Cajun Fire Brewing's Paul Taylor (left) and Jon Renthrope won the Big Idea Pitch competition at last week's New Orleans Entrepreneur Week. - NORA MCGUNNIGLE
Bess Dougherty, Lead Brewer- Wynkoop Brewing Co.
Why She Is Legit: Dougherty joined the crew as the first female brewer at the company in 24 years. Her homebrewing creativity and love of candy-infused beers has helped her continue the brewery's fearlessly innovative 30-year history. She has to be ballsy to brew there; Wynkoop's Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout is made with 25 pounds of bull testicles in every batch.

Joel VandenBrink, Founder & Head Brewer- Two Beers Brewing
Why He Is Legit: VandenBrink spent years brewing at home in his kitchen before taking the leap to begin a brewery. Rooted in the beautiful outdoors of the Northwest, the brewery's tasting room is called The Woods. His success is fueled by his real-life epiphany that "life is just a little more honest after two beers. Sometimes beer is beer is beer," VandenBrink said. "I think what sets my beers apart are the local angle, the canning angle and the session angle without high alcohol, high octane or barrel aging. What sets me apart is simplicity."

Kushal Hall Head Brewer- Speakeasy Ales
Why He Is Legit: Hall started homebrewing with his dad after college and came to San Francisco and got a job at SpeakEasy via Craigslist on the bottling line. He worked his way up to become the Director of Brewing and he's crafted some amazing brews during his tenure. "The part of the job that I like the most is working on new recipes. Building recipes, tasting the beer, seeing those changes come about," Hall explains.

Celeste Beatty, Founder & Brewer- Harlem Brewing Co
Why She Is Legit: Beatty pursued her own brewery for years; after trying to open one in Harlem in the 90's, she spent time perfecting her homebrew recipes. Her commitment to community and craft helped her found Harlem Brewing in 2000. She continues to draw inspiration from the traditions of community: "A library, a program, something. (Giving back) is ingrained in who I am. I believe it should be part of what we do. It's part of what we call brewing it forward."

Sean Lawson Founder & Brewer- Lawson's Finest Liquids
Why He Is Legit: Lawson turned his homebrews into small batch craft beers that have earned him a spot in Vermont's Holy Trinity of brewers. His love for Vermont shines through his craft (he was a noted naturalist there) and he's helped turn the state into "The Napa Valley of Beer." He and his wife now produce 34 varieties in their microbrewery and the fans - dubbed "Lawson's Lovers" - stand in line for hours for a taste.

Kim Lutz, Head Brewer- St Archer Brewery
Why She Is Legit: From J Lohr winery in Paso Robles to Lead Brewer at Maui Brewing Company in Kahana, HI, Kim's diverse background has garnered her own fair share of beer festival awards. Brewing is a culinary art for Lutz. Her love of cooking and techniques inspire the way she brews. She loves playing around with different ingredients and layering flavors, inspired by the freedom to brew different styles and experiment with new styles.

Jon Renthrope, Founder & Brewer- Cajun Fire Brewing
Why He Is Legit: Renthrope is a bayou man through and through. Living from the land and learning from it. In 2010 he moved back to New Orleans to influence more sustainable practices. Jon is working diligently to see that Cajun Fire is made commercially available, promote artistic driven pursuits, and share Cajun Fire's innovative batches of beer in the world.

Ryan Sentz, Founder & Brewer- Funky Buddha Brewery
Why He Is Legit: Sentz spent years building up to his brewery. He began making craft beer out of his hookah and tea bar and his success prompted him to turn his home brewing into a business. His deliciously creative brews propelled him to build the brewery with his brother, an engineer. They've opened a restaurant that complements their culinary-flavored beers.

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