African American female brewer finds her ‘Rhythm’

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — As the owner of Alisa’s House of Salsa on Whalley Avenue in New Haven, Alisa Bowens-Mercado has rhythm. Now she has put that into making beer.

Bowens-Mercado is the first African-American woman in Connecticut to brew beer and one of only a handful across the country. As the owner of Rhythm Brewing Co., she created the unfiltered lager, Rhythm, at Overshores Brewery in East Haven, celebrating her second canning day Friday.

“Getting into this really is a passion,” Bowens-Mercado said. She’s diversifying the industry as one of the few women and few people of color brew craft beer anywhere in the U.S. “I’m tapping into a national thirst of what the craft beer industry is lacking.”

When the canning and labeling begins, Bowens-Mercado turns up Gloria Estefan’s “Rhythm is Gonna Get You” for good luck. And it’s working, she said.

Rhythm is in its second run after selling out 100 cases in only two weeks, which marks a very well-selling beer, Overshores Brewery lead production brewer Mike Dryburgh said. Overshores is a collaborative brewery that serves up its own brand but also works with other brewers producing their recipes. Overshores works with breweries such as Hulls, Armada, Charter Oak and more.

Rhythm Brewing Co. specializes in producing unfiltered beer, which means “keeping the good stuff in,” Bowens-Mercado said.

Most mass-produced beers are filtered and pasteurized. The filtration removes the yeast, giving the beer a bright clarity, while the pasteurization “cooks” the beer to kill any microorganisms that might’ve gotten through the filtration. But filtration can go too far by stripping away “the natural goodness of beer,” according to Beer Magazine, and “over-filtering can take out color, hop bitterness and proteins that add body and help form the beer’s head.” Unfiltered beers, such as Rhythm, might be seen as more natural or even healthier than filtered beer.

Bowens-Mercado describes her beer as having a “slight bite” and it “makes you want more.”

“It has a great flavor profile,” Dryburgh said. “It’s a really good lager.” He said a lot of people who drink lagers are drinking the big industry brands such as Samuel Adams and Budweiser and “To do a craft lager and stay true to the form and put your own twist is fun and it’s ambitious.”

Bowens-Mercado said her product “gets back to basics.”

“With our brand, we wanted to go back to classic, with the logo and everything and make a timeless beer people won’t get sick of,” she said. Bowens-Mercado got into the craft beer scene as a way to pay homage to her grandmothers, who she remembers often drinking beer as they sat together talking.

“More people are looking for something that’s not mass produced,” Dryburgh said. “They want something local and people are pulling into their own community.”

A trend in the craft beer industry is brewing IPAs, but Bowens-Mercado was insistent that she wanted to make a lager. As she researched the industry and a way to make a lager, she looked for someone to guide her in the process, which was hard since not many women are doing it, she said.

But eventually, she found Overshores, which took her vision and brewed it into a reality.

Bowens-Mercado is looking to make an unfiltered light lager as her next beer and as she grows her brewing company, she hopes to open doors for other women.

“Being a chick, I want more women in the industry,” she said. “I want more women brewing, more women canning. I want them to have a significant role and not just consume it ... I want to let women out there know you can brew. We have our place in the industry.”

“As long as you’re making quality beer, the market’s there,” Dryburgh said. “Our consumer is wide ranging. They’re not just white men anymore. To infuse more diversity is only a good thing.”

Rhythm is sold at Amity Wine and Spirits in New Haven and Hamden, at all Total Wine locations, the Wine Cellar in North Haven, Temple Wine & Liquor and more liquor stores. It’s also on tap at a number of bars and clubs including Diesel Lounge, Jack’s Bar And Steakhouse, LT’s Corner Bar and Grille and others.

Bowens-Mercado’s lager can be recognized by the illuminated LED tap handle.

“It’s the only one that lights up, so you will know you have found your Rhythm,” she said.




Information from: New Haven Register,