Beer Guide at Port City Brewing
How did you get into beer?
When you turn 21, you don’t immediately start drinking cocktails. Beer, to a 21-year old, is so much more approachable. I studied abroad in Ireland in college, and Guinness was my gateway beer into beers that aren’t Keystone Lite or Bud Lite. I had a sister who was living in Boston who exposed me to Sam Adams, and then she ended up in California and turned me on to Sierra Nevada. That’s when I got into IPAs and I realized there is a bigger world out there.
Do you remember the first beer you ever had?
I know this will go on the internet, but my dad used to drink Corona and I stole one from the fridge when I was really young, like 13. I took a sip of it, and I was like, “I don’t know why people drink this.”
How did you become a beer guide at Port City?
It was my roommate’s birthday and he wanted to go to Port City. Port City had been open for just a handful of months and the owner Bill Butcher was still pulling pints and doing the tours. I always say it was a combination of alcohol and friends and good vibes that I mustered up the courage to talk to Bill after the tour and compliment him on how good it was and how much I learned. I knew I wanted to be a part of it, so I asked if I could volunteer. Five years later, I’m still a beer guide, and I do some marketing as well.
What keeps you there?
The people I work with are the top reason I stay. It’s just a great community. We have some really great regulars who we’ve been serving since we only had four taps. I have to give a shout out to two customers, Jack and Giles, who have been coming for forever. The Tasting Room has a neighborhood feel, and the brewery has a huge commitment to quality.
What has your experience been like as a woman of color in the beer industry?
It has definitely been a challenge. People make the assumption that, as a female, you’re just a pretty face and you don’t know what you’re talking about or how to do your job. I feel like, as a female of color, I have to work twice as hard to correct their way of thinking.
I remember I did a tour for a group of older gentlemen and you could just tell that they were like, “ok, what are you going to teach me that I don’t already know about beer?” And then by the end of the tour, they were all shaking my hand saying, “I actually learned a ton.” For me that’s super rewarding. That’s definitely not the norm, but people will form initial opinions about you and act on that.
I get really excited when people of color come into the brewery because people of color are so underrepresented in craft beer. If they say, “this is my first time at a brewery” or “this is my first brewery tour,” that’s really exciting to me, because I look at it as my and Port City's opportunity to set the bar for their expectations really high.
Do feel the heaviness of that? That it’s your job to be the ambassador for other people of color?
I haven’t thought to ask anyone else about it. Generally speaking, it’s not in the forefront of my colleague’s minds because they haven’t experienced what it’s like to be a person of color. It’s something that I care about, so I want to make sure the people who are underrepresented in our target market have a good experience. If they have a bad experience, they’re not going to come back.
What style of beer do you think is most overrated right now?
I’m seeing a resurgence of triple IPAs, anything that’s DDH, double dry hopped, I think they are awesome, but I think they’re very much overhyped.
Is there a particular beer that you heard a lot about, but when you had it you weren’t impressed?
Daisycutter by Half Acre. When so many people tell you this beer is amazing, it just heightens your expectation…but it’s just another beer. Even if it’s overhyped, it’ll still be a delicious beer.
What was the last beer you drank?
I just came back from vacation in Copenhagen and Amsterdam, so I went to War Pigs and I had something called Locomotive Breath. It was a smoked barley wine. It’s 11% - it was intense.
The apocalypse happens and you can only have one beer. What would it be?
Tired Hands Hops Hands. I would probably also bring some Maniacal Double IPA from Port City.
What’s in your fridge right now?
Aslin has a series called Special Drops, and I have a friend who works right next to Aslin, so she picked some up for me. There is another beer that I get it every time I see it – Ouais by Une Annee Brewery. It means “yeah” in French. It’s in my fridge for special occasions.
Are there specific ways you think breweries could be more inclusive?
One of the easiest ways is through events. For example, Port City has a table at Pride, because we’re not just saying we’re inclusive, we’re participating and showing that. RiverFest is during the Cherry Blossom Festival and it’s over in southeast DC. Southeast is going through a revitalization, and I don’t mean a gentrification – there is a huge difference. Maybe breweries need to decide, okay, we’ll do RiverFest this year instead of the beer festivals we always do.
It’s not always going to be a situation where the event organizer is going to come and ask for a beer sponsorship. It needs to be something where, if the brewery cares about these communities, they proactively actually get involved. That doesn’t just fall on the events manager for the brewery, but also on the leadership for the brewery.
Nobody at any brewery is actively saying they don't support persons of color. But when you look deeper into it-- what are you really doing to be more inclusive? There is still work to be done.
If you were me, are there questions you think I should be asking?
I think you should be asking people in what ways they are influencing inclusivity. Bringing some kind of action item to it, to their specific role, makes it real.