More and more women are getting involved in the craft beer scene. These ladies wear pink boots to symbolize the growing presence of women in the brewing industry. They aren’t just token women in the brew house. They are adding a new level of creativity, expertise, and flare to this savory industry.

After an all women’s collaboration brew day, we caught up with Bess Dougherty of Wynkoop Brewing.

At first glance around Wynkoop Brewing you notice there is a lot of comradery. The office is definitely the heart of the place. Right between the bar and the brewing equipment, the brewers, marketing, sales, and restaurant staff are all moving in and out of this cramped space to bring you some great beer. The office is a tiny, cold vault that was literally a safe in a former life. Now it’s adorned with awards, randomness, and inside jokes that give the place charm.

The randomness is what gives Wynkoop it’s personality. (If you don’t think putting roasted testicles in beer is random, we need to talk.) Look around a little more and you’ll see some pink boots with a black smudge that looks an awful lot like a dead unicorn. One of the lockers is adorned with a mixture of stick-on mustaches, brewery stickers, a figure-skater, and a rad dragon figurine. This awesomeness is all accredited to mademoiselle, Bess Dougherty.

Bess’s pink boots add flare around the office.
Pink Boots Society

Bess is a liquor store employee turned beer enthusiast, turned home brewer, turned beer blogger, turned professional brewer for Wynkoop. If ya heard the whole story, you’d wonder how that whirlwind could happen to one person in so little time. She says, she “was in the right places at the right times.”

So many of us beer enthusiasts are home brewers, so I was most curious what made her take the leap to make it her career. Bess took a “business trip,” a.k.a eight days of brewery tours, to Belgium with the liquor store that she previously worked for. This trip was enough inspiration for her to know that beer was definitely going to be a major part of her life. Back in the states she took the steps to get enrolled in the online Concise Course of Brewing at the Siebel Institute.

Siebel Institute of Technology

The concise course gave her the knowledge needed to geek out with brewmaster Andy during a guest brew day with Denver off the Wagon, which Bess was writing for. Before long Bess came back for regular internship brew days and when a position opened it was more than natural for her to join Wynkoop’s team. Although everything happened so quickly, it wasn’t easy. Bess said it was intimidating to make a career change, especially towards a male dominated field. All while she was taking the course through Siebel she was maintaining a job and going in to Wynkoop to work full brew days when she could.

Fermenters! Wynkoop’s equipment is a bit of an
improvement to Bess’s stovetop home brew setup.

It was all worth it though. Bess is at a brewery that is definitely her style. Because it’s smaller, everybody does everything. At larger breweries most brewers have to start out working in bottling and packaging before they make their way up. By being able to dabble in everything, “it’s a great place to learn.” It’s more hands on and a lot less automatic than other breweries, which is a big appeal to Bess. She’s not punching in items to make things happen. Plus, being employed while shoveling and wheel barreling mash through the Wynkoop kitchen is “a lot cheaper than a gym membership!”

A barrel full of mash ready to be wheeled through the maze of a kitchen

I wondered if she still does home brews now that this hobby is her full time job. The answer, Not as often. When Bess is home brewing she likes making seasonals and especially adding flowers for spring and summer brews. However, she gets a lot of freedom to do half batches at Wynkoop of recipes she wants to experiment with. The joke around Wynkoop is that the brewery is her new and improved home brew equipment. Her latest experiment: Bess hosted the first all women CO collaboration brew day at Wynkoop last month. The ladies made a low ABV Belgian style brown ale that’s a must try!

Here’s a little interview I conducted with Bess:

What do you miss now that you’re brewing professionally?

Time. All of the processes and theories are the same with home brewing. Instead of it taking a couple hours at home with small amount of ingredients you are taking an entire day to do the same thing on a larger scale.

What’s the best part of being a pro brewer in CO?

Everyone is friends and nobody is very competitive. Despite the fact that all of these CO breweries are fighting for the business of the same consumers everyone works together to help each other out, sharing recipes and secrets to success. So many brewers came out to support the Sweet Lady Beer release, people whoe weren’t even involved in the project, just to give the ladies “a lot of happy vibes.”

What’s your advice to home brewers interested in making the jump to be pro?

Learn as much as you can and be ready to work hard for little to nothing in order to establish yourself as a brewer before getting a job.

If you ever get the chance to meet Bess Dougherty be sure to geek out on beer with her. She has seen so many sides of the beer community you are sure to learn a thing or two from her, and don’t forget to inquire about her current favorite floral brews!

[This post is the first post from our pal Aly Hartwig. Aly works at Brewer’s Republic and started the newest women’s beer club in town called Brewers Broads. They had their first event about a week ago. We’re excited to have her on Focus on the Beer!]

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Categories: Beer