Beer is as old as civilization, and women have been brewing beer since the beginning. It’s only been in the last couple of centuries – due in part to the industrialization of brewing – that beer has become more associated with men. But since the 1970s, more and more women have been entering and excelling in the beer industry. In the United States alone, women are behind the creation of countless iconic and beloved beers.
Today, we’re highlighting two of the women on the Firestone Walker brew team who have a hand in crafting and perfecting your favorite brews: Amy Crook and Molly Reed. Read on to find out about the integral roles each of them plays at the brewery.
Amy Crook, Quality Control Manager
Amy’s relationship with the industry started when she drank a craft beer for the first time, which she recalls being Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo. Although she’s been a fan of beer, she didn’t originally set out to have a career in beer. “I studied food science at Cal Poly, and I was initially interested in sensory science as an undergraduate,” she said. “I found an internship here at Firestone that included some work in the sensory department, and while working here, I realized how interesting and dynamic the craft beer world is.”
Like many, Amy’s palate has changed a bit since that first craft beer she tasted. She now prefers lagers like our Pivo Pils or Cal Poly Gold. “I am not a fan of heavy hops or bitterness, and high-ABV beers hit me too hard,” she said. “I think the majority of lagers have the perfect amount of hop bitterness and aren’t too boozy.”
Having started at Firestone Walker in 2014, Amy’s been working in the beer for nearly a decade – so long she joked that she feels like someone’s grandparent sometimes when she says things like, ‘back in my day the brewhouse was just a parking lot.’
She’s worked through the ranks of our lab in that time, and in her current role as Quality Control Manager, she’s now overseeing a team of a dozen people who spend their days ensuring the beers we make and distribute are of the highest quality possible. Thanks to Amy’s leadership in this area, Firestone Walker is renowned for the consistent quality of the liquid we put out into the world. So every time you get a perfect Firestone beer off the grocery store shelf, you have Amy and her team in the lab to thank.
Amy credits her success to her assertiveness, a quality which has helped her achieve her individual professional goals and ensured her work – and that of those around her – exceeds even the highest expectations.
Her advice to others who are interested in beginning a career in beer? “Stand your ground, and be assertive with what you want and need.”
Molly Reed, Wild Ale Blender
As a former Pennsylvanian, Molly’s first beer was, of course, a Yuengling. Her taste has shifted a bit more to the wild side over the years, which is fitting considering she’s the brewery’s Wild Ale Blender. The preference is about more than just the taste, though. “The history of the oldest form of brewing is fascinating to me,” she explained. “So much of it has to do with a particular place. In that way, it’s a lot like wine, all depending on the terroir. It’s about wrangling and nurturing nature.”
Like Amy, working in craft beer wasn’t exactly Molly’s plan from the get-go. She describes the beginning of her career as a “happy accident,” but says as soon as she started learning about the industry, she was hooked.
“I was very confused as far as career path,” she said. “I majored in psychology, then English. It wasn’t until Jim Crooks gave me a chance and took me under his wing in Barrelworks that I felt at home. I owe him and the crew I work with a lot.”
Molly says on her first day at Barrelworks, she and the team unloaded 100 barrels and had to physically lift and stack them all. “Trial by fire,” she called it. “My legs were so sore and bruised by the end of the day, I could barely stand. But I kept coming back from more.
Since starting at Firestone in a part-time position back in 2017, Molly’s hard work and tenacity has helped her climb the professional ladder, and now she’s leading the development of the beers coming out of Barrelworks.
As for her day-to-day work as our Wild Ale Blender, Molly says, “There is not typical day in Barrelworks.” While many of her days are comprised of the typical duties we think of when we think of brewing – a lot of cleaning tanks, barrels, and foeders – the nature of our wild ale program helps keep things fresh. Some days she’s processing thousands of pounds of fruit and loading it into foeders, and others she’s tasting barrels and making selections for our next ale.
Molly’s advice to anyone interested in a career in brewing is to “learn as much as you can and be direct about what you want. And don’t take yourself too seriously. This industry is fun!”