Oral history interview with Genisis Dancer, 2018

University of North Carolina at Greensboro

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0:00 - Opening credits / introduction

0:45 - Background

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Segment Synopsis: Dancer discusses her family, including their farm and yurt in Stoneville.

1:34 - Arrival in Greensboro

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Segment Synopsis: Dancer explains how a job at Ecolab brought her to Greensboro.

1:59 - Beginning work as a brewer

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Segment Synopsis: Dancer describes how she transitioned from her work in quality assurance and food safety audits to her current position as an assistant brewer at Pig Pounder.

3:19 - Early work at Pig Pounder

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Segment Synopsis: Dancer discusses the work done at Pig Pounder prior to opening the brewery.

4:43 - Growing as a brewer

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Segment Synopsis: Dancer explains how she learned the brewing trade from Sam Rose, the first head brewer at Pig Pounder.

5:58 - Expanding beer options at Pig Pounder

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Segment Synopsis: Dancer explains how Pig Pounder is transitioning from a focus only on English ales to a broader number of styles.

8:19 - Brewing cycle at Pig Pounder

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Segment Synopsis: Dancer describes a typical weekly brew cycle at Pig Pounder.

9:44 - Challenges in brewing

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Segment Synopsis: Dancer describes how filtration is a particular challenge in brewing at Pig Pounder due to yeast choices.

10:51 - Changes in the Greensboro beer and brewing scene

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Segment Synopsis: Dancer describes some of the changes she's seen in Greensboro since beginning brewing at Pig Pounder.

11:56 - Challenges as a woman in a male-dominated industry

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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.

14:17 - Advice for women entering the brewing industry

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Segment Synopsis: Dancer provides her advice for a woman entering the brewing industry, including exercising safety practices and asking for help when needed.

16:00 - Favorite part of working as a brewer

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Segment Synopsis: Dancer explains how the physicality of brewing is her favorite part of the job.

17:02 - Favorite beer from a North Carolina brewery other than Pig Pounder

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Segment Synopsis: Dancer names Oskar Blues Dale's Pale Ale as her current favorite beer from another North Carolina beer.

18:21 - Flagship beer at Pig Pounder

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Segment Synopsis: Dancer discusses Boar Brown, Pig Pounder's flagship English brown ale. She describes awards they have won as well as the process of creating it.

20:12 - Hobbies and interests away from the brewery

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Segment Synopsis: Dancer discusses her love of mountain biking.

20:44 - Interview conclusion / closing credits

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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-

C-E-R.

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, and

1:00

we have goats, chickens, a little dog and a two-year-old son. And we live in a

yurt.

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 watching a 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 into

2:00

brewing?

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

fantastic.

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 for

3:00

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 manual

4:00

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: Yeah.

GD: Yeah.

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 more

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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.

EL: Yeah.

GD: So mostly other brewers, yeah.

EL: Very cool. So you know, you've been doing this for a while now and styles and

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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 even

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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

excited about.

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 definitely looking 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 all

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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 the tank is

a challenge.

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 now and 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 people

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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 quickly

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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 a lot 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, I

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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 unhook gas 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 people

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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

industry?

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 who

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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 it 14:00would 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 are

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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 for women 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.

GD: Yeah.

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.

GD: Yeah.

EL: It does indeed.

GD: So ...

EL: So you kind of touched on this already, but what's your favorite part of working

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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: Yeah.

GD: Yeah.

EL: So now we're getting into the questions that we were talking about earlier. Your

favorite ones.

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GD: Oh yeah!

EL: So what's your favorite beer from a North Carolina brewery other than your

own today?

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 think it'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

fan of?

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.

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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

great.

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

Beer Cup.

EL: Well, that's awesome. And that's one that's been around since the beginning,

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isn't it?

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 grist case 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 all going to

fit.

EL: Oh wow!

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GD: And every time it fits. But it's real close every time. So it's an exciting brew to

do. It's a good arm workout.

EL: I bet.

GD: Yeah.

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.

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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.