Sisters Carol and Susan McLeod are the owners and brewers of Hold Fast Brewing in Springfield, which opened in August 2019. The idea to open a brewery burst into Carol’s mind in 2014, a few months after their dad died. She called Susan, told her about the idea, and the two were off and running. Carol runs the operation, and Susan brews. Carol and Susan know the brewing industry is dominated by men and that it’s rare to have women running the show and brewing the beer, but they say they’ve been welcomed into the industry with open arms.

Out of all the businesses you could have opened, why did you land on a brewery?

Susan: Dad instilled a passion for cooking in all of us siblings. He was the chef in our family, and we learned from him. Brewing is similar. It’s all about taste profiles.

Carol: We have a passion for craft beer. Even at Dad’s funeral, people brought us beer because they knew it would cheer us up.

What was that first beer you brewed?

Carol: It was a porter, hence our Dad’s Birthday Porter [on tap]. It was a kit, so it was pretty hard to screw up. We brewed that six months after his passing on his birthday.

Did your dad also love craft beer?

Susan: Oh no.

Carol: The first beer I remember him drinking was Hamm’s. He was more of a Scotch and gin and Irish whiskey guy.

Why did you decide to open a brewery in Springfield where the market is already pretty crowded?

Susan: It’s our connection to this area. It’s home, and it’s actually not oversaturated yet. Everyone is very welcoming. We talk all the time. I can call Tyler at Lost Signal or Jen at Tie & Timber and get advice.

Carol: We all succeed together, so the more people who get into craft brewing, we all win. And it’s about paying it forward. People have been so helpful—it’s now our job to pay that forward to others who reach out to us.

Have you found it’s still rare to find women in the brewing industry?

Susan: To be owned and brewed by women, yes. But I think more breweries are highlighting the fact that they have women brewing, and I think where women are succeeding is with our flavor combinations and our palates.

What advice do you have to other women interested in getting into brewing?

Susan: You do have to love what you do. I brewed all day Saturday, but I’m watching people buy my beer. That feels good.

Carol: You do have to be a little bit crazy to make this plunge and go into business for yourself, but we’ve been so fortunate to have other Springfield business owners, friends, and brewers. It’s been a team effort, and it’s nice to know I can phone a friend and someone will help out.

You’ve only been open for nine months, and you’ve already gone from having three of your own beers on tap to eleven. What do you attribute that success to?

Carol: I swear it’s been our dad. We’ve had every domino fall our way—to find this building, to get the tanks, to find our architects and contractors, to getting into beer school—they only took
twenty-three applicants. I’m a forty-year-old female with no brewing experience, and they took me. There has definitely been a higher power—our dad—helping steer this boat.

Photos // Levi Jackson, Hold Fast Brewing