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On Women’s Equality Day (August 26), Breckenridge Brewery’s Suzanne Nance will continue to push hops—and the beer industry as a whole–to the next level with the debut of a very special beer: the Eliza-rita. This limited-edition watermelon-jalapeño sour honors Eliza Pickrell Routt, a leader in the women’s suffrage movement and the first woman registered to vote in Colorado in 1893. The introduction of the new brew also follows the 100th anniversary of 19th amendment’s ratification (August 18), which guaranteed American women the right to vote.
Nance has unwittingly found herself in a string of male-dominated jobs since moving from Chicago to Breckenridge in 2001. The move came about after a life-defining river trip through the Grand Canyon, which led Nancy to abandon her original plan of a city-based career in economics for a life of outdoor adventure, and eventually, zymology (fermentation science). She worked as both a ski tech and commercial rafting guide before starting as a bartender at the Breckenridge Brewery in 2008. From there, she worked her way up the ranks to brewer.
“Bartending was another break-the-glass ceiling sort of thing. It’s mostly all men back there. I settled into that job readily, poured my heart into it. Our head brewer, Jimmy (Walker) started to see my passion, my knack for beer, and my discerning palate for what tastes good and what doesn’t,” Nance says.
In 2016, Nance was offered the brewer position. “I clocked in on day one with the Summit County United Brewers Alliance at our brewery. I was the only woman among 15 brewers and assistant brewers. Jimmy said, ‘You’re in charge,’ ” Nance recalls.
Nance is now a highly respected member of the alliance; a key contributor to all Breckenridge brews; and the mastermind behind the brewery’s Women in Beer series, part of the brand’s efforts to celebrate and empower females in the industry. Nance’s Women in Beer creations thus far have included Hazy Jane, a New England-style coconut IPA, and Boochie Mama, a kombucha-inspired sour made with matcha green tea and ginger.
The new Eliza-rita was infused with 40 pounds of seeded and roasted jalapeños, as well as fresh watermelon purée sourced from female-owned and operated Source of Nature in Wellington. “It’s always fun to make a more complicated beer,” Nance says. “It gives me free rein to pick the most expensive ingredients and grains and really get creative.” A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Eliza-rita will benefit Habitat for Humanity’s Women Build program.
Nance hopes that local drinkers enjoy the Eliza-rita as much as she does, but also that her mark in the beer world inspires other women to join the fold. “I do like the fact that I’m a minority in the business,” she says. “I like people looking at me like I’m crazy with my safety glasses and work boots, carrying a keg around. I thrive on changing people’s perspective of a brewer.”
Eliza-rita will be on tap for a limited time at the Breckenridge Brewery’s locations in in Breckenridge (600 S. Main St.) and Littleton (2990 Brewery Ln.) starting on August 26.