Lunchtime Speaker

Thursday, August 1, 2019


Julie Verratti, Co-owner of Denizen Brewing and Previous Candidate for Lt. Governor for MD

Beer! Do you need any more enticement? Julie Verratti isn’t just the co-owner of Denizen Brewing, she is also a former candidate for Lt. Governor of Maryland. But instead of talking politics, she’ll be teaching us what the art of brewing has in common with creating a successful advocacy or communications campaign.


  • The number one question I get is “why did you start a brewery?”
    • I have a weird background → originally worked on issue campaigns at the state level, spent time in various states. Specifically focused on same-sex marriage, going both directly to legislators and directly to voters
    • You would think people within the LGBTQ community would be the best messengers → they were effective for those who were in the middle or already somewhat supportive of the topic, but were not effective for those that were more strongly opposed
    • Found that the best way to reach those that were more strongly opposed  was to have their families, kids, bosses, etc. be the ones to deliver these messages because it is coming from people that they can relate to
    • Learned that every person that you meet could be part of the campaign, even those that are unexpected
  • I decided to go to law school, worked in advocacy for small businesses by traveling around various states, worked on the Affordable Care Act 
  • Became inspired by small businesses and had a passion for home brewing → approached my brother in law, ultimately started Denizens
  • High levels of regulation, had to read and understand the complex laws and work to change the laws → we have both a brew pub/restaurant open 7 days a week, but also have widespread distribution across the DMV area
  • Instead of organizing for votes I’m now asking people to buy my beer → I’ve been able to use many of the same tactics for identifying influencers, working to get people on board, using sales skills
  • Because we were a brand new business model, banks didn’t want to loan money to us → we raised funds from friends and family and worked to get the laws changed to allow us to distribute beer directly to stores and restaurants, while also operating our own restaurant that is open 7 days a week
    • I had to contact Gov. O’Malley’s Chief of Staff to request him to sign the legislation earlier than planned due to the bank loan request
    • I used every ounce of advocacy experience I had to find him
  • We’ve been open for 5 years now in Silver Spring and just opened our second location near UMD.
    • We have nonprofits come in for fundraisers, we do fundraisers for others, we host community events to support local artists and bands, and we do a lot of political work
    • Being authentic is the #1 way to be successful in advocacy
  • We are a very political company and we do speak out about the things we believe in. It has made our community stronger because people know where we stand and it is ultimately the right thing to do
  • I will call my legislators occasionally just to say hello and ask how they’re doing → building this relationship is very beneficial for when we do need something
    • I always try to think about what I can offer them as well, whether it is offering to host a fundraiser, introduce them to someone who would be beneficial, etc.