“Don’t be intimidated.”
We interviewed a few of the women who keep the wheels turning at Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and asked what advice they’d offer to women getting into craft beer.
“Don’t be intimidated,” said Kayla Brogna, one of our brewers. “Just learn as much as you can.”
Though a beard may come to mind when we think about brewers, there’s an army of women working in craft beer. To celebrate International Women’s Day, we’re shining the spotlight on a few of them.
Bio: As Kayla puts it, she “turned a giant homebrewing hobby into a career.” Kayla started as a packaging assistant at Trumer Brauerei in Berkeley, where she was soon promoted to brewer. Six months ago, she made the move to Sierra Nevada. Now she spends her days pulling up grain, boiling, pumping, stuffing hops, loading malt—in sum, doing just about everything in the brewhouse.
Favorite beers: Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA, plus a few favorites from Russian River Brewing Co.
What drew you to Sierra Nevada? Sierra Nevada is the inspiration for all craft beer. Part of what I appreciate here is the consistency. I know I can go anywhere and it’s going to taste the same.
Greatest challenge at work: It’s easy to get discouraged when you get a rough beer. But that’s a big reward, too—every day is a new challenge.
Women are often outnumbered in the brewhouse. Do you feel like you’re treated any differently? I’ve been welcomed by almost everyone, and I’ve been able to show other brewers that I can do everything everyone else does.
Advice for women thinking about brewing: Don’t be intimidated. Take any job that you can and learn as much as you can.
Senior Research Analyst
Bio: A Fulbright scholarship took Katy to New Zealand, where she earned a Master’s Degree in Environmental Chemistry before joining Sierra Nevada. Now a part of our Research and Development team, Katy works to make our beer better and develop new products. (Katy was an integral part of developing our new year-round gose, Otra Vez.) When the brewery dreams up a new idea for a beer, Katy’s a part of the team that figures out how to make it.
Favorite Beers: Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA, Renaissance Porter
Greatest challenge at work: Sierra Nevada is big on perfection. My biggest challenge is aiming for perfection, while still getting beers out the door in a timely and efficient way.
Pride project: Otra Vez. Seeing your work come to life and out there in the world is the best. I went whiskey tasting at Verdi Local Distillery near Reno and the co-owner, Katey Baumann, had an Otra Vez behind the counter. I asked her if she liked it and she said it was her favorite beer. It was so cool!
Advice for women thinking about a career in research: Transparency will set you free. We’re not super scientists; sometimes you make a mistake and sometimes things just don’t work. One of the hardest things to do is say “I don’t know.” As women, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be perfect, to be the best. But you can’t sacrifice your integrity for that.
Bio: After earning a Master’s Degree in Environmental Geography, Cheri ran a nonprofit teaching kids about recycling and composting before joining Sierra Nevada nearly 10 years ago. Since then, she’s helped the brewery adopt innovative new projects and tools like our HotRot composter and our Microturbine Technology, as well as gain accolades like our 2010 Green Business of the Year Award from the Environmental Protection Agency.
Favorite beers: Sierra Nevada Best Bitter, Sierra Nevada Otra Vez, Deschutes Mirror Pond
What drew you to Sierra Nevada? Sierra Nevada has a strong reputation for responsible business ethics. I really respect how Ken [Grossman] has chosen to run the business these past 35 years.
Greatest challenge at work: The biggest challenge is also the greatest reward: getting people to understand the impact of their actions and decisions. When people make those connections, I feel like I’ve done my job.
What’s the best thing about being in craft beer? It is absolutely the most collaborative and inspiring industry out there. The information sharing and support is unmatched.
Bio: Rachel studied microbiology before joining the brewery and started with grunt work in the lab. Over her nine-year tenure, she’s worked her way up to Lead Microbiologist. Rachel’s team makes sure there’s no contamination in the beer and keeps the brewery free of anything that could affect the beer’s taste or quality. Rachel also helps to coordinate the sour wort program for projects like our new gose, Otra Vez, and our barrel-aged sour beers.
Favorite beers: Sierra Nevada Brown Ale, Sierra Nevada Torpedo, Victory Prima Pils, and anything from Odell Brewing Co.
Biggest challenge of the job: Troubleshooting micro issues at the brewery can be like looking for a needle in a haystack, or worse. If a scratch in a tank is big enough to catch your fingernail on, it’s big enough to allow for growth of potential spoilage organisms. (Translation: bad beer.)
Pride project: Being a part of the sour wort development team for Otra Vez. If you’d asked me about it six months ago, I probably would’ve bashed my head against a wall since it was a pretty daunting project and completely new for us. It definitely came with its own set of challenges, but seeing it come to fruition is really rewarding and fun.
Advice for women going into craft beer: Learn as much as you can coming into it. As much as you can read, as many classes as you can take—enter the industry with as much brewing knowledge as possible and always be on the lookout for opportunities to learn.
Sensory Lab Manager
Bio: The daughter of a sensory panelist, Meghan had an early love of food science and sensory. A job with spice extract company Kalsec exposed her to hop extracts, sparking a passion for craft beer. One Master’s Degree in Brewing Science and a brewing internship later, and she was hooked. Now Meghan trains and runs the sensory panels that test our beers for consistency. For instance, her team will compare a Torpedo brewed in Chico with one brewed in Mills River, as well as a Torpedo brewed before the installation of a new piece of brewing equipment with one brewed after. If anything is different, the beer won’t make the cut.
Favorite beer: Sierra Nevada Celebration
So what exactly is sensory? Sensory is what your consumers will be experiencing as far as quality—taste, aroma, and flavor.
What’s your favorite part of the job? I get to experience both sides. There’s the social, outgoing panel training, but then I take all the data and get to nerd out at my computer.
You switched from food science to brewing science. What’s it like being a woman in craft beer? I’ve seen a real positive response. If anything, I’ve seen encouragement and support for more women getting into the industry.
Any favorite work projects? I loved being here for Celebration season. Being able to taste the fresh hops was a great experience.
Bio: After graduating with a degree in Biology, Veronica joined the Packaging Quality Department at City Brewing Company. When we opened our Mills River brewery, she moved over to Sierra Nevada. Veronica now supervises our North Carolina quality lab. As she puts it, “I work with our techs to find ways to be more efficient and continue to put out the best beer possible.”
Favorite beers: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Sierra Nevada Celebration, Highland IPA, Bell’s Two Hearted Ale
What drew you to Sierra Nevada? Sierra Nevada Pale Ale was my gateway craft beer.
Most rewarding part of the job: Getting things off the ground in Mills River has been a tough job, but I know that I have the support of my team, and I know that no matter what happens, we’re going to get through it successfully.
Advice for women thinking about a career in craft beer: Don’t be intimidated. Being a women in this field never even crosses my mind.
Happy International Women’s Day to the women of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and all the women who push craft beer forward. Cheers to you and cheers to craft brew!