Astral Brewess Water Shoe
Size tested: 10
- Lightweight, minimalist construction
- Silt Dump heel
- G.14 outsole
- Durable Cordura upper
- Breathable Airmesh vamp and tongue
- Step-down heel
- Alternate lace color
Days tested: 34
Locations tested: Gulf Hagas, Sandy Stream, Penobscot, Kennebec, Dead, Maine; Bottom Moose, Otter, Independence, New York; Rouge, Quebec. Yough, Maryland; Puesco, Palguin, Trufel Trufel, Maichin, Trancura, Chile
The Brewess shoe is Astral’s response to demand from paddler ladies looking for a female equivalent to their popular Brewer model. The Brewess boasts all of the same features as the Brewer: Grippy G.14 outsole, durable cordura and denier fabric upper, and a street style design. The Brewess, however, has a slightly more feminine look and a women’s specific fit.
Although I have primarily used the Brewess for kayaking, I have also worn it while raft guiding and as a regular sneaker for walking around cities and biking when traveling.
The Brewess’ upper is constructed of the same durable and abrasion-resistant Cordura fabric that Astral uses in its top of the line Green Jacket PFD. The toe and tongue are airmesh, a more porous and lightweight material, also used in lower profile PFDs, that provides a little extra padding and breathability in the front of the shoe. The laces, similar to those you might find on a snowboard boot, are thick and easy to hold on to, even when my fingers are a little chilly and slow.
My only complaint with the laces is that they tend to come untied unless I double knot them. This can be a hazard when scouting or while portaging my boat through uneven terrain, and a lace-free shoe like the 5.10 Canyoneer eliminates this problem. Astral includes two sets of laces in different colors, depending on how ”steezy” of a look you are going for. Mix and match the dark laces with the bright ones, or choose a set and go with it. The upper of the Brewess is lightweight and compact, which makes it easy to pack into a gear bag for travel to the river, as well as for more extended trips.
The bulk of the shoes’ mass is in the cushy EVA foam insole and G.14 rubber outsole that provides the grip that I need for scrambling on slippery rocks. In late summer 2013, Astral announced that their own G.14 rubber compound and tread pattern would replace the previously used 5.10 stealth outsole to create what Astral claims to be “the best available” outsole on the market. The new tread pattern seeks to increase surface area contact with slippery surfaces, while simultaneously shedding mud and grit from the sole.
The soles and cordura upper both have small holes to drain water from the shoes. There is also a small slit at the heel between the sole and the upper for the same purpose that allows smaller silt and sand to exit the shoe. I like this when I get in my boat after wading in the water because I can sit in the cockpit of my boat and lift up my feet to drain water out of the shoes before I put them inside, thereby preventing unwanted water and sand from infiltrating my kayak.
I find that I generally do not have a problem with pebbles and sand getting in the Brewess, although the Astral Rassler, 5.10 Water Tennie, and 5.10 Canyoneer have higher ankle tops and are even more effective at keeping out sand. The drainage holes are effective at draining the pebbles and sand that do get in. The Brewess is actually more effective at draining sand than open sandals or Chacos. I have only had a small, annoying pebble get stuck a couple of times.
Astral succeeded in their attempt to create a more feminine looking shoe, but only partially. The Brewess has a different set of colors schemes and a slightly lower profile than the Brewer, but I would not go as far as to describe these shoes as completely feminine. It’s nice to have a somewhat feminine look, but I’m glad that Astral did not go totally out of the way to make these shoes overly “girly,” which, for some, can be a turn off from purchasing female-specific equipment.
I generally wear a women’s size ten and the Brewess 10 fits me well. My feet slip around inside them a little bit on the rubber insole when I wear them without socks. This does not inspire confidence when walking on slippery rocks, but there is an easy fix by wearing wool or neoprene socks. I would wear them without socks in a smaller size, but then they would be too tight when I need to wear a drysuit/dry pants.
It is difficult to get the shoes on when wearing drysuit booties and socks and I have to loosen up the laces a ton to wiggle my feet inside. Even with bare feet, however, I find that the Brewess does not slide on super easily because the shoe has too small of a top opening. I am willing to struggle a little to get these shoes on though, if it means that they will not come off during a swim or while wading in strong currents. I have not experienced any problems with ankle rub or hot spots despite the tight fit around my ankle.
These shoes are comfortable on my size 10 feet, which are not particularly wide or narrow. I typically benefit from shoes with more arch support, which these do not have, but it has not been a problem thus far. They do not feel constricting and the sole is cushy. If you intend to use any kind of supportive insole with these shoes, I would recommend going a size up.
The Brewess is low profile enough to fit comfortably in my Jackson Karma, but I opt for a slimmer pair of booties when paddling a playboat. I know some people who do wear the Brewess in playboats, but to be honest, I have not even tried. If you normally wear sneakers or the like in your playboat, then I am confident that the Brewess would work for you as well. The shoes are lower profile than a typical sneaker and have a more flexible sole. I find them to be much more comfortable in my boat than other water shoes with clunkier and firmer soles like Keens, Chacos, or even just normal sneakers that many paddlers use.
Astral’s Brewess is one of the few truly purpose-built kayaking shoes available for women, and it shows in how comfortable they are on the water.
NEXT: Functionality and Durability…