You may not have known what they look like, but you know what their voices sound like. Sometimes, it’s even more intimate than that.
“Someone recognized my laugh,” says Esthela Davila, referring to the first time she was randomly identified at a brewery. “It freaked me out! But they bought me a beer, so that was nice.”
Davila and Danielle Stuht are two of the many on-air personalities in the San Diego beer scene. However, Davila, a podcaster on San Diego BeerTalk Radio and promoter for PushPins Media (organizers of events like the Mission Valley Craft Beer & Food Festival) and Stuht, co-host of “Beer for Breakfast” on local radio station 91X with Karl Strauss brewmaster Paul Segura, are part of another smaller clique: women in craft beer media.
Although they both arrived at the same destination, their paths into local beer reporting deviate wildly from each other. Stuht arrived in San Diego from New Mexico a decade ago with a preference for cocktails and indifference towards craft beer. All it took was one trip to Hamilton’s Tavern to change her mind.
“Knowing how Hamilton’s is now, I can’t believe they didn’t just kick me out right then. I told the beertender I didn’t like beer and he said ‘I’ve got something for you.’ He puts a Delirium Tremens in front of me and that was it. It was over after that.”
Davila got a taste for beer much sooner in life. Chuckling, she explains, “I’m Mexican! We drink beer.” Growing up in Barrio Logan — and with family in Tijuana — she reminisces about partying south of the border in her teens, drinking what she describes as “horrible beer” until she spotted a Karl Strauss Red Trolley. Afterwards, she vowed never to drink “crap beer” again.
“Okay… maybe at family barbecues,” she concedes. “But I always show up with my own little separate cooler.”
Both women have worked in radio before: Davila on a female-forward podcast called “Ladies First” and Stuht on multiple radio shows both on mic as well as behind the scenes. But even with an incredible amount of beer knowledge between them, they both confessed to succumbing to “imposter syndrome” on occasion. When Greg Homyak and Brian Beagle, the original hosts of San Diego BeerTalk Radio, asked Davila to join as the third permanent co-host, she wavered.
I thought ‘I don’t know enough about beer to be on a beer show,” she admits. Stuht agrees. “I’ve had this conversation with Paul Segura before, when I wanted to go do the beer program at either SDSU or UCSD. I didn’t feel like I had any knowledge. He told me ‘you’re learning more on this show, from the best people in the business, than you’re going to learn in a classroom.’ But I do think that feeling comes with being a woman.”
Even with the all-too-common pressure women tend to put on themselves (especially in male-dominated industries), Stuht and Davila have thrived. “People actually seem to like hearing what I have to say,” remarks Davila, somewhat surprised. Additionally, both recognize the importance of representation and their de facto positions as role models for the next generation. They name people like Laura Ulrich (Stone Brewing and Pink Boots Society), Carli Smith (formerly Rock Bottom La Jolla, now at Bold Missy Brewery), Shannon Rogers (Burning Beard Brewing), and JoAnn Cornejo (Machete Beer House) as mentors and ardent supporters of other women in the San Diego scene.
“The thing that I’m seeing about beer versus any other community of women is the lack of cattiness and the lack of stepping on someone to get ahead,” says Stuht. “I’ve never been part of a group where you’re so embraced.”
Even with support, it’s not always easy being a mouthpiece in an industry where opinions—despite their subjectivity—are as hotly contested as life-or-death issues, or where our mere existence as women is still objectified in order to sell more beer. I asked both of them what they’d love to see change in the local industry. Despite agreement that San Diego is generally ahead of the curve, we all agree there’s still work to be done, by and for women.
“If you’re ‘that’ owner who’s going to hire someone because she’s a pretty face, at the very least put in the time and effort to give her the knowledge and back her with more than her pretty smile,” says Stuht. “Give her the extra ‘oomph’ so that she sounds like she knows what she’s talking about.”
When it comes to reporting, both Davila and Stuht try to stay on top of trending topics and breaking news. But because of their respective outlets, their approaches can vary quite a bit. Case in point: as part of a radio program that’s supported by advertising dollars, Stuht is obliged to dance around (and at times completely avoid) certain topics that would threaten the viability of Beer for Breakfast.
“Somebody’s got to pay for something,” she admits. “There are a lot of things I wish we could talk about… but if not for those advertising dollars, I can’t have things like Beer for Breakfast.”
Davila, on the other hand, has no such restrictions. “My show is the complete opposite. Our Patreons like that we’re honest about things.” But sometimes that honestly comes at a price. “I’ve had pushback from saying some stuff that people didn’t like. But it was my opinion; I stand by my opinion. If you don’t agree with it, that’s fine, but get your own show and then you can talk about it on your own show!”
Regardless of how they each handle controversial topics, each agreed that beer journalists have a responsibility to bring all sort of news to light in whatever ways we can—whether it be good reviews or negative scoops. But no matter what spin the stories take, they agree it’s more than “just beer.”
“Behind beer is people,” says Davila. “If you don’t care about the people, it’s nothing.”
Know someone who deserves to be featured in an upcoming column? Nominate them by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.