A Head Brewer’s Journey, Challenges and Advice

During the Craft Brewers Conference, I visited Jagged Mountain Brewing Co. in Denver. Jagged Mountain is one of the few breweries that offer gluten-reduced beers, which is noted on the menu.  While I was there this time around, I shared a few beers with Alyssa Thorpe, who was recently hired as the head brewer of Jagged Mountain two months. Alyssa shared her journey, challenges, and advice with me.

How did you get into the beer industry?

I moved to Colorado about 4 years ago and got into homebrewing because I always liked drinking craft beer. My husband and I bought a 5 gallon system and we started winning awards. I ended up brewing a Pro-Am beer with Black Project Brewery in Denver. It was my first look into the professional brewing world.

When did you decide to go into the beer industry professionally?

When I went to the awards ceremony I was blown away by how everybody supported one another. I started at Mu Brewery, a nano brewery that is unfortunately now closed. I worked there for 7 months and decided that I needed more education. So I went to Regis University, a one year program, and after I graduated, I worked as a shift brewer at at Lone Tree Brewery. for two years.

Two years later, I wanted to move out of production and do something more creative, so I  applied at Jagged Mountain.

What are some challenges that you’ve faced as a woman in the industry?

I’ve actually been really lucky as a woman in the industry. Everyone I’ve come across has been super supportive and honestly really nice. When I first tried to get a job after I graduated from Regis, it was really hard for me to break into the industry. I think it was because maybe people didn’t take me seriously. I’m pretty small, so a lot of people doubted I could do the work.

I don’t look like the typical brewer, people don’t expect it.  Every time I tell someone I’m the brewer here, people get surprised. But I’ve made a name for myself in Colorado industry just by talking to people and being present, and because of that, I have a ton of support behind me.

Jagged Mountain serves many gluten-reduced beers, will you continue making them?

For sure, it’s so easy to do it! It’s exactly like throwing Biofine in a beer, so why not? If it brings a different diverse crowd in, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t produce gluten-reduced beers.

Some critics will say that gluten-reduced beer does not taste as good as it does without those enzymes. Have you noticed a difference?

I’ve never noticed any detriment to flavor. I drink a lot of beer, I’m BJCP certified, and haven’t ever noticed a change in flavor or anything like that.

What’s next on tap at Jagged Mountain?

I definitely want to brew more lagers this year because that’s what I like to drink everyday! I want to make some beers that I’m passionate about. I also want to start using different ingredients like herbs and flowers. Hops have not always been used in beer, so I want to get back to that old style of doing something creative and new.

What advice do you have for those wanting to break into the industry?

Now that everybody knows that brewing is such a cool job, I recommend education just because it sets up apart from everyone else. There aren’t a lot of people that go to school for brewing. If you want to have an easy way to getting into the industry, having that education on your resume will help.  Just keep trying! Even if you apply to ten places and nobody calls you back or nobody wants to talk to you, just keep doing it. Don’t give up.

Author: theoutcask

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