draft Taphouse following COVID-19 regulations. All attendees had to RSVP so that Johnson could keep attendee numbers down in compliance with safety measures, and they met socially distanced in the taphouse or in a covered area outside.
Currently, no mandates regulate socially distancing in the taproom. Masks are required when people leave the table and move around the space, but the organizers recognize that people still may feel uncomfortable.
“In the past we were mingling, but right now we still need space. I’m sitting across from someone and I don’t know if they’re vaccinated,” said Ramona Lupo, who has been a member of Brew Bevy since the first meeting. She also is one of a handful of women who help Johnson lead the group. They meet quarterly to create events and discuss future ideas.
“It’s not a formal board. In normal times, we coordinate a lot of events,” Johnson said. “We’re not planning a lot of things at this point. We’re not there, but we’re itching to do it.”
Johnson said the leadership group would ideally include six to eight women so there’s an opportunity for more members to provide direction.
At the end of last year, Johnson surveyed members. Some of the ideas for future events include learning about the brewing process, hops and beer styles. Past events had guest speakers, panels and beer collaborations.
“We joke about dreamy beer trips like going to Italy or Oktoberfest in Germany. We like to dream as a Bevy,” Johnson said.
Lupo said she enjoys that community-building aspect of the group.
“Some of my closest friends are from Bevy,” she said. “We get together and go to breweries, taphouses, and beer adventures in Hood River or a hop farm in the Canby-Salem area.”
Despite the pandemic, Brew Bevy continues to attract new members.
Women who’ve recently moved from Arizona, Florida, California and Seattle have found the group through Facebook and Instagram.
“We’re seeing a lot of new people who are new to Vancouver,” said Johnson.
The organizers take pride in welcoming new members into the group. Monthly meetings include ice breakers and beer games to encourage attendees to talk to each other. Johnson also keeps an eye out for anyone who seems on the fringes of the group and brings them into the circle.
“We make it a point: If we see someone new and not mingling with others, we introduce her to others and make her feel welcome,” she said.
Ultimately, Brew Bevy will become whatever it will become based on the personalities and preferences of the women who show up.
“It’s more important now than ever that women come together in community because we’ve been isolated for so long,” Johnson said. “I’m feeling really excited about this next chapter for Bevy.”