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Jessica Kraus - Pink Boots Brewer of Lost Way Brewery

Picture from Jessica during one of her brewing days

Picture from Jessica during one of her brewing days

It is been a pleasure getting to know Jessica. The first time I met Jessica was during a soft opening of Lost Way Brewery last fall. Her enthusiasm and excitement for the upcoming opening was more than just a little contagious!

Jessica is very busy with all things marketing and events at the brewery. Add to that, getting to brew also and I think she has found a great career!  Jessica told me about how she has brewed a couple of batches of beer. I remember seeing Jessica in her pink boots on social media while she was brewing. The beer - "It's Not Ale About You" was done in taking part with raising money for the Pink Boots Society. Lost Way Brewery contributed $1 for each pint of the beer sold and was able to donate $370 for the cause which is huge for small brewery to be able to do! 

Sign outside of the Lost Way Brewery letting you know you found a good place in Holdrege

Sign outside of the Lost Way Brewery letting you know you found a good place in Holdrege

I was so happy when Jessica agreed to answer a few questions and here is what she had to say.

When did you first know you wanted to be in the role you're in today?

I knew I wanted to manage a taproom the second my husband joked with the idea of opening a brewery. I've always enjoyed working with people, especially in the service industry, and I enjoy good beer!

What has it meant to you to be a part of the Nebraska Craft Beer Community?

Nebraska itself has been a great community to be a part of. The Craft Beer Community, has been even greater. When we first opened, a lot of our customers considered other breweries to be competitors and we make it a point to let them know that is not the case. The brotherhood that is the Nebraska Craft Beer Community is a beautiful thing. The way that everyone is more than willing to help out whenever possible and when we can all work together to fight for a common goal is really a wonderful thing to be apart of.   

What excites you most about the future of craft beer?

Oh gosh, All of it!  Not a lot has changed from the days of prohibition for a lot of the country, I think more people are becoming aware of that especially here in rural Nebraska. I think we're going to be seeing a lot (or at least I hope) of changes for the state.  

What is it like being a woman in the craft beer industry?

One word ... unexpected. Most people expect to see a woman doing the day to day things like working the taproom, social media, even the books. Not because its a woman's job, there are plenty of men out there that are killin' it, but because the brewing industry has always been a male dominated industry. Us ladies are becoming more and more prevalent in the brewing industry, as owners, managers, CFOs and even brewers!    

Why is it important to see greater representation of women in the brewing industry?

Well Its empowering for one! There's a ton of women out there doing great things in the brewing industry and I hope it inspires more women to go after it! It excites me knowing that my daughters and my nieces are growing up seeing their moms working in the industry. To me, it gives them an opportunity to consider a future in an industry they may not have thought of, or maybe even push them to consider another traditionally male dominated field with a bigger focus on STEM.

Thanks Jessica for all you do for the Craft Beer industry in Nebraska!

 

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The Women of First Street Brewing

From from left to right Deb Russell beertender, Brittany Henderson beertender, Jessi Hoeft co-owner, talker of beer, Maddon Williams brewery baby, Megan Arrington-Williams director of operations and marketing, and Carey McGehee beertender. Not pictured Jodi Bahr beertender and Gayle Mohlman bookkeeper

From from left to right Deb Russell beertender, Brittany Henderson beertender, Jessi Hoeft co-owner, talker of beer, Maddon Williams brewery baby, Megan Arrington-Williams director of operations and marketing, and Carey McGehee beertender. Not pictured Jodi Bahr beertender and Gayle Mohlman bookkeeper

If you thought that craft beer breweries are run by men only, then think again. First Street Brewing in Hastings, Nebraska is made up of an amazing staff of women that cover everything from marketing to operations to beertending. Nathan Hoeft who is the head brewer and owner along with his wife Jessi have created a brewery that is not only brewing great beers but also strives to give back to the community they love. 

I was so excited to receive an email from Megan, who is the Director of Operations and Marketing for First Street Brewing, asking if I would be interested to tell their story in a segment I have on my blog called Women in Beer. We sat down in the taproom on a cool, wet spring day and had a wonderful conversation. 

Such a warm and inviting taproom. It is hard to believe this was once an automotive shop.

Such a warm and inviting taproom. It is hard to believe this was once an automotive shop.

I wanted to get to know more about Megan and her background. I asked Megan if she grew up in Hastings and she said that she was from Colorado. That peaked my interest since there are so many breweries in Colorado. Megan made her way to Hastings to go to college after receiving a scholarship for Journalism. Now that is cool - my first time interviewing someone also that has a passion for writing! Megan graduated from Hastings college with a degree in Mass Communications with a focus on Print Journalism. 

Megan fell in love with Hastings and decided to make it her home. One of the things I could tell when talking with Megan is that she had a strong desire to be part of a community where she could make a difference. One of the business ventures that Megan helped to start after college was an online magazine called Open For Business - Central Nebraska's Business Magazine. The magazine served as a great way to showcase and help promote small businesses in Central Nebraska. Helping provide the community with a means to network and partner for the greater success of all in the area was the key focus for Open For Business.

I asked Megan how she met Jessi and Nathan.  She replied, "being a smaller community it was only a matter of time before we all met. Jessi was the director of a board I am on. Nathan and I got to know each other better during a Thai Boxing Class where we would often end up sparring partners! I've got a mean right hook and his kicks are super powerful."  

. .. And you definitely are happy at the First Street Brewing taproom

... And you definitely are happy at the First Street Brewing taproom

One of the fun things for me is seeing how relationships get started and blossom. I could tell that Jessi and Megan have a shared purpose in wanting to make their community a great place to live. One of the ways that Jessi got the community introduced to the brewery was through the First Founders Club. The club provided community members with an opportunity to contribute money to the brewery in return for a few benefits. Jessi is also very active in the community with the Hastings Community Arts Council and Hastings Community Foundation. Megan is a former president and is currently on the board for the Downtown Center Association and also participates in the Hastings Community Arts Council.

First Street Brewing has also been a big part of the revitalization of downtown Hastings. The Hastings Community Redevelopment Authority (CRA) has helped businesses with some facade improvement and loans to get things started, but it has been the business owners like Jessi who have made a huge impact in turning downtown Hastings into a destination again! The Odyssey restaurant and Steeple Brewing are a couple of the other businesses you will find in downtown Hastings that are helping to revive the area.

First Street Brewing has a top notch brewing area

First Street Brewing has a top notch brewing area

Where was I ... yes - relationships. Jessi and Megan have built a wonderful relationship that has grown since Megan started working part time for First Street around September of 2015. By May of 2016, Megan would become a full time employee. It takes a lot to get the word out about a business, so I asked Megan how they got things going. She said that Jessi and herself spent a lot of time talking with local bars introducing their beers. Megan also went on to say that social media has been very beneficial in keeping a constant stream of information flowing about First Street Brewing.

I had to ask Megan a very important question - was it hard to come up to speed working for a brewery? Megan told me that it did help that she enjoyed craft beer going back to her 21st birthday where she remembers having a Fat Tire from New Belgium Brewing Company. Megan also stated that it is the constant learning that has made the job so exciting. Nathan is continually coming up with new beers with great flavor profiles and rotating seasonal favorites.

Personally, my first beer from First Street Brewing was Bapajack's Biere De Garde which blew me away with the incredible honey and lemon flavor.  During the interview, I was having the Back Alley Porter which has such a nice roasted malt flavor. So up and down the flavor spectrum - First Street Brewing has you covered!

First Street Brewing beers stand out in a crowd

First Street Brewing beers stand out in a crowd

Time flies when you are having so much fun! I knew our time was just about up, but I had to ask Megan the following questions.

When did you first know you wanted to be in the role you're in today?

I have always been a fan of craft beer and have enjoyed helping small businesses. When Jessi and Nathan presented the opportunity to me, I knew that this was something I really wanted to be part of.

What has it meant to you to be a part of the Nebraska Craft Beer Community?

It has been an honor to be part of a relatively new scene if you were to compare to other states like Colorado. One of the best things is seeing how the breweries are experimenting and taking risk on new beers. It really keeps the market fresh and exciting. It truly is a labor of love with the connectedness of the staff at First Street Brewing and the community.

What excites you most about the future of craft beer?

I would say seeing more females in the industry in leadership roles. I think it is important to remove the perception that craft beer drinkers are big, burly men in flannel. It has been great to see more women drinking craft beer and currently First Street Brewing has a 50/50 split women to men patrons.  I also get really excited about the growing spectrum of flavor profiles in craft beer.

What is it like being a woman in the craft beer industry?

Probably the most important part is how welcomed you are. People are very nice when asking you questions about beer. It is also surprising at times to see people's reaction to an IPA or dark beer. Seeing that wow factor from a hoppy flavor burst or that malty smoothness from a dark beer.

Why is it important to see greater representation of women in the brewing industry?

I think women bring a unique perspective in the flavor profiles they enjoy that can help contribute to new beers. Another important aspect women bring to the table is the way they build relationships with businesses and the community. I think there is a nurturing factor women bring to relationships that is beneficial to the brewing industry.

What a fantastic Saturday afternoon! You need to make your way to First Street Brewing in Hastings. Just a short trip off I-80, south of Grand Island. I guarantee that you will be welcomed like family in the taproom and will enjoy a beer or two.  

Cheers!

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Gabby Ayala - Executive Director Nebraska Craft Brewers Guild

 
Photo from Gabby...

Photo from Gabby...

Most of you reading this article probably have not been introduced to the Nebraska Craft Brewers Guild. So I think the mission statement does a great job explaining the guild's purpose:  "The Nebraska Craft Brewers Guild is a professional organization that fosters a Nebraska-centric community that is informed, enthusiastic, and actively creating unity among its members on market and public policy issues to create the most business-friendly climate for craft brewers."

For those of us that take for granted being able to walk into taprooms across the state and have some amazing beer or buying it at our local grocery store, there is a lot work taking place in the background. Gabby is busy working with the brewers, community organizers, and a long list of others to insure that craft beer in Nebraska is given fair treatment as a local industry of the state.

I have been at a couple of events with Gabby and what I really appreciate about Gabby is her ability to build relationships. Gabby is passionate about serving the craft beer community in Nebraska and is out in the public constantly being an advocate for everyone involved in the process of making beer in our great state.   

I had a chance to get to know Gabby even better recently in an interview on the following questions.

When did you first know you wanted to be in the role you're in today?

I have been a craft beer lover and fan for over 10 years and have especially enjoyed seeing the Nebraska craft beer scene explode and grow over the last 5 years. As a nearly Nebraska native, (I was born in Wisconsin but moved to Nebraska at the young age of 3 months old) I also have a lot of Nebraska pride in general seeing my state start to put itself on the map as a place doing great things in the world of beer was exciting.  When I saw the open Executive Director position for the Nebraska Craft Brewers Guild this past summer, I knew I had to take the plunge and apply.  The opportunity to represent my state and work to promote Nebraska craft beer was one I couldn't pass up.  

What has it meant to you to be a part of the Nebraska Craft Beer Community?

I am new to working inside the community and I've been overwhelmed with how welcoming and inclusive everyone has been.  In an industry that can be highly competitive it's very inspiring to see all these businesses coming together to enhance craft beer in the state as a whole.  The collaboration and camaraderie between breweries, farmers, industry partners, retailers, and also organizations and businesses beyond the industry is just really amazing to see.  Being able to be an advocate for this industry and work closely with all these entrepreneurs, creative brewers, and community organizers is an absolute honor. 

CommunityBanner.jpg

What excites you most about the future of craft beer?

I'm most excited about seeing the economic and social impact the brewing industry can bring to cities, communities, and neighborhoods across the state. The brewing industry in Nebraska is poised to be a real force for economic and even social change in the state.  Whether a brewery is located in a small town or larger city, we've seen breweries become this hub for community engagement and involvement.  Breweries are so much more than just bars or places where people get drunk and then go home. They're becoming meeting places for families, community, religious groups, young, old, and everywhere in between.  This sense of community they are bringing is going to continue to have a ripple effect and trickle out into our state's economy and continue to positively impact industries beyond just craft brewing. One industry I feel will particularly benefit is the tourism industry.  Beer tourism in the state is just getting started and people are really excited to get out of their neighborhoods and experience breweries away from home.  As they go out on  beer adventures they'll need to stop for gas, food, lodging, and all sorts of other pits stops along the way.  As breweries become destination spots the ripple effect on the state will have even more of an impact.

What is it like being a woman in the craft beer industry?

I'm so new to be working inside the industry that I'm not sure how to answer that quite yet!  First of all, I would be remiss to not mention all the women who have been working hard in the industry well before I came around. They may be in the minority but they are a small and mighty force. Tina Fey has a quote that says "bitches get stuff done."  Well, bitches in beer definitely get stuff done!  Whether they are brewery owners, managers, working in marketing and event planning, serving and educating, or working behind the scenes to help produce and craft the delicious beer we have in our state, women have certainly been making a mark on beer in Nebraska over the last 5-10 years. This group of ambitious and innovative women has paved the way for other women in the industry like myself and also are responsible for helping to make women in Nebraska feel like they can be part of the beer community here.  I've been a craft beer fan and consumer for a while and I know how intimidating it can sometimes be to show up to a taproom, bottle shop, or event and feel like you're one of a handful of women (if not the only woman) in the room.  It's so important to see other women making waves and showcasing that craft beer is for everyone.  While the industry may have a history of being comprised mostly of men, the tide is turning because of women in the industry who are committed to opening up doors and claiming space.  Men have been instrumental in this shift as well. It's encouraging to see that men are making it a priority to create space for women in the industry here in Nebraska.     

Why is it important to see greater representation of women in the brewing industry?

According to the Brewers Association, women make up about 25% of craft beer drinkers.  While that means we're certainly still in the minority, women have definitely made it clear that when given a seat at the table, we will become very passionate fans and consumers of craft beer.  For everyday craft beer consumers (or potential consumers) it's important to see yourself reflected in the industry, so seeing other women enjoying, working, and advocating for beer is so important.  I think the craft beer community by nature is a welcoming place and it is important to make conscious efforts to hire women. It is also important to create an atmosphere in breweries, bottle shops, and taprooms that is accessible and approachable to women and also for people of color, people of different socioeconomic backgrounds etc. The stereotype of a beer drinker is often a bearded white dude.  However, craft beer is a beverage for everyone and making sure that everyone feels included, and that they can see themselves in the industry is very important.  Bringing more people into the craft beer community will only make the industry stronger and better. 

Thanks Gabby for all you do for the Craft Beer industry in Nebraska!

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Katie Kreuser - Hop Program Coordinator University of Nebraska

Photo from Katie checking hop plants

Photo from Katie checking hop plants

I first met Katie last summer and I was blown away by her passion and enthusiasm for developing Hops in Nebraska as a viable product for the state's brewers. You will not find a more knowledgeable person when it comes to everything you need to consider when starting or maintaining a hop farm. 

Katie is active with the Hop Growers across the state and Nebraska Craft Beer community. This past January, she coordinated the Nebraska Growers and Brewers Conference. It was an excellent conference! I enjoy every chance I get to see Katie present about Hops. I get extremely energized from conversations with Katie about the great community of growers and brewers in Nebraska.

I had the chance to ask Katie a few questions about what it was like to be part of the craft beer industry. Here are the answers Katie had for me.

 

When did you first know you wanted to be in the role that you are in today?

In college, I studied biology, focusing on my passion of plant life. It was an internship after college at a botanical gardens that made the connection of plants and people. I continued that pursuit in graduate school, knowing that I wanted to share knowledge about plants and build relationships with people in the process. After moving from the northeastern U.S. to Nebraska, I began working in research that included hops, but knew extension was where I wanted to be. When the Hop Program Coordinator position opened at UNL, I knew it was a natural fit, with my background and work with hops in the couple years prior. While I knew there was competition for the position, I also pursued it with passion and the connections I had built in the industry.

What has it meant to you to be a part of the Nebraska Craft Beer Community? 

Being a part of the Nebraska Craft Beer Community has been so exciting. It makes me proud to live in a place that works together and creates great beer. Breweries have encouraged me to explore the small, unique towns across the state so that I can better get to know Nebraska.

 What excites you most about the future of craft beer? 

The excitement continues with the growth and increasing interest in using local hops. I love watching the industry come together to collaborate and work to be better together.

Photo from Katie most likely enjoying an IPA

Photo from Katie most likely enjoying an IPA

What is it like being a woman in the Nebraska Craft Beer Community? 

While agriculture and brewing may have typically been male dominated industries, the community has embraced the amazing women that are making contributions to the Nebraska Craft Beer industry, and they’re proud to share it with other states. I feel welcomed and empowered by the community, which is a great feeling. It’s is motivating to continue to make contributions to improve the community and industry.

Why do think it is important to see greater representation of women in the brewing industry?

 It’s important for women to have representation in this industry for collaboration and growth. We all have unique strengths, talents, and dynamics to bring to the table, and together we can continue to make this community and industry stronger and better.

 

Thanks Katie for all you do for the Craft Beer industry in Nebraska!

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Nebraska Women

From the Nebraska Hop Cup Event on January 20th, 2018

From the Nebraska Hop Cup Event on January 20th, 2018

I am so excited to announce a new blog section entitled "Women in Beer". In Nebraska, we are blessed to have a great representation from the Brewer's Guild, University of Nebraska (hops R&D), hop yard owners, and brewery owners! Over the next several months, I hope to share with you many of their stories. The leadership and innovation that this group provides is helping to shape and grow the Nebraska Craft Beer Community! 

If you have someone you would like to know more about, please use my Contact link and I will make sure to get that story!

Cheers!