For some beer winning ales are measured by unusual infusions (coconut curry hefeweizen, anyone?) or rare strains of yeast. But for Beverly Armstrong, a semiprofessional rugby player turned brewer in Watertown, Massachusetts, a good thirst-quenching draft is as much about who's clinking frosty mugs as what's inside them. "In rugby, you have what's called a drink-up with the other team after a match," says Armstrong, who competed with the nationally ranked Beantown RFC (rugby football club) for 15 years while balancing a day job as a biotech executive. "It's a great tradition because you won't be too nasty in a game if you know you're sharing a beer with the competition later."

It was during drink-ups on international tours that Armstrong first tasted session-style ale, a low-alcohol variety (typically under 5 percent) she'd never sipped Stateside. "A lot of U.S. craft beers have this macho interest in extremely high alcohol content," she says. "But I think people want to have a few drinks and talk with friends without falling off their stool when they stand up! That's why I started making my own." Nine years after receiving her first home-brewing kit—"My fellow players were my first taste-testers," she says—Armstrong left biotech to tap into the fermentation field.

In 2016, she founded Brazo Fuerte Artisanal Beer. What's in a name? "My teammates started calling me Brazo Fuerte on a tour in Spain," says Armstrong, now a certified cicerone (a prestigious position akin to a sommelier). "Brazo means ‘arm,' fuerte means ‘strong'—and it stuck." The hoppy entrepreneur's standouts, like Big E Session IPA and Chara British Golden Ale, can already be found in about 30 Massachusetts locations. But Armstrong hopes to open her own taproom someday—and expand the craft-beer-clubhouse image beyond burly bros with beards. "The look on people's faces when they find out I'm the brewer is definitely one of surprise," says Armstrong, "and sometimes disbelief. But I just want to make great beer—that's what wins everyone over at the end of the day." Score!


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