Oral history interview with Sarah Gulotta, 2018

University of North Carolina at Greensboro

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0:00 - Opening credits / interview introduction

0:39 - Background

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Partial Transcript: So to start, can you tell us a little about yourself?

Segment Synopsis: Gulotta talks about her background growing up in Pennsylvania near Victory Brewing as well as her time at college at the University of Virginia.

1:28 - Introduction to craft beer

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Partial Transcript: So let's talk a little bit more about how you got into beer?

Segment Synopsis: Gulotta discusses how her initial interest in wine transferred to a career in craft brewing.

3:44 - Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College's brewing program

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Partial Transcript: Can you talk a little bit about the program at AB Tech?

Segment Synopsis: Gulotta describes her experience as a member of the first class of the brewing program at A-B Tech. She notes that the program provides students with a well-rounded look at the industry as well as a strong source for networking.

Keywords: Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College; Pink Boots Society

9:31 - Mentors

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Partial Transcript: Are there specific people who kind of stand out along the way who you maybe see as a mentor or who particularly helped you out along the way?

Segment Synopsis: Gulotta names Jeff Urban, the brewmaster from her time as a student at A_B Tech, as one of her professional mentors.

Keywords: Jeff Irvin

10:38 - Changes in the local brewing scene since 2015

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Partial Transcript: So you've been brewing professional since 2015? 2015.

Segment Synopsis: Gulotta discusses changes in the local brewing scene since she entered the profession in 2015. She mentions changes in styles, including trends like sours and hazy IPAs, as well as a growing focus by many breweries on classic styles.

13:33 - Working at Hi-Wire

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Partial Transcript: So let's talk about Hi-Wire.

Segment Synopsis: Gulotta notes that she only applied to Hi-Wire when she graduated from the A-B Tech program. Their beer, interesting art, and good culture interested her in the position. She notes that she started work on the bottling line and then moved to the brew house.

18:34 - Defining the mission for Hi-Wire

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Partial Transcript: What would you say is the main mission for Hi-Wire?

Segment Synopsis: Gulotta says that Hi-Wire demonstrates that you can take the science of beer seriously without taking yourself too seriously.

20:09 - Brewing Zirkusfest

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Partial Transcript: Let's talk about process about brewing that one. What goes into it?

Segment Synopsis: Gulotta discusses the process of brewing Hi-Wire's Zirkusfest, an Oktoberfest that won gold at the Great American Beer Festival in 2016.

22:07 - Production system at Hi-Wire

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Partial Transcript: Can you talk a little bit about the system you guys have and the production that you guys are doing these days?

Segment Synopsis: Gulotta discusses Hi-Wire's 30-barrel brewhouse with 19 90-barrel fermenters. They produce approximately 15,000 barrels per year.

24:07 - Distribution and bottling

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Partial Transcript: And you guys a lot of distribution here in the taproom but you bottle. You mentioned the bottle line too.

Segment Synopsis: Gulotta notes that they distribute in five states and bottle in their Big Top facility.

26:36 - Brewing cycle

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Partial Transcript: This may not even have an answer, but what would you say, what's a typical brewing cycle look like around here?

Segment Synopsis: Gulotta discusses the brewing cycle at Hi-Wire from her perspective. Brewing at Hi-Wire is separated into departments, and she works solely on the hot side of the brew cycle.

28:24 - Favorite part of brewing

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Partial Transcript: What would you say is your favorite part of brewing?

Segment Synopsis: Gulotta discusses her love of the smell of a newly-opened bag of hops as well as the physicality of the job as her favorite parts of brewing.

29:52 - Least favorite part of brewing

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Partial Transcript: Is there a piece that you would say is your ... what's the bane of your brewing existence?

Segment Synopsis: Gulotta talks about the frustrations that come from a slow or stuck mash in the brewing cycle.

30:40 - Applying her brewing philosophy at an established brewery

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Partial Transcript: Hi-Wire was, as you mentioned, was kind of an established brand when you came in.

Segment Synopsis: Gulotta notes that her personal brewing philosophy aligns nicely with the philosophy at Hi-Wire. Both focus on quality and not just on trends or quick production.

32:47 - Pink Boots Society in Asheville

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Partial Transcript: We were talking about Pink Boots a little while ago.

Segment Synopsis: Gulotta serves as secretary of the newly-formed Pink Boots Society local chapter in Asheville. She discusses the value of Pink Boots in education and outreach.

Keywords: Pink Boots Society

35:51 - Being a woman in the beer industry

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Partial Transcript: Well you kind of hinted at this in that answer, but can you talk about some of the challenges that come with being a woman in this industry?

Segment Synopsis: Gulotta discusses the value of being visible as a woman in the beer industry. She tells a story of the owner's daughter seeing her brewing and being excited to see a woman working in the brew house.

Keywords: Biere de femme; Pink Boots Society

42:16 - Advice for a woman looking to become a brewer

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Partial Transcript: So if we had, you know you mentioned this with the student you talked with at the Pink Boots meeting.

Segment Synopsis: Gulotta advises any woman looking to become a brewer to go to school and get a formal education in brewing. She emphasizes the importance of the internship component at the A-B Tech brewing program in providing first-hand production experience.

44:39 - Favorite beer from a North Carolina brewery other than Hi-Wire

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Partial Transcript: We're going to ask you the question that is the hardest question it seems for every brewer to answer.

Segment Synopsis: Gulotta notes that the beers at Zillicoah Beer Company in Asheville are her favorites. She notes that their attention to detail impress her.

46:03 - Favorite Hi-Wire beers to drink

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Partial Transcript: And so, you know, you've mentioned the flagships and everything.

Segment Synopsis: Gulotta name the Hi-Wire Lager as her favorite of their beers.

47:55 - Comparing the beer culture in Oregon to North Carolina

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Partial Transcript: So one question that kind of popped up in my head, you were in Oregon before deciding to come back here, but you weren't doing production there, right?

Segment Synopsis: Gulotta discusses how most beer trends tend to start on the West Coast and migrate east. She also discusses the differences in how fresh hops taste in Oregon versus on the East Coast.

51:08 - Hobbies and interests outside of brewing

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Partial Transcript: So what kind of things do you like to do when you're not brewing?

Segment Synopsis: Gulotta discusses her interest in hiking, backpacking, and spending time outdoors. She also talks about her past experience and interest in singing classical music.

52:17 - Interview conclusion / closing credits

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Partial Transcript: That's pretty much the end of the questions that I came with.


EL: Can you say and spell your name, and let us know what your title is?

SG: Yeah. My name is Sarah Gulotta. It's S-A-R-A-H and G-U-L-O-T-T-A. And my position here at Hi-Wire is I am a production brewer.

EL: Awesome. So today is Thursday, June 28th.

SG: Correct.

EL: And we're at Hi-Wire Brewing in Asheville, North Carolina. So to start can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, and where you're from, and things like that.

SG: Yeah. I'm originally from a place called Downingtown in Pennsylvania. It's just outside of Philly, so I'm a hard core Philadelphia any sports fanatic. Go Eagles. I grew up right outside Philly in a town called Downingtown. It's actually where Victory Brewing is. I grew up about a mile from that brewery.


SG: I grew up there. I went to ... First time I went to college, I went to University of Virginia and I got my bachelor of arts in psychology, but I also studied music and Russian while I was there. After college, I went back to Philly for a little bit and then I moved out to Oregon, which is where I got into beer. And now I'm here in Asheville.

EL: Yeah. So let's talk a little bit more about how you got into beer.

SG: Okay. So while I was at University of Virginia I actually really got into wine. I think probably because I grew up so close to Victory, I was drinking ... I was drinking good beer in high school. We weren't drinking, you know, rot gut stuff. I was drinking craft beer. The first beer I ever had was Golden Monkey from Victory. So I already had a very high level of what good beer was. And so when I got to college and everyone's drinking like, Natty Light and Beast and 2:00all that crap, I didn't like it. And so I think it pushed me more towards wine. There's so many amazing vineyards around Charlottesville. So it wasn't just drinking wine, it was harassing these poor vintners telling me what they do.

SG: So when I graduated I originally thought I wanted to go into special education, and I kind of decided that may not be for me, so I moved to Oregon, like just kind of picked up and left, thinking I was going to get into the Pinot Noir industry out in Oregon. Again, I just kind of went out there without a plan and the first job that landed in my lap was actually at Rogue, just in their taproom and their tasting room. Literally the night I ... That's in a little town called Newport on the coast. The night I went there to go get a beer I walked out with a job, so it was pretty cool.

SG: Once I started learning about beer I was like, "Oh, this is so much more interesting than wine." I really fell in love with beer, and just Rogue makes a 3:00lot of different types, so I was able to really learn and really start to figure out what I liked in beer, what was really interesting. So, I knew I wanted to start making it and stop serving it. Right at that time my sister opened a restaurant right outside Asheville here called Louise's Kitchen. She's like, "Hey, there's a lot of beer in Asheville. Why don't you move out here? See what happens." As soon as I got there they started the brewing program at AB Tech [Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College]. Like within a month it was announced as soon as I got there. So I figured it was perfect timing, so I went back to school.

EL: Yeah. Can you talk a little bit about the program at AB Tech?

SG: Yeah. I was the first class.

EL: Oh, wow.

SG: We were the guinea pigs a little bit. At the time it was really just ... they basically just had one brewmaster, our teacher. They would have a couple 4:00adjuncts every now and then. It's actually grown a lot since then. Now they have several teachers, and my old brewmaster is now just in charge of stuff. It's really grown, but we were definitely the initial guinea pigs. It's a really well-rounded program. It's not just focused on production, even though that's a really strong component of it. Sales is also really important, marketing, beer law. Just learning every aspect of the beer industry.

SG: So, it's really great for anyone ... not even if you just want to be a production brewer like I am. A couple of my friends have gone to sales distribution here at Skyland. They're doing great. They love it. Many of us have gone on to be brewers, but it's definitely not the only option, which I think is important. Education is becoming so much more important for the beer industry in general. 10, 15 years ago you could just walk into brewery and kind of intern 5:00there and eventually work your way through and have no experience whatsoever. That's getting harder nowadays. You can, but it's going to take you a really long time to get to the position I'm at.

EL: Yeah.

SG: Having your education background now, it'll help you get a sales job. It'll help you become a brewer so much faster, and that's what brewers, now that this is a common thing, this beer education, now breweries are expecting that. So, it was definitely a good choice for me to pursue.

EL: Yeah. And when was it that you ... when was the program?

SG: I graduated three years ago, so I must've started in 2013.

EL: Okay.

SG: It's a two-year program with a summer internship in between. That summer internship is so important. We actually always take summer interns from the AB Tech program. We find that the interns we get from them are always fantastic. They're always great. That internship is so important because it really will 6:00show you whether this is it for you or not. We have had interns come in and they can't cut it. If you're not okay with washing kegs for eight hours, we all had to do it. We all have to do it still. I'm not above doing it right now. It has to get done. It just takes a certain work ethic, and having these internships ... that was absolutely the most important thing, at least for me, because it taught me that I- I can put up with this stuff, and I still like it.

EL: What did you do for your internship?

SG: I interned at a really small brewery out in Black Mountain, called Look Out. When I started interning there they were brewing on a Sabco system. While I was interning there they moved up to a three-barrel, and it was about to me and one other intern to kind of figure out how to work it. We had to do a lot on our 7:00own, and we had to figure it out on our own, but that was really helpful. Sometimes really getting your butt kicked, that's what you need.

EL: Yeah. Yeah. What kind of resources, even from AB Tech, but also since, do you kind of lean on to grow as a brewer, to learn?

SG: One of the main things that I got out of the program is actually now I do have this network of people that went through the program with me. One example, a really good friend of ours, Sam, he used to work for Catawba. Every once in a while he would run out of Biofine, so he could call us and he could come down and pick up Biofine. Or if for some reason we're having an issue with yeast I can call any number of people and we're not screwed for the day. I can go get yeast. We can continue our brewing. Everyone wants to help each other out. And especially coming out of that program we all want our friends to succeed and do 8:00well because, honestly, I just want to drink good beer, so if they're making good beer then everything's going great.

SG: So, definitely just coming out of school already with a network was great. Another network that I'm actually kind of newer to is the Pink Boot Society, especially within Asheville. Online, if you have a question, you can just post it. Women from all over the country, or actually all over the world, can answer it, help you out. It's just women helping women, which is fantastic. That's definitely a big resource as well. I think I ... I was kind of shied away from the Pink Boot Society for a little bit because I- I sort of struggle with the idea of, "Well, if I'm a woman in this industry why do I have to draw attention to it? If I'm actually equal do I need to make a big deal?" I don't know. I kind of just struggled with that concept.

SG: I was like, "Well, maybe I should just ... " Trying to figure out the best 9:00way to word it. For some reason I thought maybe blending into the background was going to be the easiest way for me to look like I was just a part of the industry, but now I'm realizing women still aren't there yet, so to be out on the forefront is actually more necessary. So, it took me a while to kind of learn that and come to terms with that, but now that I am I'm like, "Oh, yeah. Women brewers, Pink Boot Society. Let's just get all feminine with it. It's going to be great."

EL: That's awesome. We'll come back to Pink Boots in a few minutes. So, are there specific people who kind of stand out along the way who you maybe see as a mentor or who particularly helped you out along the way?

SG: Our brewmaster from AB Tech, his name's Jeff Urban ... Everyone calls him Puff, lovingly. I just remember one of the first things you're taught in class or what he said to us is, "I'm going to ruin beer for you." Because now I do 10:00think about it so critically. And mostly him kind of teaching me that's okay. You should be critical. You should not just go along with things. You should question everything. He's still a resource today. If I have an issue I'll call him. He has a general attitude that I kind of admire. Just kind of get your shit done and have fun. I don't know. Just like I kind of looked up to him a lot. Just an overall really good guy. Yeah, I think that's everything. Sorry.

EL: So, you've been brewing professionally since 20 ...

SG: 2015.

EL: 15? It's only been three years, but there have been massive changes ...

SG: Oh yeah.

EL: ... here and industry-wide. Can you talk a little bit about some of those changes that you've seen just on the brewing side. Not even just kind of the community side, but just beer and beer styles and production.


SG: Well, first of all, it does still blow my mind that we're still opening breweries. Even within ... I mean ... It kind of blows ... I'm like, "Really, you're going to open another one?" But it still works. It's still going. Obviously, there's always going to be some trend. I think when I first started brewing here it was when sessions were really starting to take hold. And sours have always been kind of building a little bit. Of course, now the trend is the hazy IPA. You're always going to have the trend, and there are some breweries that really kind of hitch their wagon to the trends.

SG: I'm really happy to see a lot of breweries are starting to take a little bit more care in their ... in the classics. Like for here at Hi-Wire, we do our lager and our brown. Those are my two favorite beers that we make. Like you said, Carli [Smith, head brewer] at Bold Missy, her brown is fucking 12:00spectacular. Because trends will come and go, but people are always going to want a good lager. They're always going to want a good brown. IPA is starting to get ... I mean I miss the West Coast IPA. No one around here is making that often, and not as well as I can get it on the West Coast. It's just kind of these more classic style beers that I ... As beer drinkers are becoming more knowledgeable about beer in general, I think that's going to lead to more people appreciating the simpler styles. But, they're the hardest to make, and they're just so good, they'll never go out of style.

SG: So, I'm glad to see that despite all the trends, those things are still holding strong and still holding popular. But, I think just the amount of growth is just so massive. I mean we're about to open our third taproom out in Durham. 13:00We just announced that last week. Now you're getting to the point where there's not only more breweries opening up, but you also have more breweries having more taprooms. The growth has just been exponential. Asheville I think is starting to become a little saturated. I think it's going to start leading to some ... I think it's actually going to make people make better beer. I've noticed that it's made people have to step up their game, and I think that's just going to continue.

EL: Yeah. So, let's talk about Hi-Wire.

SG: Yeah. I love Hi-Wire.

EL: So, what initially kind of attracted you to the position here? What led you here?

SG: I knew that I wanted to work for Hi-Wire when I graduated. I didn't even apply anywhere else. My then boyfriend, no husband, he's a cellarman here. Back when Hi-Wire was just starting out, so this was before we started school. We met 14:00in school, me and my husband.

EL: When did Hi-Wire ...

SG: Hi-Wire started in 2000 ... So, 2012, 2013.

EL: That's what I was thinking.

SG: So, right when it was opened, it actually started in the only brewery to fail in Asheville. It was called Craggy. It was the only brewery to fail here in Asheville. So, the guys from Hi-Wire took over the space. They actually kept on one of the old brewers from Craggy because he knew how to work everything. So, that brewer's name is Luke. My husband's ex-girlfriend used to live above Luke, and he would literally stalk Luke. Luke would take his dog out to go pee. My husband would take his dog out, be like, "Hey, I hear you're starting a brewery." So, he basically stalked Luke until Luke gave him an internship, an unpaid internship.

SG: At the time John was preparing to go to school like I was, and they were like, "Well, why don't you just stay on? Don't go to school. We'll hire you." 15:00And he was like, "You know what? I think in the long run getting an education is going to be better," so he left. But, Hi-Wire kind of told him, "As soon as you're done come to us. We'll give you a job." So, when John and I both graduated I got to know the guys from Hi-Wire really well ... because of that relationship. Hi-Wire was just opening this facility, so this was 2015. Hi-Wire was just opening this facility, expanding from ... Let's see. I think our first year we were almost 10-thousand barrels a year, and that was probably like triple production from before.

EL: Wow.

SG: Yeah. It jumped up pretty quick. So, he got hired on here as a cellarman. They were still putting the bottling line together, so they weren't ready to hire anybody else quite yet. So, I was like, "I will take anything that you will give me." So, they were like, "We have a tour guide position that's going to be like one day a week." I was like, "I'll fuckin' do it. Sounds great." And I just 16:00got my foot in the door. Welcome to Hi-Wire.

EL: What initially attracted you to the position here?

SG: I knew I wanted to work for Hi-Wire when I graduate, actually before I graduated. My husband had a really strong relationship with Hi-Wire. He interned here actually before ... like right when Hi-Wire was starting to become a thing, when they were just one location, small brewery. He stalked the head brewer. He used to live above him. So, every time the head brewer would take his dog out my husband would take his dog out and stalk him. So, he interned here unpaid for about nine months before we started school. Hi-Wire initially was like, "Don't go to school. Come work for us." But, my husband wanted to get his degree, as did I, so when he graduated Hi-Wire was like, "We'll hire you," right off the bat. So, he kind of knew he was walking into a job right when he graduated.

SG: Just from getting to know all of the folks here through my husband I just 17:00really liked the culture, and I knew I really wanted to work for them. I knew they were going in a really great direction. I loved that their base, their flagships were a lager, a brown, and an IPA, the classics that I love, but they weren't afraid to do weird shit too. So, I always liked the direction they were going, and it's also ... I'm very visually stimulated. So, they always had the prettiest labels and the best marketing, so they suckered me in. Like I said, I knew I wanted to work for them. I didn't apply anywhere else.

SG: When I graduated they were opening this facility that we're at now, the big top. The bottling line was still getting up and running. They were still even trying to get the brewhouse up and running, so they weren't ready to hire people. The only position open was a tour guide position like on Saturdays from like one to three, and I was like, "Fuck it. I'll take it. Sounds great." because I knew I could get my foot in the door, and I did. And I did that for a month, and a month later our, um, operations manager, Ben, was like, "Hey, I 18:00need someone on the bottling line," so then I did work on the bottling line for about a year and then, uh, came time to move up to the brew house. Um, so I definitely moved up through Hi-Wire. I started at the very, very bottom, and I moved up to a production brewer. I don't know. I always felt really proud of that. I did that ... I went from tour guide to brewer in two years, so I'll take it.

EL: Yeah. Yeah. What would you say is the main mission for Hi-Wire?

SG: Hi-Wire's purpose, our mission, is to ... Beer is supposed to be fun. Not take ourselves so serious. That's why it's a frickin' circus. That's why there's a tiger behind me right now. It should be fun. Hi-Wire completely embodies the idea that you can take the science of making beer seriously without taking 19:00yourself too seriously. I think that can be kind of an issue with a lot of breweries nowadays. It's starting to get all hoity-toity and get your nose ... Beer is supposed to be fun. So, it's making beer accessible. Our lager, it's a simple lager. It's a German-style lager. But, if we have someone that's drank Bud Light their whole life they can still drink something here. It shouldn't be something that is exclusive. It's making craft beer accessible.

SG: Here at this production brewery we really focus on our flagships, our brown, a session IPA, an IPA, and our lager, obviously. We have a very strong lagering program. The best beer that we make here, my favorite beer of all time, is our Oktoberfest. It's called Zirkusfest. We actually won a gold medal for it at GABF in 2016. It's the best beer. I was like brewing it two years ago. I'm like, 20:00"I just want to drink it. It's so good."

EL: Let's talk about the process of brewing that one.

SG: Okay.

EL: What goes into it?

SG: That one, so we use German Weyermann malts for that one. I mean it's mostly pilsner, but we also use our Munich. When you win a gold medal at GABF with a Weyermann's malt they send you these bright red overalls with the Weyermann thing on it. Except it was like too small. They don't fit anyone here. I think they fit our super skinny brewer, but we just have them hanging on a rack back there. It looks like Mario got raptured. It's awesome.

SG: It is a just really nice malty beer. It gets lagered for eight weeks. It takes a lot of care. A lot of craft breweries are hesitant to make lagers. 21:00They'll do them every once in a while, but to really do them right, they're tying up your tank for eight to 10 weeks. We make some higher gravity lagers like a Dopplebock and a Baltic porter. Those will have to sit in there for 10 weeks because they're 10% beers, so they need to hang out there for a while. A lot of places can't afford to tie up your tank that long. Hi-Wire made it a priority very early on to be able to do it.

SG: So, we do have a lot of fermentation space, specifically so we can make all of our ales, which we can pop out in two week's time. But, then we can actually sit on these really good lagers and let them fully just get super clean, super crisp. We're doing it right. That was the other aspect that really drew me to Hi-Wire was the care that was going into these beers, that if you really want to do them well you just got to be careful and you got to take your time. I'm so excited for Oktoberfest.


EL: Yeah. Sounds delicious. Let's talk a little bit about the system.

SG: Okay.

EL: Can you talk a little bit about the system that you guys have and the production that you guys are doing these days?

SG: Absolutely. We have a 30-barrel brewhouse. We have mostly 90-barrel tanks. We have 19 90-barrel fermenters. Then we have a couple 60-barrels if we're doing slightly smaller batches. So, we have a 30-barrel brewhouse. It's also a four-vessel brewhouse, which allows us to be super efficient. We have a mash mixer, a lauter tun, a kettle, and a whirlpool. We've actually kind of ... We had our welder come in and actually install separate lines, so that ... just to make us more efficient. We used to only be able to brew three times in one day. It's me and one other brewer; that's it.

EL: Yeah.

SG: We would brew three times in one day, and that would fill up 190. We've upped production even more, and so now we can brew four times in one day, and so we're actually able to start ... Before we would ... you start off in your mash 23:00mixer, go to your lauter, you run off into your kettle. Well, that kind of takes up that ... that's the longest bulk of time, going from the lauter to the kettle. Well, now, once the kettle is full we can actually start again and start running off into our mash mixer now, so we can just be continuously filling. It's acting as a wort receiver.

EL: Yeah.

SG: So, we can just be continually running off beer. So, we're just ... there's no down time anymore. So, now that we're super efficient it's the exact same amount of time as it was brewing three batches as it is now brewing four batches. And it's still just me and one other dude.

EL: How many barrels do y'all do usually like per year?

SG: Last year I think we were up to 15-thousand barrels. That's just going to get more this year. I think now that we're doing these four batches ... We went through an expansion back in March. We added eight fermenters then, so we're 24:00expected to do a lot more. It'll probably be close to 20-thousand.

EL: And you guys do a lot of distribution here in the taproom, but you bottle.

SG: Yes.

EL: You mentioned the bottle line too.

SG: So, we are actually available in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, and Ohio. There's apparently a very large vacation ... It's popular to go from Cincinnati to Asheville. It's apparently just a really hot ... Asheville's a hot spot for Ohio people. So, it was literally our bartenders going, "We're getting all these fucking people from Cincinnati," and they're like, "All right. I guess we'll sell in Ohio." And to be fair actually, the distributor that we're working with in Ohio, they really wanted us, and they really came after us. So, we were like, "All right, cool, we'll open Ohio." I think a couple months ago, we opened Kentucky as well. So, we're getting there.

SG: We distribute to all of those places, but we only bottle out of this 25:00facility. We bottle and can here. We just got our canning line back in March, so that's been fun to play with. Our bottling line has been kind of Frankensteined together with old parts ... or like old machinery. Our filler is from the 70s. I want to say it's from 1975, but we've got really smart dudes that can make that thing work. That was actually the ... The part about winning the gold medal for the lager ... or for the Oktoberfest, it was really that, we didn't make sure that one certain batch was really good and that the one bottling run was really good. We literally just pulled a bottle off the bottle line and sent it off to be GABF to be judged, and it won. It was really just that all of our processes were already that good. That's what made everyone feel really great about that, that everyone had a hand in it and everyone was doing their job correctly, and 26:00that's why that beer won.

SG: So, even though there can be some pretty old equipment out there we know how to make it work. Our centrifuge is so old it literally says, "Made in West Germany on it." I think it's Westphalia. That things pretty old too. My husband's the cellarman here, and the man knows how to make that kitty purr, so it works out.

EL: So, this may not even have an answer, but what would you say ... what's a typical brewing cycle look like around here? You probably don't have a typical day.

SG: I do on the brewing side. I don't know how typical our situation is. We are very separated in our departments. I work exclusively hot side. I will brew the 27:00beer, and as soon as I'm done knocking out it's the cellar's problem. We all talk to each other to make sure that what we're doing, how it affects everyone down the line. But, in a lot of other breweries you might switch off. Maybe you'll brew for two weeks and then you'll go work in a cellar for a couple of weeks or you'll switch it around. We're all a little bit specialized here. For most of us, at least here at Hi-Wire, we actually do kind of ... I typically come in at 2:30. I do the last brew and a half, and then I have to do a clean. That's typically what I'll do. Me and my other brewer, we'll switch from time to time. But, really for us, we're exclusively brewing, and if you're in the cellar you are cleaning tanks and ... and transferring beer and dry hopping beer. If you're in packaging you're ... It can get a little ... You're in your little 28:00box, but everyone who's doing what they're doing is also really good at what they're doing, so there's a trade off there.

EL: Yeah.

SG: Like I really know how to fix my brewhouse very quickly. If something's going awry I can fix it really quickly because I do it every single day, so it makes this place super efficient. Yeah. I think that's ...

EL: Yeah, that makes sense. What would you say is your favorite part of brewing?

SG: Oh, that's so hard.

EL: I know. It's a very difficult question.

SG: I'm going to take it even like on the really, really tiny level of like there's nothing quite like if you've got a really good bag of hops and you slice it, a fresh open bag, and it just comes flying out at you. We had this bag of Simcoe recently; it was just like pure grapefruit. And every time ... I was like excited every time I opened it. I was just like, "Oh my god, it smells so good." I know that's like on the tiniest level, but I think you kind of really have to 29:00appreciate it. I mean because this job can get really hard. I like that it's hard. I couldn't sit at a computer all day. I would lose my damn mind. The very first job I had out of college was I worked at the Philadelphia Zoo working with giraffes and horses. I was working like ... I would walk 16 miles a day. I would have to shovel crap. And I was the happiest I ever was. If I go home and I'm not gross and exhausted then I feel like I didn't do anything, so I'm in the correct industry.

EL: Yeah. Yeah.

SG: So, really, it's just kind of like I like being physical, and this is a very physical job. If you're not a physical person, this is not the job for you.

EL: Yeah. Yeah. So, is there a piece that you would say is your ... what's the bane of your brewing existence?

SG: Oh, god. I mean it just ... when something ... there's nothing like a slow 30:00or stuck mash. When that happens I just want to kill everything. I get so mad. I'll be like ... because I'm usually pretty good at freeing it up, and when I can't I get so frustrated. My husband will be walking by. He's like, "You want to get lunch?" I'm like, "I can't get lunch right now!" He's like, "All right, it's fine. It's going to be okay." But, then it feels good when I can free it up and I'm like, "Yeah, gotcha." But, oh god, when I have a stuck mash I'm not a pleasant person to talk to.

EL: Oh, goodness. So, Hi-Wire was, as you mentioned, kind of like an established brand when you came in.

SG: Yeah. Yeah.

EL: How do you kind of merge that with your own personal interest in brewing philosophy?

SG: Well, I'm glad the two align pretty well. Like I said, I like trends as they 31:00are every once in a while, and I like that Hi-Wire will pay attention to that, but in the end it's all really about making really good clean beer. I get really disheartened sometimes when I'll go to other breweries and it just seems like it just got pumped out as fast as it could, and it ... if you just took a little bit more time with it, a little bit more care into it, if you could find someone in your brewery that can taste diacetyl, something. These are all very small mistakes that I think a lot of small craft breweries, they just either don't have the education or the capabilities to make it better, or the patience to make it better. That can be really frustrating.

SG: So, luckily I think the reason that Hi-Wire has done so well is because they do care about those little things. They do care about ... I'll even say, one of 32:00our more recent batches of lager, something was a little bit off. I kind of appreciate the fact that we all kind of take that hit. We all kind of feel it. Like, "Everyone drink this beer. Let's talk about what happened. Let's figure out what went wrong," and not just sweep it under the rug. Does that make sense?

SG: It was I think that this was my first job coming out of brewing industry, maybe it did help shape where I wanted to go, but just my personal beliefs in how beer should be run, how it should be marketed. Hi-Wire was already going that direction anyway. So, I think I just really lucked out.

EL: Yeah. Yeah. Well, we mentioned ... We were talking about Pink Boots a little while ago. Can you talk a little bit about Pink Boots? I know statewide we're starting to see kind of chapters popping up in different cities. Can you talk a 33:00little bit about how kind of the localized Pink Boots is working around here?

SG: Yeah. We actually just had our first meeting last week.

EL: Yay.

SG: We had our first meeting last week. I am the secretary for the local chapter. Our two chapters are Leah Rainis and Katie Smith. It was good. Our first initial meeting was really just trying to figure out who's here and what they want to get out of it. We do have a lot of really cool resources nearby. We have Riverbend Malting Company. There's a woman who works there. So, we can get her perspective. One of the women in Pink Boots works at White Labs, the yeast provider here in town. So, she's going to do educational classes on that.

SG: The local Asheville chapter is still getting started. Like I said, it was really just our first meeting, but it is really exciting. Several students, both from the AB Tech program and the Blue Ridge program, showed up, which was 34:00awesome. It was really cool to talk to one of the girls. She was a little bit like me. I never homebrewed. I hate homebrewing. I've done it twice in my life and I fuckin' hate it because it makes my whole house dirty and I just hate it. I'd rather do it here and it's clean and it's not in my way and it's fine. I hate homebrewing. But, this one girl, she's starting in the fall, and she's coming from like a pharmaceutical background. She was like, "I literally just did this. I'm going to see how it works out." So, it was cool to talk to her and actually kind of calm her down a little bit. I was like, "Well, maybe you should focus on lab work because breweries need that nowadays." That's becoming a really necessary thing for craft breweries.

SG: It was really cool to get all these different perspectives, and it was cool to give advice too. I am getting to that point in my career where I mean, yeah, I do know what the hell I'm doing. I know what should be happening around here. 35:00So, to be able to actually help others, that's been really fun, and then to meet people who know more than I do and can explain things to me, that's been really exciting. We've got cool ideas like we want to go out to Fonta Flora, that area, and go foraging for beer ingredients, maybe taking a self-defense class. I think that would be real important. I'm almost always here super late by myself. I mean I'm a tough girl from Philly. I'm all right.

SG: Pink Boots is also open to bartenders wanting to ... having a beertender is like a career now. That can be a thing, helping them get Cicerone. Really just helping women in their careers around here. I'm really excited to see what we can do. I'm super pumped about it.

EL: Yeah. Well, you kind of hinted at this in that answer, but can you talk about some of the challenges that come with being a woman in this industry?

SG: Yeah. I do consider myself a little lucky because I haven't had to deal with 36:00the overt sexism. I've never had to deal with, "Women brewer," or even just ... I've never had to deal with that, but I mean every single ... We have tours daily here at Hi-Wire. Every single tour that comes through, it's kind of like, "Oh, it's a girl brewing." It's not a malicious thing, but it's just clearly we're still a novelty, and when you're still in that realm you can still kind of feel like you're not being taken completely seriously. So, like I said, it's not a malicious, overt, sexism thing that I've ever dealt with. That doesn't mean that doesn't exist. It still does, and it sucks. A friend of mine at a prominent brewery in Oregon, she really couldn't move up, and blatantly because the owner told her because she was a woman. That still happens today, and that's really frustrating. I've lucked out, and that's never been an issue for me, but it 37:00really is those little ... It's clearly just not common knowledge that girls can do this.

SG: I personally take a little bit of joy in that. I like to kind of give people a hard time when they do come through. Although it can get really annoying. I'll be up on the brew deck in my full gear, and they'll be like, "Oh, is that the sales girl?" And I'll be like, "Are you fucking kidding me?" Like really? So, those ones can get a little frustrating. But, just the off-hand ones of like, "Oh, it's a girl brewing," and then they're like, "That's cool," and then from now on it's a normal thing for them. So, we need to be more visible and to be a little bit more out there.

SG: One thing I never ... I don't know. I've always been kind of very empowered in whatever I want to do. My dad can't build shit, but my mom can do anything. I came home one day and she had like a deck built. My dad can't fix anything. He's 38:00useless. But, my mom can fix everything in the house. So, I think I just had this person, like I was like, "Of course women can do this." She built her own house when she was like 25. That was what I grew up with, so that's what I was used to, so I never really understood. I was ... I just never put that own stereotype on myself. I didn't think that was even a thing. So, it was a little weird when people were like, "Oh, you're doing that? That's super strange."

SG: One of our owners here at Hi-Wire, he has a five-year-old daughter. She's five. And this is a very ridiculous environment, so she doesn't come around very often, but she knows Hi-Wire, and she knows what we do and everything. She understands that. I didn't know this, but every Sunday he would bring her in while the taproom was still closed, and she could run around and we had fish back here and stuff, so she'd want to go do that. That was like their father-daughter outing. I was here cleaning one day, just up on the brewhouse, and she talked to me a little bit and she wanted to take pictures of me up 39:00there, and I was like, "Okay."

SG: He came in to me the next week and he was like, "You're her hero." He was like, "She didn't ... " She was like, "Is she brewing?" And he was like, "Yeah." So, still whenever she wants to flip through the pictures she wants to see pictures of me up on the brew deck. He told me that story, and I was just like, "Damn, that's awesome." Just being visible for girls to just see that you can do whatever the hell that you want. She had no concept of that before, but now that she saw me up there brewing, she probably won't go into the brewing industry, but it might think that she can do something else that maybe a lot of boys can do.

SG: So, I don't know. That was my kind of transition from maybe not trying to make a deal that I with as a woman in the brewing industry to being like, "Oh, that's why it's important." That was kind of my light bulb moment, and I was 40:00like, "That was awesome." She's the cutest.

EL: To tie it in with Pink Boots, I mean that's where something like Biere de Femme can really fit in too.

SG: Yeah. That's been really huge too. Actually, Biere de Femme was the first like all women's beer festival in the country, which was really cool. So, now Pink Boots nationally is meeting with the Biere de Femme girls to try to make that ... to see how they did the layout and everything, and try to have that replicated in other areas, which is freaking awesome. And really just, you have an entire brew festival, and it's shocking how many women there are. I also like the Biere de Femme Festival because it encourages all the women from the brewery to be a part of making that beer for Biere de Femme.

SG: When we do it here at Hi-Wire, of course I make the recipe and i do the bulk of some of the brewing stuff, but our event coordinator will come. One of our owners is a woman. Our accountant. All these women that work within the brewery. 41:00Maybe they don't have to be a brewer to really come together. We made a Belgian strong this year, so as we were brewing we popped open a couple Belgian strong bottles for everyone to taste what that style is supposed to be like, what I was trying to go for.

SG: It's cool to see ... That's the other aspect, Pink Boots, is that it's not just about production; it's anyone with the beer industry. The more you know about beer in general, it's going to help you in your career over here. So, I like that aspect of Pink Boots a lot. I'm glad it's not just production girls.

EL: Yeah. I think it's a good introduction for folks to just see that there are that many breweries with that many women.

SG: Absolutely. Absolutely.

EL: Yeah.

SG: And that most places now do have at least one woman in production. I was even shocked when I went to Biere de Femme. That was the other reason I always kind of always felt a little weird about even doing interviews and stuff like 42:00this, because I'm like, "Well, I'm not the only girl that's fuckin' doing this." It's really nice that as a group we're all kind of getting a voice and getting these places to showcase that we exist and that we're kicking ass doing it.

EL: Yeah. Yeah. If we had ... You mentioned this with the student that you talked to at the Pink Boots meeting. But, if someone wandered in right now, a woman wandered in right now and was like, "I want to get into the production side of brewing," what advice would you give her?

SG: Go to school. Go to school. Mostly, the reason I really liked the AB Tech program is because they ... you have to have that internship. You'll get all of the scientific background that you really need. When I was at school, like I said, we were still like the guinea pigs. All the equipment was still being installed and all of this crap. It's not like you're going to brew on a 43:0030-barrel brewhouse at school. That's just not how it's going to work out. But, you're going to get the science behind everything that's happening. A lot of these guys that go from homebrewing to just starting a brewery, they might miss some of that nuance stuff. You're going to get that. You're also, I think that the more you understand the beer industry whole it's going to help you even in production.

SG: I went on a sales call with one of our sales reps, and just learning what he does and how he needs to pitch the beer. Learning all of those little aspects of the industry is just going to make you better at your job. So, because something like the AB Tech program, it is so well-rounded, you're going to get all of those, but really it comes down to that internship because a lot of people would be like, "Wow, being a brewer is so cool." Yeah, it's cool, but you get your ass kicked, and if you don't like getting your ass kicked this isn't for you. So, it's really a rude wake up call for a bunch of people.


SG: I mean it sucks. Whenever we do get a female intern I feel like I'm always kind of rooting for her a little bit more, and it's not because she's a woman; it's because she's like, "This isn't fun." And I'm like, "If it's not fun for you, it's not for you." I got guys saying the exact same thing. So, before you go leaping into it to have this internship to really kick your ass, see if it's something that you actually really do love. I think that's so important.

EL: Yeah.

SG: Yeah. That's the biggest thing I think.

EL: Yeah. That makes perfect sense. So, we're going to ask you the question that is the hardest question it seems for every brewer to answer.

SG: Okay.

EL: What's your favorite beer from a North Carolina brewery other than your own?

SG: I have to pick one. I know the brewery. I'm just trying to think which one I want.

EL: You can go with the brewery.

SG: Okay.

EL: We'll let you off easy.

SG: Right now my favorite brewery in North Carolina is a place called Zillicoah. 45:00It's started by a guy named John Parks who used to be our specialty brewer here at Hi-Wire. He did all of our sours and wild ales, and he branched off to start his own place. The guy just understands beer. Everything he makes is so good. He makers this patters because that is just like so fucking delicious. He made a Vienna lager that was awesome. It's that attention to detail and not just pushing a beer out to push a beer out. He gets really intense with his beer. That's why some of the best beers I've ... my favorite Hi-Wire beers came from him.

EL: Yeah.

SG: He's always been someone I've kind of looked up to, just how into it he gets. All of his beers are so good. Go to Zillicoah. There's also a taco truck there that are the best tacos you'll ever have in your entire life, so it's just a great experience. You can take your dog.

EL: Sounds pretty awesome. Sounds pretty awesome. You've mentioned the flagships 46:00and everything. What's your favorite beer to drink, not necessarily to brew, but what's your favorite ...

SG: On a regular basis of our flagships, the lager. I always do think that is kind of funny because like I said earlier if someone comes in off the street that's only ever been drinking Bud Light they could drink this and not be offended. Well, guess what? It's what all of the brewers here are drinking all of the time. Everyone kind of goes through their progression of what beers they like. I think I was into my weird beers kind of early on in my beer education. I think we would always vacation really close to where Dogfish Head is, so growing up, weird beers were there all the time. So, I kind of got that out of my ... Don't get me wrong. I love sours. I love weird-ass beers. But, everyone kind of comes back to, "I just want a lager," or "I just want a brown." Yeah, so lager, all the time.

EL: Yeah. It's good to have a good solid one to go back to.


SG: Exactly. And then as much as I was geeking out over the Oktoberfest. Any lager. Oktoberfest. Our Dopplebock is so good. Lagers. I like lagers.

EL: Yeah. Yeah. And one of the things that folks have been telling us is that lagers seem to be the new trending beer too.

SG: I hope so.

EL: Yeah.

SG: Well, mostly because I want to drink other people's. I love mine. It's great. But, it is cool to see what other people are doing with it.

EL: Yeah.

SG: Yeah. Just to see breweries get better at it, when they start realizing that they need to take their time with it and everything, it's cool to see people grow that way. A lager to me is a really good way to tell how well that brewery is doing, because it takes so much time and care. You can't just cover up the flavor with a shit ton of hops. I mean I guess you could, but whatever.

EL: Yeah. Yeah. One question that kind of popped up in my head, you were in 48:00Oregon before deciding to come back here ...

SG: Yeah.

EL: ... but you weren't doing production there, right?

SG: No, no. I was just in the tasting room there.

EL: But, can you kind of compare ... is there a way to compare the Oregon environment to here? I mean those are two ... They seem to be very different beer cultures.

SG: It is very different beer cultures, and I mean to be perfectly honest what happens on the West ... When things get popular here, aside from the hazy IPA. The hazy IPA is the New England style beer, and that's been an East Coast thing. But, typically I have notice that if there is a beer trend it starts in California, Oregon, Washington, and it will make its way east. One of the other really ... The fresh hops out there really taste different. North Carolina, we're not a great spot to grow hops, so if you want to make a fresh hop beer it's not going to be the same as if you can do a fresh hop beer out there. There 49:00is definitely ... If it only takes 50 miles from the Willamette Valley to get some, it's going to be a little bit fresher.

SG: So, I do think that the trends will start there and come out this way. I think right now the champagne style of beer is really popular out there right now, and it's starting to come this way. Actually, the Asheville pink we made, that was our International Women's Day beer that we made this year was a champagne style hop beer. I do think sometimes on the East Coast we're catching up a little bit with the trends, which is ... I mean, whatever. It's fine. I do think that the average beer drinker and consumer out there is maybe a little bit more knowledgeable than the average one I've met out here. We're still kind of trying to get people back on with ...

SG: We actually did a test with our lager one time. We wanted to see if we could 50:00shorten the amount of time that we could lager it just to see. You never know. We actually did it at ... We tasted it at four weeks, six weeks, and eight weeks. We brought in people who were not brewers, just average people to taste it. They would say that the ones that were at four weeks and six weeks, those had issues with it. That's what we as brewers perceive as, but to them it tasted more craft because it was off. I think that's still an issue that we're getting better at in North Carolina, but it still needs to ... it's still something we're working on.

SG: Like I said earlier, my brewmaster said he's going to ruin beer for me. He did. because I really do struggle to kind of go around sometimes and not nitpick. I think now the average beer consumer is getting smarter here, or at least what constitutes a good clean beer. Now that that's happening I think now 51:00we're starting to catch up.

EL: Yeah.

SG: I think that's only good.

EL: Yeah. Yeah. Definitely. What kind of things do you like to do when you're not brewing?

SG: I have two dogs, my babies, and we are really big outdoorsy people, so we're camping every weekend. We're hiking, backpacking. I never slow down. It's really bad. On our honeymoon everyone was like, "Oh, are you going to go lay on a beach somewhere?" I'm like, "No, we trekked throughout Zion and Grand Staircase-Escalante. So, like I said, I always like to be tired. We're really bad about just staying still. So, just doing stuff outdoors all the time. We're about to ... My husband's really into rock-climbing. He's about to get me into rock-climbing. I'm a little scared, but it's going to be great. I am a really ... I did study music in college for a long time. I thought I was going to be an opera singer actually for a very, very long time, so I still just kind of 52:00practice that. I was in the Asheville Symphony Choir here for a while.

EL: Oh, great.

SG: Until I shift my shift, so I can't be at rehearsals all the time. But, singing classical music, that's my deal.

EL: That's very cool.

SG: Yep.

EL: Yeah. That's pretty much the end of the questions I came with.

SG: Cool.

EL: Is there anything we didn't talk about that you want to talk about in order to kind of get the big picture of you and your place in the industry?

SG: I don't think so.

EL: Okay.

SG: I think I got everything.

EL: That's okay. Well, thank you.

SG: Yeah, absolutely.

EL: Thank you so much. We really appreciate it.