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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Nora McGunnigle: Head Mistress of Hops

by Blair "B-Rex" Loup

Nora McGunnigle at Avenue Pub in New Orleans
Nora McGunnigle at Avenue Pub in New Orleans
The world as it pertains to Louisiana beer bloggers is what the average person would expect: a small group of white men who have nice day jobs, but when night falls, they're cloaked in a cape of Untappd beer patches, home brew tools in hand, and opinions in tow.

For a moment, let me suggest a alternative image: a New England native with a degrees in Theatre and Higher Education Administration transplanted in New Orleans to drink beer like it's her job, because it is.

Clad in blue jeans and a Gnarly Barley Catahoula Common t-shirt, Nora McGunnigle is the "it girl" of craft beer writing (my words, not hers). I had never formally met Nora until I joined her for a beer at Avenue Pub on St. Charles, but I knew instantly we would get along because of the shirt. I've said it many times, but Gnarly Barley is my craft beer spirit animal. Anyone who shows up in one of their shirts is automatically on my good side.

Patrons of New Orleans' top craft beer bars treat her like the nice popular girl in high school. She's knowledgable, she's friendly, and she is cool.

Nora decided to move to New Orleans after a few visits, and like any female in charge, made it happen. Thankfully her lovely husband is a talented software engineer and was able to bring a valuable skill set to the New Orleans market; they were able to move just in time for American Craft Beer Week.

I learned from the Women in Booze segment I wrote on Lindsay Nations of Great Raft Brewing that it was not unusual for women to not be taken seriously in the beer industry. When I asked Nora if she had encountered anything similar to Lindsay's experiences, she gave me an interesting response.

"I definitely feel like it took me a long, long time for people to take me seriously as a beer person. In fact, it probably wasn't until I quit [my day job] and started writing professionally," she said.

Nora said there are definitely instances where she feels out of the loop on a new beer, or doesn't get a media sample some of the other beer writers receive.

I feel like everyone in the business of blogging has experience that at some point, even Bite and Booze.

What I found interesting was that she didn't make it into a, "Woe is me, I am woman," thing. She said she wasn't sure if those instances of exclusion were due to her gender or her status as a Louisiana transplant.

"Being a transplant, I think, and justifiably to some extent, people in Louisianan and New Orleans are very wary of transplants coming in and telling them what's what and what's going on," she said. She mentioned that it was hard to see the difference in the beginning. 

I find this disheartening because in my opinion Nora is very much an authority on craft beer. To leave her out of anything cool going on in the industry would be an injustice. I look forward to a day where it's not noteworthy to be a female beer blogger.

Until then, I sleep soundly at night knowing that Nora is looking out for giving everyone, including females in the beer industry, credit where credit is due. Cheers to Nora McGunnigle and to those like her striving to make Louisiana a better/cooler place.

You can find Nora on NOLA Beer Blog and as a writer for Gambit Weekly, Eater, or Thrillest just to name a few. Follow her on Twitter @noradeidre.

This post is part of a monthly series spotlighting Louisiana women in the business of booze. Previous features include:
Natalie Parbhoo: Duchess of Distribution
Lindsay Nations: Baroness of Beer
Dori Murvin: Sorceress of Service