When Irene Firmat founded Full Sail in 1987, she knew she wanted to create a work environment where everyone’s voice mattered. More than two decades later, Full Sail Brewing is one of the most revered, employee-owned beer producers in the Pacific Northwest, with craft bottled beers being sold all over the country. The success Full Sail has garnered is a testament to its founder’s business-savvy approach, and dedication to creating a product people would love, produced by an imaginative, dedicated crew.
Based in picturesque Hood River, Oregon, Full Sail is a small company comprised of 47 passionate beer drinkers, all who own a part of the business as part of Firmat’s original vision. Being employee-owned isn’t the only thing that sets the company apart from others in the industry. Full Sail Brewing already defies gender stereotypes by having a female founder and CEO, and further combats the disproportionate presence of women in the beer industry by constantly letting everyone’s creativity and vision shine.
Every few months at Full Sail, a member of the crew gets to concoct their own “Brewer’s Share Experimental beer,” as part of a small batch program designed to showcase the employees’ skills and originality. A portion of proceeds from the locally-sold small batch also go to the charity or non-profit of the brewer’s choice. The latest release in this experimental line is called “Duffy’s Counterpunch,” a beer that indeed packs a punch while also lending visibility to female brewers like its creator, Stephanie Duffy.
Duffy explains, “My beer defies the traditional expectations of a ‘girl’s beer,’” of the Imperial Cascadian Dark Ale she concocted. She continues, “Like many women, I love my beer and I appreciate a broad cross-section of craft brews…Even though the beer industry is still very male-dominated (like many other industries) I thought it was especially appropriate to brew a bold, strong beer in honor of all the bold, strong women who shirk stereotypes.” Strong women have inspired Duffy throughout her life, and are definitely celebrated at Full Sail, where gender stereotypes are defied every day.
Duffy hopes that beer will “inspire further conversations about women’s rights, feminism, and equality,” and thinks that discussing these pertinent issues over a cold brew is in everyone’s best interests. She plans on donating proceeds from the sale of “Duffy’s Counterpunch” to feminist media organization Bitch Media in hopes of keeping the conversation about gender equality in the beer industry and elsewhere going.
Irene Firmat, Stephanie Duffy, and the Full Sail Brewing crew are all leaders to a more equal world. For more information about the company and its story, visit www.fullsailbrewing.com.