Gluten Free Brewer: Taylor Grothe

Starting this week, we'll be talking with girl bosses in different industries, chatting about their personal practice, workspace, and style.

This week, we got to visit Taylor Grothe at her brewery and chat about her experience being her own boss and following her passion.Taylor launched Church Owl Gluten Free Beer to fill the need for delicious brews for people with allergies and dietary restrictions. The results are some of the tastiest local beers in the New York area. She runs most of the brewing, sales, and administrative operations of the company by herself, and she's expecting!

Can you give a us a little background on Church Owl Beer?

Church Owl began as a lot of small businesses do: as a hobby. (This is true especially of craft brewers.) About four and a half years ago I was diagnosed with celiac disease; I was disappointed by all of the gluten free beers I found around the city, so I started brewing for myself, in the closet of the Manhattan apartment my husband and I lived in at the time. After a few brews, I started serving it to my friends, and they encouraged me to pursue brewing as a full time job... and for the past two years or so, I've been putting the business together. 

You've been creating delicious food for a long time. When did your love of cooking, baking, and brewing begin?

My love for cooking and baking began really early on. My maternal grandparents were always in the kitchen... they were great entertainers. My grandmother could bake anything, and my grandfather was the resident Italian cook. For a long time, I wanted to be a chef, or a pastry chef-- anything to get my hands dirty in the kitchen. Cooking is also a way to communicate with others, and to show them love. I was drawn to the craft because I felt I could give back to others by feeding them. When I started brewing in my twenties, it was completely self-centered... but then I learned that the celiac community was almost entirely without beer beverage options, and that a lot of the bigger companies with gluten free beer on the market were treating it as a throwaway item... just another box to tick for their giant consumer bases. I wanted to give back to my community in a substantial way, the best way I knew how: by giving them something good to consume. 

What has been the most rewarding part of brewing your own beer?

What has always been most rewarding to me is giving back. I love seeing other people happy because of something I made for them. To hear from people with celiac disease that this was the first good beer they had drank in years is an irreplaceable and life-changing feeling. Making my first sale was also incredibly uplifting! Nothing like actually accomplishing the thing you set out to do.

What flavor is your favorite to brew?

I really like our flagship ale, Tailfeather. It's a great autumn ale, but I like drinking it year round... That's why it's on offer all year. But I'm also really into our Apple Pie Stout, Treetop. When I first brewed it, I hadn't had a stout in literally three years, and it was a revelation! I have a lavender IPA and a mandarin orange sculpin in the works, too... Stay tuned!

What's next for Church Owl Beer?

I'm pursuing canning our beer in the new year (fingers crossed!) I've heard that we're moving really fast for a new brewery, but that's how I like it: there's no time for complacency; if I go down, at least I go down in a blaze of glory.

What does work hard, dress smart mean to you?

When I think about how I come across to other people while I'm selling my beer, I both need to be approachable and polished, and an authority backed up by my hard work. The first thing that conveys my sense of purpose is how I dress, so coming across as professional is very important to me. It's a man's world, certainly, when it comes to brewing and distributing beer. This is changing, and despite of, or maybe because of that, I have never wanted to hide myself behind a pant suit at the loss of my femininity. It's one of the things that makes me different in this industry. You can see that I can do all that I do at my brewery in a dress... or a pair of jeans. That's the beauty of owning my own business and being a one-woman show. Being the boss and looking great doing it. 

Taylor is wearing the Diana dress.