OK, hops fans! Are y’all ready for this? (queue music) You asked for it… and now we’re back for round four of our series on the Ladies of the Craft Beer industry. If you’ve read parts onetwo, and three, you know that while women may not be the majority in the beer industry, their impact is an undeniable force to be reckoned with. They brew, they sell, they get sip done. This pair of ladies is no exception. So, settle in with the brew of your choice and read on to bask in the glory of the women that make enjoying your favorite beers a reality.

Laura Ulrich, Small Batch Brewer, Stone Brewing


How She Got Started:
Originally from St. Louis, MO, Laura Ulrich picked up and moved to Colorado after college graduation. It was her home-brewing brother who originally got her into beer. Working as a bartender in Fort Collins, CO, she started chatting with line cleaners and was fascinated by it. At that point, she didn’t know much about beer or the process but when Odell Brewing Company had an opening at the bottling line, she applied and got the job. A year and half later, Laura decided to move to San Diego and applied to breweries there. When she applied to Stone Brewing, she felt she had a strong chance as the owners of Stone and Odell knew of each other. Long story short, she’s now coming up on her 14-year anniversary at Stone Brewing. Laura started off on packaging and worked different positions throughout the brewery. In her time at Stone, she was able to learn about beer processes and brewing by working in the Cellar running the filter and filling kegs and eventually transitioning into a role in the brew house. She later became their Brewery Trainer and is currently a Small Batch Brewer. Laura is Stone’s first lady brewer and first Small Batch Brewer with a team of three other guys.

Favorite Part of the Job & the Biggest Challenge:
The creative challenges are one of Laura’s favorite parts of the job. She strives to continue to push herself to find the time to step out of the box and be more creative when she’s creating new brews.

The Most Creative Beer Project She’s Ever Worked On:
For Laura, both the work that went into creating the recipe of Stone’s now retired Stone Smoked Porter with Vanilla Beans and now creating sour beers for Stone have been incredibly creative projects that she’s enjoyed.

On the Most Interesting Part of the Beer Making Process:
According to Laura, “the flavor of beer changes between fermentation and filtering and again when it’s packaged. Sometimes different flavors that come through in different phases.” Neat!

What it Takes to Design a New Brew:
Designing a new brew can be a tricky process. For Laura, this means both working with new hops, and finagling and finessing them to work with the Stone beers. She also likes to try and improve upon current recipes in her work at Stone.

Who Inspires Her:
In 2007, Brewmaster Teri Fahrendorf quit her longtime job at Stealhead and went on a brewery tour across the US. Laura first met Teri when she came to visit Stone Brewing one fateful Saturday. Laura was immediately amazed that Teri had been a brewer for so long as she was unaware that women made this their career. She picked Teri’s brain the entire day and after her shift, Laura invited her to dinner and that’s when she spoke about the idea of starting Pink Boots Society. Teri asked Laura what she thought about helping to connect other women in the industry since she knew Laura wasn’t the only young gal working at a brewery that didn’t know other women existed in the beer industry, and Laura loved it! They consider that day, June 16th 2007, the first day of Pink Boots Society. The following year, they held the first meeting in San Diego during the Craft Brewers Conference, at which point they started tracking women in the industry with just an excel sheet. They now have a formal membership database and ask for an annual membership fee of $35 to pay for some of the overhead of operating a non-profit. Since the beginning, Laura has helped to establish their trademark and has served as the scholarship committee coordinator, chapter leader, and now as President.

Now in its 11th year, the Pink Boots Society’s mission is to assist, inspire, and encourage women beer professionals to advance their careers through education. They feel that education is the best way to encourage more women in the brewing industry and to help close the gender gap. The group became a non-profit in 2013 and, over the last two years, has evolved the society from a hobby association to a professional one. Back in 2013, the organization offered six scholarships—they now offer 21 scholarships a year. Incredible!

Shortly after Laura met Teri Fahrendorf, Will Meyers from Cambridge Brewing came out to do a collaboration with the Stone team and mentioned to Laura that their team also had a lady brewer, Megan Parisi. When Laura and Megan finally met at the Great American Beer Festival, they hit it off immediately. What started off as joking that the guys always get to do collaborations turned into deciding that ladies should get together and make a beer. They then asked Whitney Thompson of Victory Brewing, who Laura knew via email, to join the project as well. In February 2011, these ladies got together at Cambridge Brewing Co. and made a beer called Project Venus—a first major all-female collaboration!

Laura is also a fan of brewer Carli Smith. Carli was a finance major, who changed career paths upon graduation when she became an assistant brewer at Gordon Biersch. She later became head brewer at Rock Bottom, La Jolla and is now the Brewmaster with Bold Missy in NC. Laura finds Carli’s bravery when it comes to taking big chances incredibly inspiring!

Her Advice for Women Getting into the Industry:
For women looking to join the beer industry, Laura advises patience and says, “don’t be afraid to get down and dirty.” She recommends shadowing and learning from everyone whenever possible and to, “learn every angle.”

On Lady Brewers in the Industry:
Laura believes that sometimes women will have a different thinking process and a different palette, which can add a nice perspective and component that provides balance. “Women can be a little more meticulous and focused on multiple elements with a different flow pattern.”

Funniest Moment of Her Career:
Laura recalls that there was an incident involving a team mate from distribution who needed yeast from a 350-barrel tank. She did not give the fullest directions and when he went to open the tank, he ended up covered in yeast from head to toe and the poor guy was dried and crusty for rest of day.

First Craft Beer She Ever Tried:
Her “gateway beer” was Newcastle (yes, not technically craft).

Favorite Beer/Beer Style:
IPAs are her go-to now (Stone and all) as Laura feels she can never be disappointed by that style. She loves them, but she sometimes misses brown ales, porters, and stouts.

Follow on Social Media:
Laura on Twitter & Instagram: @pinkbooter
Pink Boots Society Twitter: @pinkbootsbeer
Pink Boots Society Instagram: @pinkbootssociety
Stone Brewing: @StoneBrewing

Alecia Wortham, Sales Representative, Ben E. Keith Beverage Distribution


How She Got Started:
Alecia Wortham has been in the industry almost 18 years. Starting in the beer business with bartending at the age of 21, she held that gig while she was in school. On the serving side Alecia was introduced to many different beers and also learned hands on what people were drinking. At the age of 30, Alecia joined the Ben E. Keith Beverage Distribution team.

Her Favorite Part of the Job:
One of her favorite parts of the job is getting introduced to many different breweries and styles of beers. As this is one of the highlights of the job, she says it can also be the greatest challenge, noting that “there are so many great beers out there and others being introduced, getting around to learning them all can propose a challenge.”

What Inspires Her:
According to Alecia, “what inspires me most is when I see someone do a good deed, especially if they don’t think anyone has noticed.”

Her Advice for Women Getting into the Industry:
When asked what her advice for other ladies looking to join the beer industry, Alecia says, “always try to be flexible and willing to learn. Things can change quickly in this business and to survive or not fall behind, you got to be able to roll with the punches. With that being said, it is an exciting industry and fun also!”

Her Favorite Female Craft Beer Influencer:
Alecia is a huge fan of Meg Gill, co-founder and President of Golden Road Brewing. “She has achieved so much at such a young age. I believe she has much more to offer the craft beer world.”

On Lady Brewers in the Industry:
Coming at this question from a marketing angle, Alecia makes a great point about the role of women in the beer industry. She notes that, “I think that it is a more common assumption that a woman doesn’t drink beer. However, there is a large percentage of women that do. Lady brewers can add a different perspective to marketing more towards women beer drinkers.”

First Craft Beer She Ever Tried:
Avery’s Ellie’s Brown Ale

Favorite Beer/Beer Style:
As with most of us, this changes seasonally for Alecia, but she really likes the milk stouts right now and in particular, Left Hand’s Milk Stout.

Follow Ben E. Keith Beverages on Social
Facebook: @BenEKeith