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Women in Beer | Martha Ann Amber Ale Hopkinsville Brewing Co.

Women in Beer | Martha Ann Amber Ale Hopkinsville Brewing Co.
Kindsey Bernhard

Have you ever wanted to have a beer named after yourself? Well, all you need to do is found a city and then have a brewery open in that city 172 years later.

That’s what happened to Martha Ann Wood. Wood and her husband Bartholomew settled and founded the city of Hopkinsville, KY in 1796. There, Martha and her husband spent the rest of their lives with their 11 children.

In September of 2016, 172 later, another woman came and founded the city’s first and only craft brewery in Hopkinsville. Kate Russell founded Hopkinsville Brewing Co. and has since changed the minds of many small-town Kentuckians about what craft beer is.

From one strong woman to another, Kate Russell named her Amber Ale after the city’s founder: Martha Ann Amber Ale. While the brewery already a beer named after her husband, Russell thought Martha deserved some recognition.

“If you go to the Pioneer Cemetery where Bartholomew and Martha Ann are buried, you’ll see that Bartholomew’s headstone notes his roles as the first settler and town founder, frontiersman, farmer, tavern-keeper and founder of the Christian Court House,” Russell said. “Martha Ann’s headstone notes her as a ‘relict of Bartholomew Wood’ and lists her dates of birth, marriage and death. While the back of Bartholomew’s headstone recounts his military service in the Revolutionary War, the back of Martha’s lists the names of her children. Martha Ann was more than her marriage and motherhood but not much is known about her. I want to keep her name alive.”

Photo courtesy of Kentucky Kindred Genealogy

Russell has kept Martha Ann’s name alive. Hopkinsville Brewing no longer brews Batwood’s Vanilla Bourbon Porter (suck it, Bartholomew); Martha Ann’s Amber Ale has become a favorite among Hopkinsvillians.

“Martha Ann’s Amber Ale has become the closest thing we have to a flagship beer,” Russell said. “It’s our main beer in distribution outside the taproom, one of the first beers we canned and is frequently requested when we’re between batches on tap.”

Russell is doing more than just educating Hopkinsville on the city’s founder–she’s also about to start educating the future of craft beer. The Madisonville Community College’s Fermentation Science program will launch this fall and Russell will be one of the program’s educators. Students will be able to earn a full associate’s degree or certification through the program.

“Kentucky is known more for distilleries but the brewing industry in the state has been growing at a phenomenal rate so there’s definitely a need for educated and qualified job applicants,” Russell said. “Currently, there are no fermentation science programs at the community college level [in Kentucky] and I think Madisonville saw not only the need for it but also has the facility and faculty to fill that.”

While Russell will be the one educating students on the brewing process, she hopes this program and her students will teach her something.

“I’m hoping to get better at learning how to delegate,” Russell said. “Seriously, though, I think what I’m most excited about is being able to share my passion for what I do in a hands-on way. The program will allow for several brew days at the college over the course of the semester, as well as internship requirements for students at local breweries. I’m really looking forward to being able to share those experiences with people eager to learn.”

Photo courtesy of Hopkinsville Brewing Co.

What’s one bit of advice that Russell hopes her students take away from this program? Sanitize everything and mistakes happen.

“And mistakes don’t necessarily equal failure: Some amazing beers started out as mistakes,” Russell said.

While Martha’s Ann Amber Ale was no mistake, it is an amazing beer that pays tribute to a strong woman, brewed by a talented woman, that you can drink at Hopkinsville Brewing Co.


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