Skip to medieval times and later, after the Industrial Revolution, women’s involvement declined. But in the past couple decades, women are making significant strides in not only contributing to the craft beer revolution, but are pivotal in leading the charge. By experimenting with different spices & flowers during the brewing process, embracing their creative & culinary nature, and the physical labor of brewing, more and more women are making a name not just for themselves, but for their beer.
Introducing beer’s better half, the woman.
For the first article in my women and beer series, I’ve chosen none other than the first female brewer for Stone Brewing Company, Laura Ulrich. She is a true brewster.
1. You’re originally from St. Louis. How did growing up there and living in Fort Collins shape your outlook on craft beer? St. Louis not so much. I remember growing up having to visit my grandma who lived downtown and having to pass the brewery which stunk (like old veggies). I wasn’t much of a drinker until I got to Fort Collins. My older brother Steve introduced me to Newcastle which was my gateway beer, and then from there I moved on to the craft beer in Fort Collins like Odell’s. I really liked their beer which is probably why I ended up working there.
2. What’s your background/college? I attended Lindenwold University St. Charles MO. What was your degree? English/emphasis on writing.
3. Was your first position at Stone a brewer? Nope, I started on the bottling line and worked my way through the cellar.
4. How long have you worked there? It’ll be 8 years on March 29th.
5. You’re the 1st Female Brewer for Stone & you helped form the Pink Boots Society. What’s your perception of female brewers today? Do you think there’s a difference between women and men brewers? YES and YES. My perception of female brewers is that there are not that many, but the few I have met are really passionate about what they do, and they’re good at it. It’s not for everyone (male or female). You have to be strong willed and strong minded to work in this industry. The difference I see in women brewers is that they take more time to be organized on the floor (or maybe it’s just me, I can’t stand when equipment is left on the floor, or when hoses are all tangled up).
6. If you were to collaborate with any other brewer/s in the U.S., who would it be (say, top 2-4)? Russian River making something sour, and of course Odell’s. I think it would be very cool to go over to the UK and brew with the Project Venus UK ladies. It would be even cooler if Megan and Whitney would join, that would be one hell of a collaboration.
7. What are the last two beers you brewed/helped brew? I brewed an Indian Brown Ale on our pilot system. But I also did a blend of several of our beers with Greg Koch called Stone Mixtape - GK & LU's Blend vol.1.
8. How many beers have you brewed at Stone? When I was brewing on the large system I brewed whatever was scheduled, which would be from our core brands, to the special releases, to assisting in the collaborations. I now brew on our 20 gallon pilot system, and I’ve done anything from Rye IPA’s to Nut Browns to Specialty Ales. I’ll brew anything.
9. You recently brewed the first-ever all-female collaboration beer (Belgian Style Double w/ orange & saffron) w/ Megan Parisi from Cambridge Brewing Company and Whitney Thompson from Victory Brewing Company, called Project Venus. What was the reaction? Where can you get it? I think the beer is gone, unless Megan is holding on to some? The reaction was good. We went for something BIG and we got something BIG.
10. Were you a home brewer before you started working at Stone? If so, how long and how did you get started? Nope, I was never a home brewer. I bought my brother home brew books, but never read them myself or even helped him brew a batch. For me I was already working at the brewery and was more interested in the hands on and not the creative aspect of brewing. It wasn’t until I got to Stone Brewing Co. that I had a desire to learn more about beer. I worked on the line for a few months, but knew I wanted to learn the filter and the cellar operations. I knew if I was going to be a brewer someday that I had to know the cellar 1st.
11 What’s the most interesting thing you’ve brewed with? Hibiscus. I’m on a 3 Day Susan G Komen walking team Beer for Boobs and we brewed a beer with Colby from Ballast Point. We were determined to get a pink color naturally and we did with Hibiscus. It took us some trial and error because we didn’t want the Hibiscus flavor, so Colby found out that lime juice helps to brighten the color. The beer boob Check turned out great!
12. Overall, what interests you about brewing? Everything, but right now it’s barrel-aged beer, yeast, and sour’s.
13. What’s your favorite thing about working for Stone? I’m always learning something new and now with my new position I get to be creative and play with recipes, casks, barrels, and small batches. I’ve been in the industry for a little bit now and it’s thanks to Stone and a handful of folks that taught me what I know and how to make good clean beer. Also, the madness of the growth is pretty fun to watch too.
14. The Stone Smoked Porter w/ vanilla beans was your idea & became a hit. What is difficult lining up a distributor and making it more official? Yes the idea was mine. We don't bottle it, it's a draft beer we make in limited quantities for occasional growler fills and special events. In SoCal, we distribute it, and in other areas, we don't have any trouble finding accounts that would love to serve it, so distributors are happy to bring it in when it's available.
15. Do you add the beans at the beginning of the brew kettle or towards the end, in secondary fermentation? We add the beans in the secondary.
16. Besides Stone Brewing Co., what are some of your favorite craft breweries? To name only a short few, Odell’s, New Glarus (when I can try them), Russian River, Ballast Point, and Cantillon.
17. What would you say to women that want to get in the craft beer/brewing industry? Go for it, be prepared to work hard, get dirty, to clean a lot, and ask lots of questions.
Cheers to beer goddess, Laura Ulrich and her contribution to the craft beer industry!
P.S. The Stone Smoked Porter w/ vanilla beans is available next for growler fills on Friday, April 6th.