LeAnn Darland and Tara Hankinson get excited when people come to their brewery and tell their staff “they’re not really beer people.”
“That’s kind of the whole point,” Darland said.
Talea Beer Co., which was founded in 2018, officially opened its doors in March of 2021. It is the first and only women owned and founded production taproom and brewery in the New York City Area—shocking, we know—and sits a few blocks away from McCarren Park in Williamsburg. It is in large part, an oasis of sorts for beer aficionados and novices alike.
It all began with an epiphany of sorts for Darland.
“When I was living in Northern California, my friends and I would go visit wineries, but they didn't want to come with me to a brewery and hang out for a day and try a bunch of beers. And so in my mind, I was like, why not? What's missing, what's so different about a beer, than a glass of wine?” Darland said. “And I realized—why is there nothing on tap that feels like it was created with women in mind?”
She met Hankinson working at a beer startup, and soon after, Talea, a combination of the two’s first names, was born.
The beers at Talea are fruit forward, punchy, sour, tart, yet evoke similar herbaceous notes that natural wines might. This is no mistake—Hankinson, who has a background in wine, says the goal “is to bridge the gap between wine drinkers and beer lovers—to make a space that is accessible, welcoming—to be more than a taproom with a chalkboard menu and antlers on the wall and kegs as tables.”
They’ve certainly achieved this. The brewery and taproom feels more like a winery than a brewery—they’ve injected their space with a sense of camaraderie, community, style, and elegance that may be wanting in other taprooms. The bar is lined with granite and the backdrop consists of aquamarine tile—the ceilings are high, the rooms are filled with plants, and the lighting is natural and generous rather than murky.
This ambiance extends itself to the beers as well. Rather than “the sexist, misogynistic cans other beer companies still play into,” the names on their tap list range from “Tart Deco,” “Al Dente,” “Sun Up,” to “S*cret Passw*rd.” The can art is equally as eye-catching and design forward. They also offer beer cocktails to “ease you into the taste of beer,” and charcuterie boards as opposed to wings. Instead of listing the hops, they list fun yet accurate tasting notes “like pineapple push pop” to describe their beers.
Unsurprisingly and unfortunately, none of this was easy. “We had a few venture capitalists say after our pitch that 'oh my wife doesn’t drink beer,' or 'it’s chickbeer,' 'low calorie,' 'the only girl beer on tap,' 'let’s pinkwash it’ or 'are you gonna put the calorie count on the label?' and they just completely did not understand what we had in mind.” Darland said.
“It was annoying,” Hanksinson said, “because I feel like people who would have put their personal feelings aside for an investment opportunity couldn’t get past it for us. It’s like a man saying ‘I’m not going to invest in your organic tampon company because I don’t have a period’ and it’s like—but it’s a great business concept. They can set this feeling aside for other things. For example, half of these people don’t use Bitcoin but they’re buying it.”
“But at the same time, we’ve always tried to fight against the idea that we’re just beer for girls—we’re beer for everyone,” Darland said. “We want beer nerds, beer novices, anyone who likes beer to come here and hang out.”
In tandem with misogyny, the two faced another difficulty while starting their business. Well, perhaps difficulty is the wrong way of looking at it.
“We leased the space but hadn’t broken ground when LeAnn gave birth,” Hankinson said.
“And then during the time that I had a baby, Tara got pregnant and we went through a global pandemic.” Darland laughed. “Sometimes I think how great it would be if we had met each other in our mid twenties cause it’s a lot to juggle right now, but there’s never going to be a good time to start a family.”
The two say that having children has helped them prioritize their work-life balance, their ideas of growth for Talea, as well as the ways in which they treat their staff.
“For three years it was just the two of us and a brewer. Now we have 25 plus employees and we want to grow this business so we can give them more opportunities, bonuses, or be more flexible with their schedule,” Darland said. “A lot of them joined in March and said it was the first job they had since March 2020—they took that risk for us which was a huge compliment and a huge responsibility.”
Ultimately, the two hope to expand their vision into the future, to make accessible, yet high-quality beers—ones you can find almost anywhere and bring to the beach and are unrivaled in taste as well.
“Our muse is the person who is curious about beer, but who drinks other beverages, too—that's who we’re after,” Darland said. “We want to prove there is a beer for them.”
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