Julie Vernon of Crooked Tooth (Photo courtesy of Crooked Tooth Brewing)

Crafting Community with Julie Vernon of Crooked Tooth Brewing

May 31, 2023
By Jessie Mance
By Jessie Mance

For Julie Vernon, life-long Tucsonan and co-owner of Crooked Tooth Brewing Company, the people you raise a glass with are far more important than the beer in that glass. The connection, the celebration, holding space for one another — as far as Vernon is concerned that is the ultimate purpose of the beer brewed within her brewery’s walls. And while Crooked Tooth beer is world-class for both quality and creativity, in Vernon’s mind it doesn’t hold a candle to the memories created and connections forged over a pint. 

Julie Vernon of Crooked Tooth (Photo courtesy of Crooked Tooth Brewing)

Vernon can’t seem to help connecting with people. In fact, if you’ve met her once, chances are you’ll soon discover that you’ve actually met her before, dated her best friend, grew up on her childhood street, or you share the same middle name. The connecting threads of the universe seem to web together tightly in her presence.  Besides the great beer, this magic is what makes the Crooked Tooth taproom such a draw. Thanks to Vernon’s influence, guests can’t help but feel held and seen when spending time at the brewery.

Beer Meets You Where You Are

Vernon knows this feeling very personally. At an age when most young adults were figuring out who they wanted to become and where their life was heading, Vernon and her husband Ben were already parenting two (of their three) children. They found acceptance as a young family visiting local family-friendly breweries such as Thunder Canyon Brewery and Nimbus Brewing Company

“Being a young parent is very challenging, and there’s a lot of judgment,” said Vernon. “Experiencing beer and brewery culture together made us feel whole. It became a really beautiful way to experience being parents — we could go sit at a brewery and feel supported and held.”   

Visiting breweries around town became a family ritual for the Vernons. It’s a foundation that not only shaped who they were as a unit but would eventually inform the type of brewery they wanted to create for others.

Julie Vernon & Ayla Kapahi (Photo by Taylor Noel Photography)

The Vernons love for craft beer culture inspired a home-brewing hobby in 2008, which became another grounding ritual for their family. 

“I was in school and working full time, Ben was traveling eight months out of the year [in environmental remediation], and it was just a crazy time of our lives,” recalled Vernon. “When Ben came home, on Saturday mornings he would wake up and he and our youngest daughter would go out and start brewing. Ben went to school for chemistry, so for him, it satisfied this really beautiful science part. For me, I just loved the process, the smell, and the end product.” 

Beer Inspires & Ignites

It wasn’t long before the Vernons felt a call to turn their weekend ritual into a professional undertaking. Jazzed by a family outing to the 2015 grand opening of Public Brewhouse, they were inspired to create a space that met customers where they were, in the same way their favorite breweries embraced them. The dream of Crooked Tooth Brewing Company was set in motion. 

The process of opening a brewery, or any business, is challenging in the best of circumstances. For Julie Vernon, navigating this journey as a woman in the male-dominated, modern brewery universe presented its own set of obstacles.

“That first year was rough,” Vernon described. “During construction, and when we were bringing in a brewer, I realized really quickly that I was working with people that didn’t consider my voice because I was female. They would ask me ‘Well, what did Ben say? What does Ben want to do?’”  

Part of what allowed Vernon to get through the “energetic shift” of venturing into the craft beer world was honoring her own background and experience. She needed to find ways to incorporate her unique passions and skills into the classically rugged beer business. Her pre-brewery professional background is that of a yoga instructor and massage therapist, and before opening Crooked Tooth, she worked at the Hashani Spa at the JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort.  

Julie Vernon of Crooked Tooth (Photo courtesy of Crooked Tooth Brewing)

“I have about every certification for massage therapy you could possibly get,” Vernon laughed. “Shiatsu, craniosacral, reiki, lymphatic massage, sports massage, Thai massage — I got you.”  

Vernon also played a large role in bringing the Full Moon Meditation Series to life at the resort, a program that partially inspired one of Crooked Tooth Brewing Company’s most delicious traditions, the Full Moon Beer series.  

“The Full Moon Beers were the bridge that allowed that part of me to be held and seen and nourished in this industry, and to be able to recognize and hold space that same way with the community.”  

Julie Vernon of Crooked Tooth (Photo courtesy of Crooked Tooth Brewing)

The Full Moon Brew Series remains a rotating mainstay of the brewery’s high-end offerings, and the beers are brewed monthly under the full moon. They also serve to remind Vernon that even though modern craft brewing may skew male, women were the original brewers of beer.  

“With the moon beers, I really do feel connected to the brew witches of the past, and their wisdom,” she said warmly. 

Beer Shapes Relationships

Vernon’s nurturing role in shaping Crooked Tooth’s vibe may be profound, but she is quick to celebrate her husband and business partner, Ben, and her extended family of employees for their contributions to everything the brewery has become.  

“I am in awe of being able to witness Ben and his growth,” she said.  “Sometimes I sit back and look at Ben and think ‘Is that the same person from six years ago?’ I really respect his strengths, and I am very grateful to still be working with him.” 

Julie & Ben Vernon of Crooked Tooth (Photo courtesy of Crooked Tooth Brewing)

Ben quickly boomerangs the praise back in Julie’s direction. “Julie’s passion, intention, and work ethic is unmatched,” he said. “She is a creative force, and she keeps the space cleared and full of intention. She’s always working to create something more, something better.”

How do they divide the work of running a brewery? “Traditionally, I always oversaw the front-of-the-house operations, the team, and the events,” Julie recalled. “Ben oversaw the brewhouse. Now that we’ve been doing this for a while, we blend more. It feels like there’s a balance happening, and instead of division, we are harmonizing.   How we work and measure success is so different, so we had to find the balance,” Vernon said. “It has been the biggest journey of my life besides parenting — the most challenging and the most rewarding.”

Beer Builds Family

Vernon poetically describes the dynamic family of employees she has welcomed to the brewery as “a contracting and expanding breath.”  

“I feel like Crooked Tooth is its own living breathing entity. It calls in the right people, and people leave when they need to. It’s an ebb and a flow. One of the most beautiful things to witness is our staff growing and stepping into their power. All of us uphold a leadership role within the space. We ask ourselves how we can keep that connection, inspiration, and dedication going every day. I’m really grateful,” Vernon gushed. 

In the Beer Community, Love is on Tap

The nurturing environment and sense of community Vernon fosters at the brewery became a backbone of strength she leaned on during one of the most trying times in her life. In April 2018, Vernon was diagnosed with a vestibular schwannoma, a type of non-cancerous brain tumor that starts in the nerve that connects the brain to the ear. Vernon underwent surgery to remove the tumor in August of the same year, leaving her deaf in one ear. It was at this life-altering crossroads that the community and Crooked Tooth family she holds so dearly stepped up to support their “brewery mom.”  

A GoFundMe was started to help cover the expensive medical and surgical costs, and loved ones made sure she didn’t go to doctors’ appointments alone.  

“I received so much support from the community, and I will forever want to share and give back in whatever capacity I can, for anybody. Crooked Tooth would not be here if the community didn’t support me the way they did. The way they showed up at that moment was everything.” 

Julie Vernon of Crooked Tooth (Photo courtesy of Crooked Tooth Brewing)

Every year since her diagnosis, Vernon and the Crooked Tooth team have hosted a brain tumor awareness fundraising event at the brewery, in hopes of paying forward the support she received during this very challenging time. Vernon’s diagnosis, treatment, and aftermath revealed another element of the human condition that has the potential to bond us irrevocably: the challenges we face can break us down, or bring us together.  

“We all suffer in different ways, we’re all going to have trials and tribulations,” Vernon noted.  “Allowing the feeling of connection with others is so important. If I can connect with anyone who is feeling unsure or scared, if I can be there for anyone going through something like this, I’m there. 110%. Let’s do this.”   

This year’s fundraising event is to be held at the brewery on Saturday, June 3

There’s a certain magic that occurs when beer is brewed. Water, grain, yeast, and hops are transformed irreversibly into that sudsy beverage we call beer. Try as you might, you cannot pull those ingredients back out individually — they are forever changed, and forever merged. Those lucky enough to know Vernon and the brewery she co-created with her husband Ben are part of a very similar alchemy. 

Julie & Ben Vernon of Crooked Tooth (Photo courtesy of Crooked Tooth Brewing)

After getting to know them, it’s hard to remember a time before you were bonded with them and the place they created. Vernon’s husband, Ben, aptly sums up what he feels his wife Julie manifests for their brewery and customers.

“Julie wants people to enter the brewery and exhale all the stresses of life. Sit and enjoy, not only a beer but an experience… she wants you to feel like you are part of the adventure.”

Thanks to the generosity of heart and divine witchiness of Julie Vernon, enjoying a Crooked Tooth beer is much more than just picking up on hops and malt. You can truly feel the love and intention behind each recipe and the process, weaving you into the Crooked Tooth story with each sip. 

Crooked Tooth Brewing Company is located at 228 E. Sixth St. For more information about the brewery, follow Crooked Tooth Brewing Company on Facebook and Instagram.

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Jessie Jean Mance was born in Tucson and never met a riparian area she didn’t like. She is a lover of lightning, sunsets, mezcal, music, and other intoxicating experiences. Mance resolutely believes that fresh air is medicine, burritos are the...

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