Award-winning interviews with a wide spectrum of people working in, and around, the beer industry. We balance the culture of craft beer with the businesses it supports, and examine the tenacity of its ideals.
EP-400 Julia Astrid Davis of Burke-Gilman Brewing
35:35In this episode, we’re talking about process. And it’s not just in context of the brewing of beer, but everything that leads up to it, what happens during, and how a brewer can get better after. Helping us get into the detail of it all is Julia Astrid Davis, the head brewer and zygurmatrix at Burke-Gilman Brewing Company in Seattle. And if you're going to talk to a brewer about all these intimate aspects of their job, Julia is a great example of someone you should listen to. Over the course of her career she's brewed at companies small and large, from Denmark to Chicago and now Seattle. Her stops include Goose Island, Lagunitas, and Empirical Brewery, all in the Windy City, and has now been at Burke-Gilman for three years. That’s a who’s who list of barrel-aging and hop-forward breweries and in this conversation you’ll hear how Julia’s time at each place has helped build an understanding and appreciation for the process of brewing, experimentation, and constant improvement to dial-in recipes and drinking experiences. We’ll also talk about inspiration, collaboration, and why it’s important for a brewer to always think about how to get better. Through it all, is the idea of process.
TG-008 The One with a Whiskey River
23:44It’s only February, but beverage companies are already setting the stage for the rest of 2024 with new products, big investments, and… TV ads? Today, Kate Bernot and me, Beth Demmon, recap the best and most blah Super Bowl commercials, discuss the potential of high and low ABV products, and you’ll hear from Drinkways Editor Emma Janzen about the economic outlook for spirits this year. This is the Gist.
EP-399 Jess Griego of Bosque Brewing
50:49When it comes to careers, longevity is hard to come by. Most surveys and job-focused websites will tell you Americans find a new job roughly every three-to-five years. The average American worker changes some aspect of their career—if not their entire professional focus—multiple times over their life. So, when you find someone who’s really committed to the people they work with and those they work for, you know something must be going right. Such is the case for Jess Griego, now the chief operations officer and co-owner of New Mexico’s Bosque Brewing, which has nine different locations in the state. A decade ago, Jess started with the brewery as a server and has worked up through a variety of jobs, also becoming an equity partner in 2019. But her roots aren’t just with the company, they’re interwoven in New Mexico itself as a native, college graduate, proud resident, and a co-lead for the state chapter of the Pink Boots Society. Jess has also taken her longtime focus on local to a national stage, where she’s a newly elected pub brewery representative to the Brewers Association’s board of directors. For as much as beer industry pros tout “local” as core to what they do, that often means locally-produced products. In this conversation, we get about as local as we can get as Jess reflects back on her years with Boseque, what inspires her as a leader, and what it takes to oversee a rapidly expanding brewery today. Growth is hard to come by for beer these days, but Jess and Bosque offer a unique example of what happens when you play the long game, in your career and in your business plan.
EP-398 Sarah Real and Mike Dell'Aquila of Hot Plate Brewing Company
58:59Sometimes when dreams get put on hold for too long, they can fade away and become nostalgia for what never was. But in the case of Sarah Real, her dream of starting a brewery was never far from her mind, and when she was finally able to open Hot Plate Brewing Company in Pittsfield, Massachusetts earlier this year with her husband and co-founder Mike Dell'Aquila, it had been many years in the making. As one of the few Latina-owned brewpubs amongst the nearly 10,000 total breweries in the United States, the pair is acutely aware of what representation means and what responsibilities they feel come along with it. According to a 2021 survey by the Brewers Association, just 2.2% of brewery owners across the country identify as “Hispanic, Latina -o, or of Spanish Origin.” In this episode, Mike talks about how they try to offer multiple access points for consumers through the beers they make and how Hot Plate cultivates a safe, welcoming community for anyone who may not feel represented or seen in the current craft beer industry. A storyteller by trade, Mike crafts the narratives and Sarah brews the beer in a unique partnership that seems to suit them both. However, Sarah and Mike both admit that while it was, at times, a struggle to start the brewery, now that it’s open, they’re ready to welcome everyone through the front door. They talk about their backgrounds, their passions, and the future they’re already building together—the dream finally realized.
EP-397 Theresa McCulla, formerly of the Smithsonian Institution
42:19American craft beer is old enough to have “good old days,” which means it's no stranger to retirements or its best and brightest moving on to new careers. In October 2023, Theresa McCulla announced she’d conclude seven years of work with the American Brewing History Initiative at the Smithsonian Institution, wrapping up an effort that saw her collect artifacts, design exhibits, interview nearly 100 icons of American brewing, award-winning stories, and more. Theresa’s departure leaves a distinct void—her job was literally to trace the history of beer's ups and downs through all kinds of change–global pandemics, industry trends, demands on behalf of the marginalized, climate change, and of course the beginnings, middles, and occasional ends of important breweries and people who made American craft beer what it is. Without her and the American Brewing History Initiative, our risk of forgetting will be that much greater. So, before she could move on to her new position as curator at candy giant Mars, Incorporated, I sat down with her for one last interview. A symbolic exit interview.
TG-007 The One with the $1 Billion Bust
24:21It’s a new week with new news, but you already knew that. In this week's episode of The Gist, Sightlines reporter Kate Bernot talks with me, Beth Demmon, about Drizly’s billion-dollar bust, cider’s rising star, and… beads? BEES! Hat tip to Arrested Development for that one. This is the Gist.
EP-396 Shanleigh Thomson of Shan.Ferments
50:58People who work in beer arrive from all kinds of professional backgrounds and even different career trajectories. But once they’re in beer, it’s less common to find examples of those who will be true chameleons, working across businesses that make, move, or sell beer, or even for companies that just handle the raw ingredients that go into making it. That’s what makes this conversation particularly special. Shanleigh Thomson has been a food scientist, brewer, and sales rep for distributors and companies that provide malt and hops. She's worked as a consultant and analyst. She's also a beer fan, which means that this wide range of roles and expertise gives her a unique vantage point for how she does her job, shares well-informed points of view, and applies a variety of education that ranges from advanced degrees in food science to business and brewing. She splits her time between Canada and the U.S., which means the scope of her understanding and work offers us a good perspective, too, all of which she’s combined in the last two years to run her own consultancy business, Shan.Ferments. In this episode, we’ll talk about all this and how we can learn from what Shanleigh has picked up over the years. But in addition to hearing how her professional life has brought this together, there’s also time in our chat to reflect on the personal impact a changing industry has left on her. Beer in Canada is facing many of the same challenges as the U.S., as prices and competition increase and a camaraderie that was easy to find 10 years ago is harder to come by. For someone who’s spent a career focused on so many different aspects of the business of beer, what happens when the shine wears off? And what’s at stake for us should we lose professionals with an array of ideas and expertise like Shanleigh? Let’s find out.
CL-139 Small Town Sober—Shining A Light On Arkansas’ Dry Counties
34:08Football and beer tend to go together without much thought. But in places like Pope County, Arkansas, alcohol is noticeably absent from tailgate coolers, plastic Solo cups, and concession stands. That’s because the area, which is home to Arkansas Tech University, is also one of the state’s 29 dry counties, where access to alcohol is restricted thanks to political influence, conservative mindsets, and tradition left from the time of Prohibition. In his first piece for Good Beer Hunting titled “No Blitz — How Arkansas Tech University Fans Tailgate in a Dry County,” freelance writer Brian Sorenson portrays a small, but proud slice of the American South, where sports like football dominate much of the culture. That culture, he says, lags behind the more liberal coastal areas of the United States, but that doesn’t mean it’s less worthy of attention. In our conversation, he describes his hope for readers and listeners to set aside their notions of what they think Arkansas is like, and to instead experience it through fresh eyes and open minds. You’ll hear about his background in beer, football, writing, and the state of Arkansas, where he grew up used to rowdy sports fans fueled by alcohol. For this story, he was fascinated by the idea of separating the two, and shares some of the surprises he came across while writing the piece. It’s an insider’s look at seemingly contradictory ideologies, and it’s likely you’ll walk away with a new framework from which to view a different, but beautiful, way of life.
EP-395 Beth Demmon of The Beer Drinker’s Guide to Ciders
50:29When I tell people that I’m really into beer, a quarter of the time someone mentions cider despite the two being vastly different. These interactions have always left me feeling helpless because I lacked the knowledge to educate them about the differences, and I certainly couldn’t guide them to a beer style that would be similar to cider. The extent of my cider knowledge was extremely limited—until I read fellow GBH contributor and podcast host Beth Demmon's book “The Beer Lover's Guide to Cider.” In fact, she addresses this common mixup in the first line of her book “Cider is not beer.” Cider is more like wine than beer because it’s created from fruit whereas beer is a combination of malt, hops, and yeast. Despite their differences, Beth is able to draw a connection between beer and cider to show us how vast the world of cider really is, encouraging us to look beyond what we might find in our local grocery store. Much like many of us had to do in the early days of craft beer when shelves were stocked with domestic Lager and other mass-produced beers. In our conversation, we talk about Beth’s inspiration for the book, which includes a trip to CiderCon, an annual conference organized by the American Cider Association. Beth also shares how she approached writing the book and how she was able to lean on her community for help. But what I love most about our conversation is how she draws parallels between those initial days of craft beer and the current state of cider here in the United States. For those of us who have explored all corners of craft beer, cider offers a new landscape of flavors, producers, and techniques to dive into, so let’s jump right in.
TG-006 The Gist—The One With The Juice
31:52It’s a new year and things are already shaking up in the beer world, first with Asahi’s entry into brewing in the United States, plus Coca-Cola subsidiary Red Tree’s big plans for 2024. Looking outside of beer, Kate and I preview what Sightlines has planned for CiderCon, the annual cider industry conference kicking off January 16, 2024 in Portland, Oregon. Keep listening for all that and more, right here on The Gist.