By Erica Campbell

For my latest installment of Women Brewer Spotlight, say hello to Erin Broadfoot!

A photo of Erin sitting at the bar at Little Beast's Brewery smiling at the camera.  She has short dark hair, a nose ring and colourful tattoos on both arms and is wearing jeans and a black tank top.
Brewer/Owner/All-around Badass Erin Broadfoot

Erin’s the owner and head brewer over at Little Beasts Brewing in Whitby. For years now, Little Beasts has produced excellent, mostly Belgian inspired brews in Whitby, Ontario. (For all our non-Ontario friends, it’s about 45 minutes East of Toronto sans traffic, of course.)

They are relatively small scale, staying away from retail sales and instead having complete control over their product by selling it direct from their brewery to the consumer and select licensee accounts. 

Erin’s one of those people I wish I was around more. She’s so enjoyable to be around and her energy is calm and positive. We both ‘grew up’ together in the industry and I’ve always admired her lady boss vibes from afar. Way before I had a kid of my own, I remember being very impressed that she was a full-time brewer (at the time at 5 Paddles Brewing in Whitby) while also having 3 children. Although as a working parent finding that work/family balance is a constant struggle, I respect that she rocks mom life while also making sure she’s moving her career forward.

Erin is one of those quiet leaders; she works hard, gets %*$& done and isn’t flashy about it. What’s really cool is Little Beasts is one of the few breweries in Canada that is solely owned by a woman AND has a woman head brewer! Her husband Keir is the artist and designer behind all their beer labels. They feature mystical characters and unique names. I like that she doesn’t fall prey to kitschy beer trends and is super focused on quality – opting to brew interesting, daring styles that she is interested in producing and bottling them in 500mL bottles (in a province where cans are everything at the moment.) 

I’m definitely one to try anything (especially that she brews!) and while I love Erin’s high octane offerings, her dare-I-say flagship ‘Pinion’ American Pale Ale is my favourite. I’m a sucker for pale ales and it’s a goodie. 

Enjoy my conversation with Erin – one of the women brewing leaders in Ontario! I particularly love her response to question 7, how she’s constantly looking to grow, learn and improve. 

And if you ever find yourself in Durham region, make sure to pay her a visit. Or place an order for province-wide shipping. You won’t be disappointed…her beers are top notch!

What got you interested in brewing?

I loved baking, and my background was in microbiology and chemistry. My friend who was homebrewing (and had *just* started brewing professionally) came by my place with some killer homebrew, I was blown away by the stuff he was creating! It dawned on me pretty quickly that brewing was like baking, but with more chemistry and microbiology – and I rapidly fell in love.

What is your day-to-day like at Little Beasts?

My day-to-day is busy, to the point of where it often feels like one big long day. My husband, Keir Broadfoot (who is responsible for our label art and branding) has just left his job to work with me, and I have the best cellarman in the world in my team-mate Mark Kalinsky, but we’re a fairly lean team right now! I’ve been working as a jack of all trades up until now, but am slowly shifting to 75% brewing, lab work and cellaring work. I’ll still be doing those taxes, tending to social media and answering those emails, but I’m thrilled to be shifting over to a more focused role in the production side. There are some new and exciting things coming!

A glass of beer sitting on a wooden bar with the Little Beasts logo on the glass.  Erin is out of focus in the background.
Photo cred: The Beer Sisters

What is something you didn’t realize you would have to do so much of as a brewery owner?

Taxes, so many hours of doing taxes. So many different types of taxes.

If you had more time in the day you would…

If I had more time I’d spend it with my kids. I have them around all the time, but I constantly worry about the amount of time I spend mentally and physically engaged with the brewery. 

What’s the most enjoyable part of your job?

The most enjoyable part of my job is definitely creating. I absolutely love the process of development and creation. The hours spent writing the recipe, sorting out the chemistry, trying to picture the final product. And then the peaceful mornings mashing in, the smell in the brewery, everything right down to playing with my tri clamps. (Why are tri clamps so satisfying?) The whole process is like meditation for me. I feel so lucky to be able to spend my time doing something I love in a place I love being.

What is the WORST part of your job!?

I never thought about the whole cleaning of public bathrooms thing. Quite literally, the absolute worst.

Any personal and/or professional goals for 2021?

My personal goals are to do better. To keep growing, advocating, putting myself outside of my comfort zone. I’m hoping I can get back to racing and challenge myself physically again as well. Professionally I’m looking forward to getting past COVID and GROWING the business back up. I’m incredibly excited about the new beer lines we have coming out and I feel like we have a hugely positive future ahead of us at Little Beasts!

The label for Little Beasts Brewing Co Pinion American Pale Ale.  It features a black bird with orange claws and a glowing blue eye flying towards the ground and stylized orange flames.
Little Beast’s Pinion APA aka one of Erica’s faves

For women and folks looking to get into brewing, what advice can you give?

Be realistic, know what you’re getting into. I love what I do, I love my job and I have zero regrets – but I feel like I had a realistic view of what I was getting into when I got into this industry. Beer is wonderful and the industry is full of amazing people, but it’s a lot of incredibly hard work for what is often not a whole lot of money. Always demand your worth, expect to be paid when you work. (Volunteering for not for profit and advocacy organizations = good, doing free “volunteer” work for breweries when you should really be getting paid = bad.)

And for women, BIPOC and 2SLGBTQ folk in particular, don’t take sh%t. If it feels wrong it probably is. Reach out to your communities and don’t tolerate oppressive/discriminatory behaviours. If you feel like your environment is unsafe and you’re unable to speak up for yourself, reach out to those around you. Even if that person is me!

After a long day at the brewery, what style of beer do you typically reach for?

Saison, saison, saison! I love all styles (except possibly barleywines, they just don’t do it for me) but I will always have a soft spot for saisons. Lagers are really hitting the spot right now too! Especially a good czech style pils or rauchbier. 

Do you listen to music or podcasts while you’re working? If so, what are you into right now?

When I’m working at the brewery it’s music. Metal, punk (especially femme punk) and some 90’s stuff when I’d like to chill out. Podcasts are a big thing when I’m doing deliveries. I like the voices to keep me thinking while I drive. I listen to all the usual beer podcasts, but I also like to use podcasts to zone out of beer life once in a while. Right now that means OCR podcasts and all of the 40K/Warhammer podcasts (don’t judge me!)