Samantha Lee is not your “average” craft beer enthusiast. She doesn’t obsess over things like original gravity or IBU levels, and you won’t find her using beer rating websites or apps. “None of these attributes inform my love of beer,” she writes in a recent essay, “How I Built a Brewery for Everybody.”
Lee opened the Chicago brewery in question, Hopewell Brewing Co., with husband Stephen Bossu and their good friend Jonathan Fritz in 2016. The trio met in college, at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and spent the better part of the next decade planning to open their own brewery. “We saw a lot of what was happening in craft beer and we got excited about what we could add to that,” Lee said in a 2018 interview.
Prior to opening Hopewell, Lee worked exclusively for non-profit organizations. She draws a number of connections between those experiences and owning a small business: “They are both built around ideas of close-knit teams with collective commitments to a shared mission,” she says. “Because of this commitment to a mission, this often means that the bottom line is not always the best way to measure success.”
At Hopewell, success is not defined by bottom lines, and it’s about much more than just making great beer. According to Lee, the brewery measures its performance against the way it treats employees, and prioritizes being responsible community members and building a culture of good business practices.
VinePair caught up with Lee to chat about her love of sparkling pink wine and lean, crushable ales with tropical vibes.
1. What’s the beer that made you fall in love with beer?
Duchesse de Bourgogne! The first time I had it, I was totally floored that beer could taste like a dried cherry.
2. What’s your desert-island beer?
A super-light, dry-hopped pale ale, our summer seasonal Outside Voice specifically. It’s got all the right tropical vibes, but is lean and crushable.
3. FMK three beer types: IPA, pilsner, sour
4. You’re on death row. What’s your last-supper beer?
Something wild, funky, and sour-fermented on ungodly amounts of fruit.
5. You can only drink one beer for the rest of your life. What is it?
A hoppy Pilsner; we make a ton of this style at Hopewell but for variety’s sake: Firestone Walker’s Pivo Pils. That beer has inspired so many brewers.
6. What’s the best and worst beer in your fridge right now?
I don’t keep a worst in fridge. Limited real estate available, you know? Best beer in my fridge: Vliet from Threes Brewing — love that beer!
7. If you could no longer drink beer, what would be your beverage of choice?
That’s easy: Moussamoussettes Pet-Nat. I love some sparkling pink wine.