“Mom would like Sandra Day IPA.”
That was the cryptic email subject line that appeared in Kate Power’s inbox one August day back in 2015. Power—along with friends from a two-year assignment in AmeriCorps, Betsy Lay and Jen Cuesta—had just launched their dream project with Lady Justice Brewery Company. Not only would they be making and selling craft beer, but they had established a business model wherein the majority of profits over cost would be donated to organizations promoting opportunities for women and girls in Colorado. It would be set up as “a nonprofit with its own viable means of income,” Power says. No fundraising necessary. “We could just exist to do good.”
When that email arrived, the trio was in the process of perfecting their recipes, garnering crowdfunding support, and naming their new beers. The fledgling brewery’s legal theme had caught the attention of the American Bar Association, which asked its readership, “What would you name your legal brew?”
That question prompted the email correspondence.
“When I got the email, I thought, ‘That’s sweet, but I don’t know if we can just start naming beers after peoples’ moms,’” Power recalls. Then she took another look at the signature, “Scott O’Connor,” and the connection clicked. The polite suggestion—“Mom would like Sandra Day IPA”—was coming directly from the son of the first female associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Sandra Day O’Connor.
“It was such a magical moment to realize that this little idea we had caught the eye of somebody who looms so large in such an important and wonderful way in the history of women in our country,” Power says. “It was just really, really great.”
Scott O’Connor adds that his family was happy to support a brewery dedicated to making the world a better place. “They weren’t putting all of the money in their own pockets,” he says. “I thought that was very generous of them to share the goods.”
Turns out that the honorary ale wasn’t Justice O’Connor’s first brush with beer. Back in the 1960s, she and her husband spent several years as their region’s licensed distributor for both A-1 Pilsner and Olympia beers. O’Connor’s involvement was purely investment-related (she was already a member of the Arizona state legislature at the time, so she wasn’t up to her elbows in barley), but Scott remembers having a “refrigerator out on the patio where we always used to have samples from their operation.”
Today, Lady Justice Brewery continues its mission to promote the status of women and girls in Colorado. It has given more than $15,000 to over 30 organizations, including the Women’s Lobby of Colorado, Women’s Wilderness, and mentorship programs like Star Girlz Empowerment and elevateHER.
Although the taproom, which opened in March 2020 on East Colfax in Aurora, is operating at reduced capacity in accordance with the city’s COVID-19-induced restrictions, its pick-up business is going as well as it can in the midst of a pandemic, a fact that Power attributes to their “wonderful and supportive community.” She adds, “Even though we’re up against challenges like every small business, our community is here for us. We can feel that they want us to succeed.”
One of the customers who stops by often: Courtney Day O’Connor, the justice’s Denverite granddaughter. “They’re women making a change and they’re doing it in a way that makes them happy—and they have fun doing it,” she says. “It’s a sisterhood and [our family] is totally in support of that sisterhood.”
9735 E. Colfax Ave, Aurora