CONCORD, NH – At about 6:30 Monday morning, Sharon “Dropkick” Curley and her mother Julie Curley got started mixing water and grain, taking turns manually stirring it in the mash tun at Lithermans Limited Brewery in Concord.
For the next 10 hours, they worked on this special batch of beer, with occasional help from other brewers and Janet Sisson, who runs the tasting room. On March 21, it will be released as the second annual Pink Boots Society “Made for Walking” New England Pale Ale.
The Pink Boots Society, of which Curley is a member, is a national organization that showcases and supports women in brewing. A portion of the beer sales will go toward a scholarship program administered by Pink Boots to help women get started in their brewing careers. Brewers participating in the program try to time the release of their Pink Boots beers in March, which is Women’s History Month.
Curley has been the assistant brewer at Lithermans for nearly a year, after starting out as a volunteer shortly after the brewery opened. She caught the brewing bug after attending the brewery’s soft opening three years ago and, in search of a hobby, offered to help out in her free time.
“Very early on in the process… I didn’t know what I could do to help,” Curley said
Now, after a few years of observing and getting hands-on experience, she’s an expert, taking charge of the brewery process from beginning to end and developing recipes of her own. Last year, she turned her full-time job as a nursing assistant at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester into a part-time job and started working at Lithermans part time.
Curley, who is also a classically-trained musician, she said, earned the nickname Dropkick early on when she selected the Dropkick Murphys on someone else’s music player and, unbeknownst to her, it ended up cycling through all of their songs for the next three hours. Everyone started calling her Dropkick after that.
She said “Made for Walking” will have a slightly different recipe this year. The Pink Boots Society supplies their own hop blend to members, which changes every year. This year, Curley is also working with an optic spring malt, which goes well with pale ales, she said.
Curley plans to make 15 barrels of “Made for Walking,” which will amount to about 500 gallons, she said.
After she finishes brewing that, she will get started on brewing seven barrels (about 250 gallons) of her very own label, called “Top Sail,” which is due to be released a week later on March 28.
“It’s my first solo recipe,” Curley said.
“Top Sail” is an extra special bitter (ESB), which she described as a British-style pub ale. It’s dark amber in color, but not quite a brown, and not actually that bitter, she said.
It uses English pale ale malts and English hops (Challenger and Sovereign), which have earthy and fruity notes. She said ESBs are not common in the U.S. and she’s not sure how it will be received.
“I’m excited but nervous,” Curley said.
The brewery is co-owned by Steve “Doc Jones” Bradbury and Michael Hauptly-Pierce.
“I think it’s exciting that the state of the industry has evolved from its bro culture to even have something like Pink Boots Society,” Hauptly-Pierce said. “And I’m very proud to have a female brewer working with us and be able to participate in this project.”
Both “Made for Walking” and “Top Sail” will be available in cans and will be served on draft at the Lithermans tasting room.
You can contact reporter Ryan Lessard at email@example.com