43 minutes | Jun 26th 2020

Natalie Cilurzo of Russian River Brewing

Hard core craft beer fans like to talk about the first names club in craft beer. The reference often applies to so-called rock star brewers who have become relatively famous among a sub set of craft beer enthusiasts. These names include Jim, Sam, Garrett, Tomme, and Vinnie among others. The list is almost always male, reflecting the long term tilt of focus in this largely male dominated beer industry. And that’s unfortunate. Because looking a little closer reveals a strong contingent of women who should also qualify for first name status: Mariah, Carol, Kim, and Lauren, among many others. And there is one more name that certainly deserves inclusion: Natalie. Namely, Natalie Cilurzo, the president of Russian River Brewing in Santa Rosa, California.
Natalie is a long time industry veteran who has run Russian River with her husband Vinnie since 2003. While Vinnie gets a lot of the public love, Natalie runs the day to day operations and controls the business side of the brewery, which has grown considerably from its origins as a small pub in downtown Santa Rosa. In 2018, she and the Russian River team completed her dream brewery, opening a massive new production facility in Windsor. She is the recipient of the Brewers Association Recognition Award, which is presented each year to an individual or company whose inspiration, enthusiasm, and support have contributed to the craft brewing movement. In her work as a long time member of the California Craft Brewers Association, including two years as chair, she has a macro level view of the state of the craft beer industry in the nation’s biggest brewery state. In our discussion, we of course talk Pliny, how she and Vinnie thought they might lose their brewery to COVID-19, and how the industry still has work to do on issues of diversity and inclusion. 
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