Women To Watch - Page 24 - Judy Neff

Women To Watch
- Page 24
Judy Neff
Judy Neff 43, co-owner and brewer, Checkerspot Brewing Co.

For years, the country’s craft-beer scene has felt dominated by an earned stereotype: male and white, usually with a beard. At South Baltimore’s Checkerspot Brewing Co., Judy Neff is helping change that perception one beer at a time.

From bookkeeping and event planning to managing the taproom and, of course, brewing beers, Neff — who opened Checkerspot in late June with her husband, Rob Neff, and friend Steve Marsh — works 80 hours per week, she says.

“It helps when you love what you’re doing, and making great beers,” she says.

Neff fell in love with craft beer on a visit to San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing Co. 13 years ago. A dozen years of homebrewing eventually led to Checkerspot, where she and her team create beers such as the Psycho Haze Pale Ale and Daydream Cream Ale.

Kevin Atticks, executive director of the Brewers Association of Maryland, says Checkerspot’s beer quality has quickly established the brand.

“That’s really important in this market, where you don’t get credit for just being local,” Atticks says. “You have to be great and local.”

Six years ago, Neff started the group Baltimore Beer Babes to promote women drinking and working in craft beer. Now, it’s been rewarding to see increasingly diverse crowds in her taproom — particularly because they’re not just requesting light or fruity beers, she says.

“They’re drinking really hoppy beers and the strong beers,” says Neff, who lives in Patterson Park and has a doctorate in microbiology from Johns Hopkins University.

In the next couple months, Checkerspot will expand its taproom, providing four times the space it has now, she says. It’ll give more room to supporters that already represent the changing tides in craft beer.

“There’s a lot of white males, but there’s a lot of women and people of color, too,” she says. “We run the gamut, which is something we hope to continue.”

—Wesley Case