Women in Beer: Melissa Lee Connors, Taproom Manager of Down the Road Brewery

One of the things we love most about the beer community is how it brings people from all over the world together. We met Melissa’s mum during her trip to San Diego, CA and it lead us to getting the opportunity to meet Melissa! We are excited to share more about her story, Down the Road Beer Co, and her amazing advice for women who want to get more involved in the beer industry! One thing is for sure, the next time we are in the Everett, MA area, we will be stopping by to have a beer with her!

Tell us a little about yourself and how you help support the brewery.

I am the Taproom Manager for Down the Road Brewery! This involves me wearing many hats so I do everything from taproom purchases, ordering, hiring, booking events, and training staff, to booking food trucks, and everything in between! I have been in the hospitality industry for over ten years, primarily in New York City and the Boston area.

How did you get started / what interested you about the brewing industry initially?

While I was immersed in the hospitality industry and tending bar, I had labeled myself  “not a beer person”. I had only been exposed to domestic beers that were light and overly carbonated for my tastes. A coworker took me to a Euro-style bar that had an amazing selection of at least 30 European beers, mainly from Belgium and Germany. My whole viewpoint changed and I dove head first into the beer community.

The craft beer renaissance then blew up in New York City and Brooklyn, where I was then working and living. I started home brewing, going to tastings and breweries. There were even meetups in bars to share your home brew with others and hope to collaborate! It was such an amazing time to be a part of that community and learn.

I went on to manage several bars through my move from Brooklyn back to Boston, where I am originally from. During my last position managing a craft bar that had 26 rotating draft lines, I really felt a pull to leave to fully pursue and immerse myself in the brewery/taproom world. Then I found Down the Road and here we are today!

Anything exciting coming up with Down the Road Beer Co that you can share with us?

So many exciting things! For starters we are just about to open our taproom and brewhouse located just north of the city in Everett, MA.! I am very excited for the opening! We have some fantastic events in the works, but have to remain hush-hush for now before our opening! Definitely stay tuned for more from DTR!                                       

On your days away from Down the Road, what type of activities do you indulge in?

My time off from work is usually dedicated to playing roller derby. I play for Boston Roller Derby and it’s one hell of a time! I enjoy being knocked around by some of the most amazing, strong, and inspiring women! When I am not skating as my alter ego, “Rebel  Defiance,” I spend all my free time with my husband Nik, and little chihuahua, Tito. You can usually find us eating, doing something involving motorcycles, or adventuring.

What style of beer do you enjoying drinking the most?

I’m in my element in the fall and winter months. You can catch me cozied up to a biere de garde, tasty nut brown, or a Belgian style tripel. I’m  also a huge sour fan –whether that’s a Belgian style Flanders or a Berliner Weisse, I’m game! This summer I’ve been head-over-heels for Down the Road’s Strawberry Rhubarb Feyborn Berliner Weisse. It’s perfectly tart and earthy with the presence of rhubarb but has just enough juicy strawberry for a little sweetness!                             

What advice would you give women who want to break into the craft beer industry

First of all, I’d say, start drinking beer! I meet far too many women who say, “No thanks! I’m not a beer drinker.” My response to that is that you  just haven’t met your beer soulmate, as I believe there’s a beer out there for everyone! The more you taste, the more you develop your palette, and the more you learn. Never be afraid to ask questions. Experiment with home brewing! It can be intimidating to break into an industry that is dominated by men. That said, you just have to go for it and enjoy the ride. I love my team of guys at Down the Road! On the flip side, I have been asked several times at previous bars that I’ve run to speak to “the man in charge” or “the male manager.” You just have to work hard and play ball and stay true to yourself.    

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