Name: Julia Hanlon
Brewery: Steamworks Brewing Co.
# of years in craft beer industry: Ummm, almost 1! But 11 years in the brewing industry.
Why did you decide to join the craft beer industry?
Because I love beer and I wanted to make beer that I was excited about drinking…and that my friends would be excited about drinking! When I first started my career in the brewing industry with Molson 11 years ago, craft beer was not a big thing. Molson gave me a great foundation in brewing science and a ton of practical experience in how to operate a brewery from raw materials to packaged beer, but there was not much room to explore the creative side of brewing. That, for me, is the most exciting thing about craft brewing.
What is your favourite aspect of working in a craft brewery?
Probably the people I work with and the local craft beer community in general—it’s very collaborative as opposed to the competitiveness of other industries. I think the general sense is that the more we help and push one another to make great beer, the better it is for all craft breweries.
What does a day in your shoes typically look like?
Every day is pretty different, but typically I will arrive in the brewery and do a walk around to check in with people and make sure things are all going smoothly. I check the progress of our fermentations (gravity, temperature, cell counts, etc) to make sure everything looks good. And when that is done, I will taste the beer! The taste, coupled with some basic beer analysis that we do will determine if I make any recipe adjustments. Depending on the day, I may also work on a new recipe, either for a full scale brew or for our new 20 gallon pilot system. Tasting beer (for sensory purposes only, of course!) and building new recipes are the fun parts, but what most people probably don’t realize is that brewing (at least in a production brewery) is a lot about planning. Its not glamourous, but scheduling tank rotation, establishing good yeast cropping/propagation and sanitation practices and making sure we have the right ingredients at the right time are all essential parts of making great beer. Innovation is also important (and I am also a bit of a geek) so I like to listen to pod-casts from the Craft Brewers Conference when I have a chance.
If you could change one thing about the local industry what would it be?
I don’t think I have a good answer for this since I have only been part of the local craft industry for just under a year and maybe I am still in the honeymoon phase…but I can’t say I would change anything! I love that so many new breweries are popping up and making great beer and that Vancouver and BC are becoming so well known for great beer.
Why do you think there aren’t more women like you in the industry?
I get asked some variation of this question quite a lot…and to be honest I don’t know the answer. In my own experience, I certainly have never come across any barriers to being a brewer because I am women. I would say if anybody (man or women) wants to work in the brewing industry, they can and they should!
What do you think is going to drive growth in local craft beer over the next 5 years?
There is a huge demand for great local craft beer. I think craft beer drinkers are becoming more and more discerning and educated about beer, so I think we need to continue to offer a lot of variety and innovation in terms of beer styles and flavours.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I see myself being 40, mother to a 9 year old and 6 year old. Holy shit! Oh, and I’ll still be making and enjoying beer.
Who inspires you?
There is not just one person. I am inspired the team I work with, each of whom bring something valuable and unique to the table. As an industry, I think brewers and breweries are constantly raising the bar on making great tasting beer, which is as inspiring as it is challenging.
What is your favourite local beer that was not brewed at your brewery?
Hard to choose one, but probably Strange Fellows Roxanne and Four Winds Pequeno Tequila Barrel Aged Berliner Weisse.
Julia will be participating in the Drink In The Story event at Victoria Beer Week. Held on International Women’s Day, March 8, 2016, Julia will step on stage two other influential women in BC Craft Beer. Julia Hanlan, Karen Kuzyk and Chloe Smith will talk about their experiences in BC Craft Beer from the unique perspective of a woman in a male dominated industry. To learn more about Victoria Beer Week and the Drink In The Story event visit victoriabeerweek.com.