Delanie Koken wants you to know that there are women in the beer industry—and they should be taken seriously.
“Men will come into the tasting room, take one look at me and will avoid me to wait for a man, any man, to ask their question,” she said. “Maybe I shouldn’t wear red lipstick anymore.”
Koken is not one to underestimate. Also known as pin-up model and burlesque performer Dottie Deville, Koken has been in the San Diego beer industry for over a decade, and hasn’t even turned 30 yet.
Her first batch of homebrew was a Belgian Wit with coriander and grapefruit. “It was all right,” she says while shrugging and sighing. The Point Loma native was a teenager, collecting beer bottles to fill with her homebrew to take to friends down at Sunset Cliffs. She entered her second brew at the county fair, remembering that there were only around 100 total entries at the time. “Now, I think there are over 150 entries for the IPA category alone.” In 2010 Koken was the youngest in San Diego to achieve Cicerone certification (the beer equivalent of a sommelier), although she didn’t advertise it because she was still shy of legal drinking age.
As fate would have it, Koken was working at a preschool when she met Lisa White of White Labs, one of the world’s largest yeast distributors. White invited Koken to help set up the White Labs tasting room in 2012.
Of the few women in the industry at that time, “they all seemed to be at White Labs,” Koken recalls. Now, she estimates the industry is equally split. “I think the cliche of women not drinking beer is broken. There aren’t a lot of female brew masters, which is funny because women have better palates than men,” she adds, giving praise to some notable women in the industry, like Neva Parker at White Labs, and declaring “Kim [Brisson-Lutz] from Saint Archer is a badass.” But, she says, “It’s old-school mentality: Men brew the beer.”
Koken left White Labs in 2015 to manage the tasting room at Bitter Brothers on Morena Boulevard. “We were brewery number 116, first [craft brewery to open in] 2016, and now there are 124,” notes Koken. She enjoys bouncing ideas back and forth with head brewer John Hunter, well known for his Karl Strauss Peanut Butter Porter. One thing that hasn’t changed much is that the beer most popular 10 years ago is still what is most popular today: IPA. “I don’t think palates have evolved. I understand that San Diego wants ‘West Coast Style’: the hoppier the better. Why drink one IPA and wreck your palate?”
Koken predicts sour beers will continue becoming more trendy, followed by Pilsners, lagers and Schwarzbiers with a lower alcohol by volume (ABV) rating. Koken suggests lower-ABV beers will be popular because they allow you to enjoy drinking for a bit longer. “This is my party tip, and I’m a good partier: Keep that party going for as long as possible.”
Bitter Brothers Brewing