Segment Synopsis: Dancer explains that, while the brewers are predominantly men, she has faced the most challenges in discussions with people outside of the industry questioning her professional status. She also discusses the challenges of taking maternity leave and how that may have impacted her career progression.
EL: All right. So to start can you please spell and say your name.
GD: Yes. My name is Genisis Dancer. That's G-E-N-I-S-I-S. And the last name is D-A-N-
EL: Thank you.
GD: You're welcome.
EL: So today is Friday, May 25th, 2018, and I'm talking with Genisis Dancer at Pig
Pounder Brewery in Greensboro, North Carolina. Thank you for joining us.
GD: Thank you so much for coming.
EL: To start can you just tell us a little bit about yourself.
GD: Yeah, absolutely. I was born and raised in Seattle, Washington. You'll probably
notice that I don't have a Southern accent. I currently live on 37 acres in
Stoneville, which is almost an hour north of here. My partner is a firefighter, and1:00
we have goats, chickens, a little dog and a two-year-old son. And we live in a
EL: That's interesting.
GD: If you haven't seen it, it's like a round house and it is kind of tent-like,and it has
all the benefits and drawbacks of a tent.
EL: Like what?
GD: It's incredibly loud when it rains. So you're just not going to be watchinga movie
when it rains. Yeah.
EL: Yeah. So how did you get here to Greensboro?
GD: Oddly enough it was my first like 'big girl' job. I worked for a big company called
Ecolab which you might be familiar with. They sell cleaning and sanitization
chemicals. And they offered me a position at the corporate office and paid to
move me out, and it was kind of a once in a lifetime opportunity, so out I came
and here I stayed.
EL: Very cool. So how did you go from that to brewing? What was your foray into2:00
GD: So my specialty at Ecolab, I was a registered sanitarian. So I did like food safety
type audits like a health inspector would, but for private grocery store chains.
My first job out of college was in quality assurance. So I have like that quality
assurance sanitation background, but after a couple of years in a felt lined
cubicle, I decided I couldn't handle it anymore and I quit my job at Ecolab and I
spent a couple of years working in cafes and waiting tables and just kind of
generally like riding my mountain bike and bumming around which was
GD: But after working at a fine dining restaurant where the chef would like scream
at you if orders were wrong, I decided that I should start looking for another big
kid-ish job and the former head brewer here Sam Rose actually had this job for3:00
assistant brewer posted on Craigslist. So I stumbled upon that and I thought it
was kind of a long shot because I only had a little bit of home brewing
experience. But he hired me, so ... And I've been here almost four years now.
EL: And when was that?
GD: I think we opened in 2014 and I started in like maybe March of 2014. Several
months before we opened, before we had any beer in tanks. One of the things
that's so cool about my tenure at Pig Pounder is that they had this brew house
and all the tanks, and it had been in storage for 15 years. So the first couple of
months I was here, Sam and I spent just ripping everything apart and cleaning it,
and replacing all the soft parts, all the seals and stuff. So I really know this
facility intimately. I've had the whole brew house taken apart, I've changed all
the valve seats myself. It is kind of an older system with a lot of like manual4:00
valve opening and closing. And I think especially as a new brewer it was really
beneficial for me to do that hands on stuff from the very beginning and get
familiar with the equipment before I ever started brewing on it.
EL: And do you know where was the equipment before?
GD: I think that Marty Kotis our owner had it in storage from like a previous tenant
of his that went out of business, and like their old equipment was just
something he inherited, and I think that might have been his inspiration for
opening a brewery.
EL: Very cool. Well, you know, you mentioned only having a little bit of head brewer
experience when you started, what resources kind of have you drawn on over
time to grow as a brewer?
GD: Wow! There are just like a ton of resources available, because everybody wants
to be doing this right now. But I will say that like working under a more5:00
experienced brewer, Sam Rose our original head brewer was amazing. He really
had me do everything hands on from the very beginning, just with his like
watchful eye. Which was really important because I think when people think
about brewing, of course they're thinking about like the recipes and the
different kinds of beer you're going to make, but there's also this huge
component of just physically moving stuff around, and how beer gets made on
the system that you have. And so for me that's one of the more exciting aspects
of being a brewer is just like mechanically moving things around, and how your
equipment works, or it doesn't work as is often the case.
GD: So mostly other brewers, yeah.
EL: Very cool. So you know, you've been doing this for a while now and styles and6:00
the business kind of have changed. Are there particular beer trends today that
you're particularly fond of or not fond of or things that you're really looking
forward to doing in the near future?
GD: Well, I will say that here at Pig Pounder I'm really excited that since Kalif
[Mathieu] has taken over as head brewer we're starting to branch out and do
more American styles of beer. When I first started, Marty's vision was to do only
English style ales, which are amazing and I love. But it's not really necessarily
what's trendy in the United States right now, and they tend to be very like malt
forward beers and people are really loving hops. Or especially in the summer
time people like hoppier beers. So I'm really excited that we've kind of like
loosened up our brand and are doing more branching out with styles. We even7:00
did a sour this year.
EL: And can you give us maybe an example of one of the ones that you've worked
on recently, one of these newer non-English ones that you're particularly
GD: Oh yeah! We did a high ABV IPA that we named The Tripping Pigs. And totally
ripped off the Grateful Dead Bears and put it on a T-shirt. And we took that beer
to Brewgaloo in Raleigh last month and it was wildly popular. I think it's great,
it's really easy to drink for a beer that's 7.4 ABV.
EL: Oh cool.
GD: Which tends to make it popular in beer festivals, people are definitelylooking to
get messed up. But the tie in with the tie-dye merchandise is really cute. Our
tapering manager and I cut our T-shirts so they looked like edgy, and it was just
a lot of fun. The beer was fun to make, took me 15 minutes on a ladder to get all8:00
the hops for the dry hop edition into the beer.
EL: Oh wow!
GD: Getting them in through a little one and a half inch port on the top of thetank is
EL: Wow! Yeah, I could see that.
GD: But I had a lot of fun with that beer.
EL: Well, can you talk a little bit about some of the work that you're doing nowand I
don't even know if you have an average day.
GD: So the brewery cycle tends to meet more like a week long cycle. You have a
couple of brew days which is what people are thinking about. And then you
generally have at least one day that's completely devoted to cleaning the brew
house, cleaning tanks, washing kegs, and then one day where you're moving
beer around. So moving finished beer from the fermentors into break tanks for
conditioning and carbonation.
GD: So that tends to be like a weekly cycle and it is really repetitive. I think people9:00
tend to think of brewing as like a very creative job, but as a brewer you spend
most of your time doing pretty repetitive tasks. So you hope that you love it
because you're doing the same things every week. Even just brewing you're
hitting kind of different parameters for different beer styles, but the brew is
very much the same no matter what you're brewing.
GD: And I also think people might think that brewing the beer is the challenging part,
but there are lots of other things in the brewery that are more challenging than
physically just making the war.
EL: Can you talk about ...
GD: Yeah, so-
EL: Maybe if you have specifics in mind.
GD: Yeah, absolutely. I do.
GD: So here we filter some of our beers. Lots of breweries nowadays are using highly
flocculent yeast that kind of settle to the bottom of the fermentor really quickly10:00
leaving you with a really clear beer that you can just move right off the yeast
and not have to filter it. But we have some styes, because we work with some
special English style yeast that don't tend to settle out very well. We have some
styles that need to be filtered, and filtration requires a lot of hoses and alot of
different connections, a lot of like very careful sanitation. So that's probably the
most challenging thing we do here.
EL: Definitely. So over the last four or five years, a lot of things in the beer world
here in Greensboro have changed. Lots of new places opening up. Can you talk a
little bit ... We don't have a ton of folks who've been here for that whole cycle,
but you pretty much have.
GD: I guess I have. Like Natty's was here. Wow! And then I think Preyer was right
behind us, they were just a few months behind us. But honestly, you know, I11:00
don't think I have like as much perspective on that, because when all those new
breweries were opening, it was my first year as a brewer, and I was a baby
brewer with no experience. So I spent that year really like keeping my head
down, didn't go out and drink a lot of beer, you know. Waking up in the middle
of the night thinking that like I had accidentally left pressure on a tank or
something. Coming to the brewer at 3:00 in the morning to double check, and
having those anxiety dreams all the time.
EL: So obviously you've calmed those down a bit?
GD: Yes. You still occasionally like will have a fear that you failed to unhookgas from
a tank or something like that, but it's much more manageable after a couple of
years of brewing.
EL: Yeah. So you know, the project that I'm working on is focused on women
brewers and brewery owners in North Carolina. And so I think for a lot of people12:00
you're talking about some of the stereotypes or preconceptions people have
about beer and brewing. A lot of folks literally just think of ...
GD: Bearded White dudes.
EL: White guys with beards. You know, it's pretty stereotypically categorized that
way. Can you talk about maybe some challenges that you feel ... Or do you feel
like you faced any challenges being a woman in what is really a male dominated
GD: It still really is, and I can tell you from having attended craft brewing
conferences, even just very recently, like last November, that it still is very much
male dominated. And the dude with the beard stereotype holds very, very true.
GD: You know, I don't think that I've faced challenges with other brewers
necessarily. Mostly here it's been with people from outside the brewery who13:00
ask me questions like, "Are you allowed to use those tools?" Or, maybe it's a
North Carolina thing to refer to like, you know, I'm 37. So when a man calls me
"girl" it seems kind of silly.
GD: I think for me personally taking a year off to have a child was definitely
something that, honestly it probably set my career back a little bit. But that's a
challenge for women in any field.
EL: Definitely. And you know, with challenges often there are benefits too. Can you
think of examples of maybe specific benefits that you feel like you maybe have
over our lovely bearded friends being a woman in the industry.
GD: I mean, I guess if anything like if I was like looking to make moves it14:00would be
memorable that I'm a female brewer. That's really the only thing I can think of.
EL: Yeah. Well, if we had a baby brewer coming in right now, a woman, what kind of
advice would you give her looking to enter the field today?
GD: Mostly just that like you're going to encounter probably some things that are
physically challenging for you, but none of them are probably insurmountable.
There were some things for me when I first started brewing that were physically
difficult. But you just have to be creative and rely on tools more frequently. And
it's okay to ask for help, because there are a lot of things in the brewery that are15:00
heavy like a half barrel keg weighs 160 pounds when it's full and no one, not
even a man should be picking that up by themselves, right? Like it's just not
good for your back. It's an awkward weight. You can't like center it in your body
and lift with your legs.
GD: So I give that advice to everybody, but it would especially be true forwomen or
smaller people that like protecting yourself physically and getting help when you
need it is really important.
EL: And I can't help but notice your pink boots.
EL: Now, are you a member of the Pink Boots Society?
GD: I'm actually not.
EL: Oh, you just have pink boots?
GD: I just have pink boots. So oddly enough Granger stocks two colors of steel toed
boots in women's sizes, pink and black. So ...
EL: So they just happened to be pink.
GD: It goes with Pig Pounder's theme.
EL: It does. It does indeed.
EL: It does indeed.
GD: So ...
EL: So you kind of touched on this already, but what's your favorite part of working16:00
as a brewer? What's your favorite thing?
GD: Probably that it's like a physically active job. I've been athletic my whole adult
life, and sitting in a job every day I feel like was really like hard on my body and
it made staying in shape more difficult. So I just like that I get to like ...And I'm
kind of an antsy high energy person. So just the fact that I get to move around
most of the day is really great. And it is like a more relaxed environment. You
know, I don't have to get dressed up, I'm wearing makeup today, but I don't
necessarily always wear makeup to work. And it's just generally like a more
relaxed environment than jobs I've had in the past.
EL: So now we're getting into the questions that we were talking about earlier. Your
GD: Oh yeah!
EL: So what's your favorite beer from a North Carolina brewery other than your
GD: Okay, today. I wouldn't necessarily say it's my favorite beer, but I end up
drinking a ton of Oskar Blues Dale's Pale Ale because it's available everywhere.
It's in cans which I love, and it's really easy to drink. And yeah, I just thinkit's a
good all around beer, and as like crazy as beer industry trends get like I am one
of those suckers who is going to buy like every weird flavored beer. But often
you're disappointed by them, so ...
EL: Do you have any of the weird ones recently that you've tried that you're a big
GD: I haven't in a while. I always get over to Preyer and taste all of Calder's [Preyer]
crazy creations. And I'm trying to think ... Yeah, I mean I've loved all of those.18:00
Stephen [Monahan] that Little Brother has made some pretty interesting stuff.
Brian Carter at Natty's [Natty Greene's]. I love all the beer in this town, it's all
EL: So what would you say is the signature beer here at Pig Pounder?
GD: That is such an easy question. So our Northern English style Brown, it's called
Boar Brown. We've won a ton of awards with it. The year I was pregnant with
my son it took home the gold for English browns at the World Beer Cup. And
one of my last days on the job, I was like nine months pregnant. I worked until
like maybe two weeks before my son was born. The trophy came in, and so I've
got a picture of my enormous pregnant belly with the award from the World
EL: Well, that's awesome. And that's one that's been around since the beginning,19:00
GD: Yes. Yeah. And that recipe has not changed very much at all. Like a few pounds
of grain here and there, but we've really haven't changed that recipe. That was
one that Sam Rose developed.
EL: So that's the signature one. Do you have a favorite? Again today.
GD: So the Brown is my favorite, and it's not the one that I reach more for most
often, but it's all around my favorite because it's an amazing beer and I love
brewing it. The grain bill is so big that it barely fits either in the gristcase or in
the mash tun. So every time you're making it you've got water coming in and
you've got grain coming in. And every time you're making it, I have to manually
stir the mash tun here, I don't have a mash mixer. So every time I'm making it,
I'm stirring, and stirring, and stirring, and my arms are getting really tired, and
I'm getting really sweaty and I'm like, it's not all going to fit, it's not allgoing to
EL: Oh wow!20:00
GD: And every time it fits. But it's real close every time. So it's an excitingbrew to
do. It's a good arm workout.
EL: I bet.
EL: So when you're not here, what are some of your favorite things to do?
GD: Well, the thing I miss most when I'm brewing is mountain biking. I've been a
competitive cyclist on and off for probably 10 years, but nothing is like being on
your bike in the woods by yourself. Yeah, that's probably the number one thing
that I would be doing if I wasn't brewing.
EL: Right. Well. You know, we've covered a lot of things. Are there any things that
you can think of that you would like to talk about? We're just ... You know,
ideally we want to get a story of where you are today, and is there anything that
you want to discuss that we haven't talked about yet?
GD: I can't think of anything.21:00
EL: Awesome. Well, thank you so much.
GD: Yeah, thank you.
EL: Really appreciate it.
GD: That was a lot of fun.
EL: Thank you. Excellent.