USA Today has recognized Grand Rapids as the Craft Beverage Capital of America. We want to recognize some of the women who helped us get there. Their leadership has helped Grand Rapids stand out from the pack of other craft beverage destinations – and has inspired more local women to pursue their own careers in breweries, distilleries, cideries and wineries across the area.

Jenney Grant, Director of Operations & Education at Long Road

Long Road Distillers' team, Jenney Grant included, live and breath by the philosophy, "Take No Shortcuts."

Jenney Grant

Long Road Distillers

After working and learning through multiple positions at New Holland Brewing Company, Jenney Grant fell in love with distilling after shadowing and assisting the head distiller. 

As she climbed the ranks and earned a position as a general manager at a start-up distillery, she met the owners of Long Road Distillers and knew that was the place she wanted to land. 

“Take No Shortcuts” is the guiding principle at Long Road Distillers. The entire team lives and breathes through the process of creating something from scratch and using locally sourced ingredients. 

“My influence at Long Road has been connecting the dots,” said Jenney. From tasting spirits to giving and gathering feedback on product that’s being developed, she helps craft a unique flavor profile. “It is my responsibility to ensure that all of our employees have what they need to fulfill their roles on our team. From our production staff to our kitchen crew, we all work from the same principle: Take No Shortcuts, and I am grateful to be able to help foster that.”

In the past year or so, Jenney has helped foster some exciting new developments for Long Road, as the company has opened Less Traveled, a cocktail bar in Uptown GR, and launched a new line of ready-to-drink canned cocktails for distribution throughout Michigan.

Alicia Robinette standing in the tasting room at Robinette's Apple Haus & Winery

Alicia Robinette oversees several aspects of Robinette's Apple Haus & Winery from merchandising to personnel.

Photo by Brian Craig for Experience Grand Rapids

Alicia Robinette

Robinette’s Apple Haus and Winery 

Folks may know Robinette’s Apple Haus and Winery as a popular orchard for apple-picking and hayrides, but the company also produces wine. Alicia Robinette is part of the family business at Robinette’s by marriage. 

While her official title is treasurer, she also manages the winery’s tasting room, inventory and personnel, and is the head buyer for all items for the company’s store. Her responsibilities in business administration have kept the company running smoothly for more than 20 years.

Alicia stays on top of consumer trends and changes in the industry to ensure the winery offers top-notch products for its customers. “I pay close attention to what our customers want while managing how much the business spends,” said Alicia. “We have to be flexible and be ahead of planning in order to manage the shop effectively while also serving our loyal customers.”

Alicia credits her business savvy from her education at The University of Michigan. 

Her favorite wine is Barzilla's Brew, Robinette’s first hard cider named after the founder of the Robinette farm, Barzilla Robinette. “It’s dry and makes me happy... The Rapids Red and Chocolate Wine are also two of my favorites.”

Kris Spaulding, President Brewery Vivant

Kris Spaulding, co-founder of Brewery Vivant, helped it become the world’s first LEED certified microbrewery.

Photo by Steph Harding

Kris Spaulding

Brewery Vivant 

One sip of Bell’s Amber Ale was all it took for Kris Spaulding to become hooked on craft beer. Her love for the beverage began to transform into a career when she met and married her husband, who co-founded New Holland Brewing Company in 1997. The two put their heads together and crafted a plan to open Brewery Vivant in 2010. They’ve since added a sister company, Broad Leaf Brewery & Spirits, located in Kentwood.

Kris not only oversees the brewery’s operations, but she’s also the sustainability director. She was the driving force in the pursuit of Vivant’s LEED and B Corporation certifications. B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. Because of Kris’ passion, Brewery Vivant is the world’s first LEED-certified microbrewery.

Although the craft brewing industry is male-dominated, Kris shares that she hasn’t experienced obstacles because of it. In fact, she was voted onto the National Brewers Association Board of Directors in 2021. “Being female may have opened more doors for me as opportunities come up that seek representation from women,” Kris said. “Times are changing quite a lot, especially recently as I regularly meet more women brewers, owners, and suppliers.”

Kris' favorite beer these days is Grand Lager. “This classic style is perfect for this time of uncertainty. Lagers are the most popular beer style worldwide, but it takes a fantastic brewer to make an exceptional one since the simplicity of the style offers no opportunity to hide flavors or quality issues. I'm very proud of what our team has accomplished with this beer.”

Heather Van Dyke of Harmony Brewing sitting at a table holding a beer.

Heather VanDyke-Titus, co-owner of Grand Rapids' Harmony Brewing Company, incorporates her skills of storytelling to shape the brewery’s offerings.

Photo by Steph Harding

Heather VanDyke-Titus

Harmony Brewing Company

Heather VanDyke-Titus broke into the brewing industry with family by her side. Back in 2012, she and her two brothers started Harmony Brewing Company in the Uptown neighborhood born from a passion of homebrewing. 

Heather incorporates her skills of storytelling to shape the brewery’s offerings. She says Harmony’s beer is expressive by either using unique ingredients the team hasn’t used before or connecting the senses of smell and taste to a fond memory. 

One example is the popular Lovely Day IPA. “This is my favorite beer based on a trip to Stone Brewing’s farm in Southern California,” Heather recalled. After trying a lavender Saison and enjoying the scenic beauty, she later asked her brother to try to make a version of it back home. The drink was perfected and aptly got its name originating from the trip. 

In November 2021, Harmony announced ambitious expansion plans, changing its license from brewpub to microbrewery, launching production of wine and spirits in addition to beer, and beginning offsite distribution of its products while continuing to maintain its flagship Uptown brewery/restaurant. To facilitate these changes, the company closed its west-side Harmony Hall location, which operated from 2015-2022, and moved its production equipment from there to a larger warehouse space in southeast GR.

Whitney Ermatinger sitting in front of a barrel, holding glass of beer

Whitney Ermatinger wears many hats as co-owner, including tasting and approving Speciation's brews.

Photo by Photo Courtesy of Whitney Ermatinger

Whitney Ermatinger

Speciation Artisan Ales

Speciation Artisan Ales, a small brewery in Uptown, is the brainchild of Mitch and Whitney Ermatinger. Initially, Speciation was a one-man show with Mitch leading the charge, but eventually, Whitney left her career in social work to join her husband. As co-owner, Whitney wears many hats, including tasting and approving the wild fermented beer Mitch crafts. 

Speciation uses a natural fermenting process to craft the beer. This results in a product with varying degrees of sourness. While the process is a bit more labor intensive, especially without machinery or automation, Whitney says that it just means their beer is literally handmade, a fact she’s very proud of. Speciation also offers handcrafted seltzers and natural wines.

Another thing Whitney is proud of is being a woman in Grand Rapids’ beer scene. “I hope in a small way I am making craft beer more welcoming to women both as customers and as creators, whether that’s making our taproom more child and family-friendly, calling out misogynistic behaviors, or being a welcoming environment for other women to congregate or work.”

Lisa Roebke standing and holding a glass of beer
Hayley Zitzelsberger leaning on bar at Third Nature Brewing

Lisa Roebke and Hayley Zitzelsberger co-own Third Nature Brewing.

Photo by Photo Courtesy of Lisa Roebke

Hayley Zitzelsberger, Lisa Roebke, and Donghee Zitzelsberger

Third Nature Brewing

Third Nature Brewing in Rockford is a family affair made up of three siblings and their spouses. The women behind the beer there include Hayley Zitzelsberger, Lisa Roebke, and Donghee Zitzelsberger. Hayley and Lisa are co-owners of Third Nature Brewing, taking on a variety of roles like marketing, social media, human resources, and merchandising. Donghee is the brewery yoga master and has taught regular yoga classes at the brewery.

Nestled in the woods where the White Pine Trail meets the Rogue River, this 100% family-owned brewery has a real outdoor vibe. The experience and atmosphere people can enjoy there is something Hayley, Lisa, and Donghee say they love to observe. “It’s great getting to be a part of people’s lives this way and be a part of their memories,” says Hayley.

Donghee Zitzelsberger standing by sign reading Certified Independent Craft

Third Nature Brewing is a family affair, with Donghee leading yoga classes at the brewery.

Photo by Photo courtesy of Donghee Zitzelsberger

Brewing the beer at Third Nature Brewing is something everyone in the family gets involved in, even the youngest members of the Zitzelbergers. “I have had the opportunity to brew with my brother, Troy [Zitzelsberger], and the whole process is fascinating and so involved. My daughters even love to assist in adding the hops,” says Lisa. “It feels great doing something we all enjoy together,” adds Donghee.

As Third Nature Brewing continues to grow, Hayley hopes she and her sisters can show the craft beer scene that it is possible to be a woman, mom, craft beer lover, and a rockstar businesswoman all at the same time.

Stephanie Ginsberg of Pink Barrel Cellars standing in a field

Stephanie Ginsberg heads up the latest venture of Ed Dunneback & Girls Farm: Pink Barrel Cellars.

Photo by Courtesy of Stephanie Ginsberg

Stephanie Ginsberg

Pink Barrel Cellars

At Ed Dunneback and Girls Farm in Grand Rapids, Stephanie Ginsberg is one of the girls. She helps run the farm, market, and now Pink Barrel Cellars. Opened in 2019, Pink Barrel is the newest addition to what the fourth-generation family of farmers offers to the community.

“For generations, families have come to our farm to enjoy the view, food, and slow down life.  Adding our own beer, wine, and hard cider was a natural fit,” says Stephanie, “We want people to come and really start making their own memories at our farm. 

Brewing beer is something that’s familiar to the family. Stephanie’s father helped to build Perrin Brewing Company in 2012. Shortly after, and at the suggestion of Perrin’s founders, the Dunneback farm started growing hops for local breweries. After eight years of growing hops for others, the Dunnebacks decided to get into the brewing business for themselves in the form of Pink Barrel Cellars.

As a female farmer, Stephanie says she’s used to being a part of an industry that’s thought of as being male-dominated. Her mother has run the farm for the last 40 years and now Stephanie and her sister help work to keep it going.

Callee Knoll from Archival Brewing in Grand Rapids, MI

With a background in culinary arts, Callee Knoll opened Archival Brewing with her husband Levi in 2021.

Photo by Courtesy of Callee Knoll

Callee Knoll

Archival Brewing

Callee Knoll is a relative newcomer to the local craft beverage community, having opened Archival Brewing with her husband and co-owner Levi in July 2021. Located in Belmont, just five minutes from LMCU ballpark, Archival specializes in historic-style beer, mead and cider along with seasonal, regional cuisine.

The couple met at Grand Rapids’ Secchia Institute for Culinary Education, where Callee was enrolled in the Culinary Arts program, with the goal of becoming a personal private chef. But after graduation, the Knolls decided instead to work on something together, and channeled their 30 years of combined foodservice experience into planning their own restaurant-brewery.

Levi worked in the craft brewing industry for seven years and was an avid home brewer, but “I had no background in brewing when we opened,” says Callee. She learned the ropes by serving as assistant brewer to head brewer Jake Steele. “I’ve surprised myself at how I can adapt and learn and grow, and what I can accomplish when I step up.”

The Knolls continue to work as a team on every aspect of the business, though Callee focuses more on back-of-the-house and marketing issues while Levi supervises the front of the house. The approach is clearly working, as Archival’s skill at recreating beers, meads and ciders from history – there’s a great story behind every drink – has built a loyal and ever-growing following.

Callee says the support of the local brewing industry – and the growing number of women involved – has been invaluable to Archival’s success. She points to a 2022 get-together at City Built Brewing Company celebrating International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day. “We renamed it ‘She/Them/They Brew Day’ to be even more inclusive. This is an amazing community!”

Jessica Stricklen Brewery Nyx

Jessica Stricklen's business, Brewery Nyx, is Michigan's first brewery to focus on creating gluten-free beer.

Photo by Nell Boss Photography

Jessica Stricklen

Brewery Nyx

Beer City became the site of Michigan’s first dedicated gluten-free brewery when Jessica Stricklen opened Brewery Nyx in December 2021. Seven months later, she opened the Brewery Nyx taproom just southwest of downtown Grand Rapids, giving gluten-intolerant beer lovers the opportunity to hang out and enjoy lagers, IPAs, stouts and more without worry. 

Jessica worked in the craft wine industry outside of Portland, Oregon before venturing into craft beer. “I was the Controller for a startup luxury winery, did consulting for a couple private labels and was the CFO at an iconic craft winery,” she says. That breadth of experience helped prepare her for the diverse responsibilities she handles as a brewery owner. “I manage the finances and accounting, marketing and branding, compliance and business development. Depending on the day, you might also find me working on the canning line or out making deliveries.”

Brewery Nyx’s Double IPA is Jessica’s go-to beer when she has time to relax. It's a west-coast style IPA that’s juicy, hoppy and tropical. Salted Lime is another favorite and “it’s difficult for me to resist any brews with hot peppers we may have on tap.”

Jessica is gratified that her customers can’t tell that these or any other of her beers are gluten-free. “That was my intention and hope when starting this project!”

Jessica and her team worked to further develop the taproom, expand distribution to more retailers, restaurants and entertainment venues, and introduced a rotating/seasonal SKU at the wholesale level in 2023.

Brewery Nyx is one of a select few dedicated gluten-free breweries across the country and “We will continue to spread out and make our products more easily accessible to our customers,” says Jessica. 

Nadia Brigham

GRNoir Wine & Jazz

Nadia Brigham took a rather unconventional route to the craft beverage industry. She earned master’s degrees in social work and public administration, and spent more than 20 years helping advance issues of racial equity, leadership and community engagement at various West Michigan organizations before launching her own firm, Brigham Consulting.

That might not seem like the most apt preparation for a career in the wine business – but, in fact, Nadia’s fingerprints all over GRNoir Wine & Jazz, the downtown club she co-founded and co-owns with her husband Shatawn.

A Level 2 certified sommelier, Shatawn is responsible for curating GRNoir’s vast collection of wines, available by the glass, bottle and self-serve pour. He also developed GRNoir’s private-label wines in conjunction with Traverse City-based Chateau Chantal.

It’s the club’s ambience that really reflects Nadia’s influence. The world of wine can be intimidating, but GRNoir strives to make everyone – people of all races, cultures, genders, orientations and political leanings – feel welcome to discover wines in a no-pressure, non-judgmental way.

“Our business model is about people exploring something they may not have come in contact with, whether that’s jazz or wine. And I feel like we’ve been successful in doing that,” Nadia writes on the GRNoir website. “You see the generational divide being bridged. You see elders and college-aged students here to watch the young jazz players, people pulling up in everything from scooters to limousines. This is community.”

Allison Hoekstra

Allison Hoekstra, a Certified Cicerone, uses her expertise on craft brewing and hospitality to teach both brewing and culinary courses at GRCC.

Photo by Andrew Schmidt (

Allison Hoekstra

Secchia Institute for Culinary Education

After working in fine dining establishments early in her career, Allison Hoekstra discovered she preferred the “accessibility” of the craft brewing world. “Wine can be expensive and intimidating, but you can get a really great craft beer at your local grocery store for a few bucks,” she says.

That realization led Allison on a path to learn all she could about craft brewing, a journey that took her from Grand Rapids to Seattle and back again, and included stints with such well-known local brands as HopCat and Brewery Vivant. It also motivated her to become a Certified Cicerone, which designates a professional level of beer knowledge and tasting skills. 

Certified Cicerones must demonstrate an in-depth understanding of beer service, styles, flavors and ingredients, food and beer pairings, and brewing processes. The certification is granted after an exhaustive study culminating in written and tasting tests. Allison is one of 30-some Certified Cicerones in West Michigan. There are fewer than 5,000 in the world.

In 2018, Allison joined the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education at Grand Rapids Community College as an adjunct professor in the school’s craft brewing program. “I was always doing some kind of training during my hospitality career and teaching was a natural progression.” Today, Allison is an assistant professor teaching both brewing and culinary classes.

She says the student body is a mix of young people with some hospitality experience and older folks looking to switch careers. “I teach some of the first classes they have and some of the last classes, so it’s very rewarding to see how they grow and evolve.”

In between classes, Allison is pursuing a master’s degree in Institutional Design and Technology from Florida State University.

Next time you’re enjoying a delicious Castle Rock from Long Road Distillers or sipping on a White Pine Pils from Third Nature, consider this insight from Callee Knoll: “Women essentially invented beer. They were the original brewers. We’re just reclaiming the craft!

Take a moment to raise your glass to the women who are making it happen in the craft beverage industry. If you haven’t yet tried out any of the locales mentioned in this post, be sure to check them out – your tastebuds will thank you.

The breweries profiled above are all included in the Beer City Brewsader® program. Download the Brewsader app and check in to eight local breweries to get a FREE exclusive t-shirt!