Women In Beer: Becki Kregoski from Snowbank Brewing

For this month’s installment of Women In Beer, I had the chance to chat with Becki Kregoski from Snowbank Brewing. Becki has been working in the craft beer industry for a while and now she’s a taproom manager at one of Fort Collins’ newest breweries.  We chatted about her journey in the craft beer industry along with what she has planned for Snowbank.  Grab a beer and get comfy!

 

CFC: What is your official job title and what are some of the tasks that you handle here?

Becki Kregoski with Snowbank BrewingBK:  I am the taproom manager as well as social media manager, sales, distribution, deliveries. I shift through whatever he needs. I do a little of everything. Very wide range, I book all of our food trucks for the weekend, event coordination, festivals.

CFC: So covering it all basically, right now in the beginning. Do you think you guys will expand that?

BK: We will be bringing on more people but until then, as a new business, we have to be putting all of our efforts into this business as much as we can. So far the brewer hangs out, we have two staff members and then we have two interns, who help out with brewing and spreadsheets and the like. It’s a very small close knit group.

CFC: How long have you been working for the brewery? Now Snowbank is obviously brand new.

BK: Yeah, 24 days old.

CFC: But you have been with them longer than that, right? Helping them?

BK: I signed on a year ago.

CFC: Wow!

BK: At that time it was basically a lot of things that I couldn’t participate in, like a lot of construction and licensing and all of that. But I got together our taproom SOP, all of our hiring info that we put out to Craigslist. All of the paperwork in preparation and when it came down to it, mopglowing the floors, wiping down all the walls. I did and got involved in anything they would let me do. Which includes brewing.

CFC: Oh, ok. So how often do you get to brew? That would be pretty exciting I would think!

BK: I used to brew actually for a living. So I don’t really feel the need to do it because I did it for so long. But it’s nice to be able to help. I had a hand, in I believe, every single one of these. There may be one or two that I didn’t because I was doing other jobs.

CFC: Nice! I am intrigued by the pumpkin beer that you have been posting about. I love pumpkin beer, so I’m really curious about what you’ll be releasing.

BK: It’s a guest brewer that’s coming in to brew this. He’s a homebrewer and his pumpkin beer is the best I’ve ever tasted. We took 100 pounds of canned pumpkin because we don’t really have the manpower or the time to carve pumpkins.

CFC: Oh yeah and roast and then puree. That’s a lot of work.

BK: Yeah, we roasted all of the canned pumpkin with a blowtorch, which was awesome. But that should be ready in about 3-4 weeks and it should be very pumpkin pie-esque. Very malty and hearty with pumpkin pie spice but not overwhelmingly so. But actually putting pumpkin in was very important to us. We didn’t want to just add spice and call it pumpkin.

CFC: Well I’m excited for that one, I’ll probably be one of the first ones in the door.

BK: I’m excited for it too, we’re going to do some pairings, which will be fun.

CFC: I have to give you a lot of credit with that, for doing the beer pairings. A dollar off a pint if you pair it with something from the food truck. Or if you create the pairing, folks get a dollar off the pint and the dish. No one else in town is doing anything like that. No one else in town is even offering discounts on their beer in that way either, even though they totally could. I honestly think that’s kind of genius for you to do that and offer up that kind of incentive for folks.

BK: Pairing is really close to my heart. The last year, I just moved here a year ago from California and the last year I was there, I worked as a food and beer pairing host for all the accounts. I would travel from restaurant to restaurant and I would work with the chef developing recipes. Have them do a tasting of all the beer for that pairing. And since brewers aren’t always comfortable talking about how to pair the beer, they can tell you how they make the beer, so I was kind of that liaison for the inbetween. I would host those dinners and pairings. Beer and food goes so well together.

CFC: Like beer and cheese, it just goes so well together.

BK: Yeah, we have quite a few pairing ideas that we’re going to get started soon. We’re going to be working with MouCo, Nuance Chocolate and Olomomo Almonds in the near future. Nuance will be the first that we collaborate with.

CFC: Nice! I know Welsh Rabbit does a lot too, they do a lot of beer and cheese pairings. OK, so what made you want to work in the craft beer industry? Did you have a craft beer moment, where you had something that wasn’t a big brand and it kind of blew you away?

BK: My craft beer epiphany was actually, probably 5 or 6 years ago. My brother poured a 1554 into a glass and was like, smell this. And I’m like, well it smells like beer. He was just getting into homebrewing. And then he said, now swirl it and then smell it. So I swirled it and all of the sudden I could smell things like chocolate and roasted cocoa. And I’m like, this doesn’t smell like beer now. That was the moment that I started exploring a little more. Then he and my sister-in-law bought me my first homebrewing kit about 4 years ago. We brewed my first homebrew which was a Fat Tire knockoff called Dos Becki and I thought it was the best thing in the world. I’m sure it wasn’t the best but I made beer and that was cool.

After that I just started developing my knowledge and I found the cicerone program. So I became a certified beer server and after a while with that, I went into a brewery in California, a really small system that was just starting up. And I told them that I wanted to serve their beer. I wanted to volunteer there and that I was a certified beer server but I never touched a tap before. They were like, well we can afford a volunteer so sure! I volunteered with them for 2 ½ years and then I got hired as assistant brewer at a 10 barrel system. Actually Zwei Bruder has the exact same system that I brewed on.

CFC: Oh wow, that’s interesting!

BK: Yeah, it’s really nice. I went down and gave it a hug! And then I took my certified cicerone test and passed that. Then the food and beer pairing host job came along so I did that. Then I was just done with LA and decided to move back home. I’ve had a long road but a good one.

CFC: So Colorado is home then?

BK: Yeah, my family all lives here. And I’m from here, moved here when I was six until about 15. So I wanted to move back three years ago but I got hired as an assistant brewer and I knew that I wanted to work in the beer industry here and I figured that would probably help. So I stuck it out there for a few more years and then I was in the middle of the 405 in a standstill one day and I’m like, yeah I’m done. So I came home.

CFC: What is your favorite thing about your job or one of your favorite things you get to do?

BK: I like it all. I like social media and consumer education. So working behind the bar I get to talk to people face to face and either get to know how their day was or talk to them about beer or answer any questions that they have. And I like that interactivity, which is the same with social media. With Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, I like to respond to people as soon as I can when they ask me a question. When the taproom is busy, I’m not able to do that right away but it’s the person-to-person correspondence. Learning about things, learning about people and sharing about their day. Making friends with people that you would never have crossed paths with any other way.

CFC: Craft beer does bring people together, across all walks of life. And you do certainly meet interesting people and people you really connect with.

BK: I’m definitely a counselor on some nights. But they all are for me on some tough days too.

CFC: So the craft beer industry is a predominantly male industry. Females are now coming into the industry more assertively, in terms of numbers and making this their career. Is there any challenges or anything that you had to deal with and overcome as you were getting started in the industry or while working in the industry.

BK: I do recall one time, it was at the Santa Barbara Zoo Brew. I had been working at Wolf Creek as the assistant brewer for a few months. I went over to one of the tents to introduce myself to the brewers there and they kind of blew me off until I mentioned that I was an assistant brewer at Wolf Creek. And then they were, oh, well, we can talk now. Then we started talking beer and it was good. There hasn’t really been anything that has been a challenge for me. I start talking about what I know and have a passion for beer and people can tell. And everyone takes me seriously nowadays. But everyone has always been welcoming and accepting. Once they actually know what you’re talking about or that you appreciate it enough all boundaries are gone.

CFC: Is there someone in the craft beer world, another female, that inspires you or maybe was kind of a mentor to you at some point? Someone that you highly respect?

BK: I have two, so Cyrena Nouzille she owns Ladyface Ale House in California. She started up a ladies educational beer group so I went to the first meeting, three years ago. And I knew nothing about beer except that I liked it and I wanted to learn more. It was a group of maybe, 5 or 6 of us. Two were wine drinkers and they just wanted to drink for free because we were tasting a bunch of beers. And then the next meeting it was the same 6 with a handful of others. And these folks had turned into serious beer drinkers wanting to learn more. A few started learning about the brewing process and the two wine drinkers started homebrewing.

CFC: Wow!

BK: Yeah and they are brilliant. These two, I would never have seen it coming. They liked their mixed drinks and their wine and now they brew beer. Three years after we started, they had a final farewell for me and we all brought our vertical tastings and one night we just talked about beer and drank beer. It was amazing to see how Cyrena, who owns Ladyface, just manage that. Turns women into beer lovers just through that education.

And Julia Herz, she’s all about beer pairings and that’s really close to my heart so I think that she is wonderful.

CFC: Nice! What is your favorite style of beer, if you have one, and I know we chatted a little bit about this earlier but if you had to pick, which one would be your favorite Snowbank beer?

BK: I would say my favorite here is the Colorado Red. It’s not a traditional red, it’s not that syrupy sticky sweet that you sometimes get with ambers and reds. I like the hop profile in it, I think it’s really well balanced. As for my favorite styles, I will always go back to a bourbon barrel aged imperial stout. I have a few in my cellar from Fifty-Fifty Brewing in Truckee. They make an Eclipse series that is imperial stouts aged in different bourbon barrels, like Elijah Craig or some gin and whiskey barrels, a whole range. And I have a few of those vertically that I will always go to for Christmas or….

CFC: Special occasions or something? We do that too. We’re opening the Eclipse on New Year’s.

BK: Yeah! Mine is, the previous years Firestone’s Anniversary is always for our Christmas. But I love barrel aged anything honestly.

CFC: I’m completely with you on that. Barrel aged is one of my favorites. Especially now, they’re starting to expand. It’s not just bourbon but you’re seeing more tequila barrel aged stuff and rum barrel aged stuff. And I love that because I love barrel aged things. I mean, of course there are some that aren’t so good. But when you come across one that’s really good, it’s kind of mind blowing. And that becomes your evening, sipping that barrel aged beer.

BK: It’s like a fine glass of wine.

CFC: Oh yeah. I’m totally with you on that. So possibly see some barrel aged stuff here?

BK: I’d love to! We’re sourcing some barrels right now. They’re obviously in high demand. And once we find some, we would love to start that. We have the space back there for it, it’s just a matter of finding those barrels. We also want to source some wine barrels and possibly age in that.

CFC: Oh yes and that’s taking off too, aging beer in wine barrels. We’re seeing that a lot more and that can bring a really interesting flavor profile to the beer. When you have that kind of musky….

BK: Aging beer in anything will bring layers of complexity. It’s just good. Barrel aging is just good.

CFC: Do you have any advice or words of encouragement for other women who are looking to get into the craft beer industry?

BK: If you really want it, you just have to put yourself out there. I mean, I wanted to start learning so I volunteered with a brewery for two and a half years. I paid my dues. And it paid off because I got hired as an assistant brewer and met people through that networking which helped me reach the next step with my goals. Yeah, just putting yourself out there, that’s the main thing. Not being afraid of what people think, and keep learning. Knowledge is really important in this industry. You can’t just want to know about it, you have to push yourself to learn about it.

CFC: So should women maybe look to seek out some groups or some education classes?

BK: Ladies groups are great. If you’re really serious about it, you can always get the book Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher. It’s wonderful. Getting into homebrewing or talking with brewers and you can learn from them. I think education groups are great. I was part of the Verboten Sisterhood for a while until this started and I couldn’t get down there. But that is a great group. They help them learn, it’s a weekly educational group with brewing in addition to it. So it’s tastings, histories, off flavors, and everything that you could want to know about beer. You have to find the right one where you fit, but it’s a great place to start.

Thank you so much to Becki for taking the time to sit down and chat with me about her journey and experiences in the craft beer world!  Keep an eye on Snowbank’s social media channels so you know when they start up some of their events and when that pumpkin beer gets released.

Snowbank’s:

Twitter
Facebook
Instagram 

I’m always looking to connect with others, so if you know of any local ladies working in the craft beer industry here, I would love to chat with them.

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Author:Andrea Ratulowski

Andrea Ratulowski is a long time blogger over at Food Embrace. She lives in Fort Collins with her husband and two rescue dogs. She loves great food and feels that beer is always the right choice.