Sandra Murphy started making beer simply to show up her husband in friendly competitions back in 2015.
In those days, she was using their modest home setup to hash out new ideas for artful and daring sudsy experiments. As a sales rep for Pro-Brewing Supply, Murphy’s husband brought home the right ingredients for making small batches at home. Soon, the couple began to perfect the ones they liked best while branching out into new recipes every week in a rivalry to see who could do it best. Don’t know about hubby, but Murphy is now the first female brewmaster in North Texas, whipping up award-winning beer at Fort Brewery.
When asked how she felt after being recognized as the first female head brewer in North Texas, she said, “I was honored and surprised. Best of all, I am in a position now where I can help, support, and promote other women, and I take that responsibility seriously.”
One aspect of brewing that Murphy found herself particularly drawn to was infusing her hops and barley with wild flavors. As friends began noticing how well her experiments worked, she saw past her kitchen trappings to a new profession full of possibilities.
Murphy soon mastered the science, or “math at play,” as she calls it, of brewing as well and decided to apply for brewing jobs locally. Her first gig was an apprenticeship at Panther Island Brewing, where she learned precise measurements, chemical reactions, and timing.
After a few years, Murphy was given the chance to create her own concoction to compete for a place in the thousand-gallon brewing system at Panther Island. She used Buc-ee’s famous Beaver Nuggets to make a beer that tasted like “maple caramel corn puffs.”
Not only did her keg of Road Trip Snacks sell out that day, but it also went viral. Now Murphy was all over local media and winning contests across North Texas.
Murphy is so one with her brewmastery instincts now, she’s literally crafting in her sleep. “I’ve been having dreams about new recipes that actually work!”
One of them that she’s most proud of involves a whole box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch which comes out tasting just like the cereal that is pretty addictive sans alcohol.
“It’s been incredibly rewarding, applying the science to my ideas in a way that creates something that brings people joy,” she said.
Murphy is partly driven by grief. She said she threw herself into her craft after the death of her 10-year-old daughter Amberlyn in 2018.
Murphy is also inspired by making a difference. She is active in several groups supporting women in the industry, including Pink Boots and the Brave Noise Collaborative.
Pink Boots is a nonprofit that promotes women in the brewing and distilling industries since, based on a 2019 survey by the Brewers Association, only about 7.5% of brewery employees with the title of “brewer” are women. After experiencing sexism in the industry, Murphy felt galvanized to do something on behalf of burgeoning female brewers.
Brave Noise is a project that works to create a safe and discrimination-free beer industry. Murphy’s team at Fort Brewery is helping by offering the Brave Noise Hazy Pale Ale, a 4.5% ABV brew double dry hopped with sabro (tropical hops) and mosaic (floral, fruity, tropical, earthy hops). She described it as “a pale, soft haze with notes of pineapple, coconut, mango, guava, and orange.”
All proceeds from the sale of Brave Noise Hazy Pale Ale at Fort Brewery will benefit The Ladder Alliance, a Fort Worth-based nonprofit that empowers female victims of domestic violence.
Although Murphy said she is very happy with where she is now, she is “definitely” interested in owning her own brewery someday. “That was something I told my daughter I was going to do, and she was always my biggest cheerleader.”