Beer making is generally thought of as a male enterprise, but as with many other industries and professions, that has been slowly changing.
Beer making is generally thought of as a male enterprise, but as with many other industries and professions, that has been slowly changing. In 2014 a survey by Stanford University found that only 4 percent of 1,700 brewers in the country were women. In 2019 that figure had risen to 7.5 percent, according to the American Brewers Association.
A local example of the emerging female presence in the brewing process is Carly Chelder, who opened (with partners) the Tannery Run Brew Works at 131 E. Butler Ave. in Ambler in March of 2019. The name was taken from the Tannery Run Creek that runs right below the building that houses the brewery. Chelder, 40, has two business partners, Timothy Brown and Mac Comly.
A former teacher at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School and School Marketplace Program Coordinator for Weavers Way Community Programs (now Food Moxie), Chelder has been very much interested in craft beer since her early 20s. “The mass marketed products didn’t really appeal to me,” she said last week. “I learned brewmaking mostly from my partner, Tim Brown. He has been homebrewing for about 20 years. Bit by bit I got involved, and when I won the Pink Boots Scholarship (for women who want to be brewmakers), I learned a lot more about the technical details of brewing.”
For years Carly and her business partners looked at several area locations for their business, but nothing checked off all the boxes. But when the space at 131 E. Butler Ave. became available, they jumped on it. “All I can say now is location, location, location,” said Chelder. “We picked a great spot on the main drag in Ambler with a fine view of the Ambler Theater and great people-watching from our garage door.”
A key feature of the Tannery Run experience, according to the partners, is that almost every batch of beer produced starts from the same root ingredients yet splits at some point during the brewing process into two smaller batches. These two smaller batches are treated and fermented differently, resulting in two entirely different beers.
This process, called Split Batch (SPLATCH) Brewing, “will virtually double the number of craft beer choices available to our customers without significantly increasing the effort required in preparing them. More importantly, we will be able to provide our customers multiple variants of a beer at the same time.”
Tannery Run beers are currently available at The Beer Yard, Capone's, Ambler Beverage Exchange, a couple Foodery locations, etc. This year they are participating in their first farmers markets at the Fermentation Farmers Markets at Historic RittenhouseTown and Cherry Street Pier in Center City.
Before the pandemic, “We were really starting to get into a groove. After all, it was our first year in business, and of course there were growing pains. But Tuesday night trivia was packed, our cocktail game was strong, people were booking us for engagement parties and meetups and more. We were getting out and doing a lot of networking events, tap takeovers and festivals.”
Then came the pandemic. “Our first anniversary celebration (Dragon’s Day) was scheduled for the weekend the shutdown started. Over that weekend we were able to evolve to offer online ordering and started delivery in the area. Since then we’ve had to adjust further, and we no longer offer delivery. We made the choice for the kitchen to hibernate through the winter and then decided to take advantage of the time to renovate and upgrade the kitchen. Last week we opened up for beer consumption on-site in addition to takeout, and we hope to reopen the kitchen as soon as possible.”
A native of Elkins Park, Chelder graduated from George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs in 2003, Arcadia University with a Master of Education in 2009 and PA Teaching Certificates in Secondary Social Studies and Family & Consumer Sciences. She also earned a Craft Brewing Certificate from Portland State University.
Tannery Run's best-selling beers have been Wheaty McWheatface, summer wheat SPLATCH, a traditional German-Style Wheat Beer; Wild Horses SPLATCH, which balances a graham cracker malt flavor with an herbal and floral hop bite; and Draugr the Vollrathian Singularity, a smoked lager made with 120 pounds of smoked butternut squash that was rubbed with brown sugar, thyme, allspice and German smoked malt.
For more information: tanneryrun.com or 215-613-1113. Len Lear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org