Part one in a series on the women who have risen to the top of Nevada’s burgeoning brewery industry.
Humans have been drinking beer or similar drinks for several thousand years, but many do not realize early brewers were mainly women, making beer as one of their normal household tasks. However, by the 18th century the brewing business gradually became a man’s job and women were relegated to roles as barmaids, pub operators, bottlers or secretaries for breweries.
Over time beer also came to be viewed as a man’s drink. Now with the craft beer renaissance and the realization and acceptance that beer can be enjoyed by all, more and more women choose beer as their drink of choice. They are also entering the beer business as brewers and brewery owner/operators.
In this series, we delve into the backgrounds of six women—two co-owner/operators, a head brewer, a brewer, an assistant brewer and a brewery assistant. These accomplished women are leaving their mark on the beer industry in Southern Nevada in occupations integral to the brewing business. Discover the paths that led them to this field and the significant contributions they have made and continue to make.
Ashley Navarrete—How a Love of Learning Led to Her Dream Job
Ashley Navarrete holds the honor of being hired as HUDL Brewing Company’s first assistant brewer, but her path to professional brewing began long before she attained her dream job. Her home brewing college days and love of reading planted and nurtured a seed in her life that has led to her current profession.
Developing the Love of Craft Beer and Path to Brewing
The 33-year-old Californian grew up in San Fernando Valley and wasn’t into craft beer until attending Humbolt State in Northern California. She happened to live next door to a brewery and her roommates got her to join them in home brewing and she became hooked. She also became addicted to learning and reading. In addition to her studies as a philosophy major, she delved into the history and process of making beer.
About eight years after moving to Las Vegas, in 2020 she discovered the newly-opened HUDL Brewing in the Las Vegas Arts District. After it became her favorite place to hang out at while reading (which she would do for hours on end), owners Ken Cooper and Skip Norfolk and Head Brewer Joe Cuozzo took notice and friendships developed.
Ashley was invited to join the team as a part-time bartender, which quickly turned into helping out in the brewery, and then after three months, working full time in an expanded role as assistant brewer. She evidently proved herself, for recently she was promoted and allowed to drop the word assistant from her job title.
She was trained by Head Brewer Joe Cuozzo, who coincidentally also attended Humbolt State some years before her. As to why she was hired, Joe said, “Number one she has passion and wants to learn and grow. We also wanted someone who would be here long-term.”
Ashley asserts Joe is an excellent mentor and teacher who appreciates and welcomes her input and ideas. In July, she brewed the first beer formulated from her recipe. It’s an experimental hazy double IPA with hops added during the mash for extra bitterness (they are normally added during the boil) and uses a special new yeast strain that adds a ton of aromatics.
Details and Challenges of the Work
Ashley describes her typical work day as unpredictable, with every day being different. Being able to multitask is key, as tasks include washing kegs and cleaning tanks and equipment while pausing to add ingredients during brewing.
Her favorite styles are brown ales and stouts due to the complexity in their grain bills, and lagers because they are challenging with no room for error. She explains, “We brew beers that make us happy as brewers, but don’t brew beers just for ourselves, but for our customers that sell. So, there’s a balance of each and a lot of our beers end up being both.”
“I love being uncomfortable and getting out of my comfort zone. I’m an eternal student and love being in an environment inundated with constant learning.”Ashley Navarrete
Being a woman in an industry historically dominated by men has not held her back. “I’ve been accepted for the most part and having a lot of previous connections in the brewing community has helped, as I know someone everywhere I go.” As for the future for women in this industry moving forward, she believes, “For the number of breweries we have in Las Vegas there is a good percentage of women [brewers].”
Next time you make your way to HUDL, ask for that experimental hazy double IPA and be on the lookout for Ashley. She’ll be the one with a big smile, even while doing the grunt work and mundane chores of cleaning or carrying hefty bags of grain, for she is truly doing what she loves.
Ashley says, “They really believe in me here and include me in decision making. For so long I was helping other people chase their dreams, but now I am living out my dream come true.”
Looking for a new spot to grub in town? Half Bird Chicken and Beer Takes Flight in Las Vegas.