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Kris McDowell
NMSU Brewing and Distilling Course Scholarship Recipients Announced
Scholarship Recipients
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The Pink Boots Society is excited to announce and introduce the eleven ladies that have been selected by the PBS Scholarship Selection Committee (SSC) to receive a scholarship for the New Mexico State University Brewing and Distilling in the Belgium and Netherlands course May 20 – June 3, 2020. 

Hailing from the United States, Canada, Peru and Spain, these eleven women come from a variety of backgrounds and hold a wide range of positions at breweries and distilleries. In addition to the knowledge gained from attending the course Jessica Baker, Carly Clark, Ximena Gloria, Jeraldin Kuerbiss, Hannah Lester, Madeleine McCarthy, Juleidy Pena, Natasha Peskar, Brittany Ribalkin, Cristina Saez and Holley Voegtle will benefit from making new connections with fellow Pink Boots Society members. 

Jess Baker, Bartender/Retail Staff at Trillium Brewing Company in Canton, MA says, “I’ve worked in the brewing industry on and off for most of my adult life, and made many friends though this work that have pushed me to be more thoughtful and creative with my time.” Interested in both distilling and brewing, she has impressed the ownership at Trillium over the past two years with her passion to learn about craft beer and they are hopeful that what she gains from this scholarship will further the advancement of women in the industry. “As a woman, I never felt confident that I could really be successful in the world of distilling, so it was difficult to even see that as a possible goal. However, with the community provided by the work of the Pink Boots Society, I’ve felt fiercely supported and encouraged to go for a dream that I have pushed aside.” 

Carly Clark has earned a degree in Fermentation Science and Technology, a degree which she feels is “the perfect combination of my two passions.” Currently working as a Quality Assurance Supervisor at Stone Brewing in Escondido, CA, she is eager to apply her strong educational foundation to the experiences from this course, “ask a lot of questions in order to learn the differences in brewing processes around the world” and apply that to “ways to better our recipes or processes in order to produce a higher quality product. One of the best ways to do this is to look at a system that is different from your own and learn from their mistakes and successes. This course would also give me a great introduction to new beer styles and help expand my sensory skills for taste panels.”

Ximena Gloria is pursuing a Chemical Engineering degree and as part of her studies, one class took a field trip to a brewery where she says, “I was amazed by the many variables that lead to the characteristics of the final product, not to mention the beauty of those shiny fermenters. I was hooked. So I just went for it and asked for an opportunity to learn from them, and shortly after joined the team as the first woman in a tech lab position.” That brewery is Corporacion Pueblo Libre – Hops Microbrewery in Lima, Peru where she is a Quality Control Lab Technician. Since starting the job Gloria’s responsibilities have increased, including teaching a Salts Modification and Water Management course. Ultimately she hopes to reduce the technological gap between industrial and craft breweries in her area and is eager to get a hands-on look at the brewing technologies and practices being utilized in Belgium and the Netherlands during this course.

Jeraldin Kuerbiss started her career in brewing as part of a production bottling team, working her way up to the kegging line, filter technician and then earned a promotion to Assistant Brewer for Ballast Point’s sour and barrel aging program. Just this summer she made the transition to distilling, taking a position with Cutwater Spirits, a new company that began as an offshoot of Ballast Point. Being a new distiller she has much to learn and one aspect of this course is of particular interest to her. “One key objective of the course is to design a distillation column still for whiskey.  This will help me understand the intricacies of distilling along with the equipment I will use daily. The knowledge I learned as a brewer will help me continue my education growth as a distiller. The transition from beer to spirits may be difficult, but I feel as though I am ready for the challenge.”

Hannah Lester is the Assistant Brewer/Taproom Manager at Rising Silo Brewery in Blacksburg, VA. She started there two years ago as a part time server, advancing to brewing their non-alcoholic products (kombucha, ginger ale, sodas and cold brew nitro coffee) as the brewery grew, and is now brewing beer. Although it is her first professional position in the industry, she has been homebrewing since 2013, a hobby she was introduced to by an uncle. Earlier this year she attended the UC Davis Brewing Short Course: Intensive Brewing Science for Practical Brewing where she found the information presented to be both “staggering and exhilarating.” Eager to continue her education through this course she says, “While the freedom to explore many different styles of brewing has become a strength in the U.S., I believe it’s equally important to learn about where, why and how distinct styles of beer originated.” 

Madeleine McCarthy, Brewer/Cellar Woman at Migration Brewing Company in Portland, OR has a great appreciation for Belgian beer styles, especially Witbiers and Strong Ales, and the way they allow yeast characteristics to take center stage. In addition to the brewing aspect of this course she is curious to learn much more about distilling.  “This course also offers the chance to learn about the distillation process, which I know very little about, but have always been very curious about. It would be very interesting to see how the two overlap, how they differ and how I can apply new and different techniques to the brew process. The art of fermentation is fascinating so learning a new facet of the process is so exciting to me. Being able to approach my boss with a traditional Belgian recipe and have the knowledge and experience to back up the recipe would be so empowering.”

Juleidy Pena had a substantial history of homebrewing before she joined Aeronaut Brewing in Somerville, MA a year and a half ago but the position was her first in production brewing. Since joining the brewery she has impressed the Director of Operations both with her technical skills and her passion for the craft. Down the road she sees the potential of crossing her interest in brewing and distilling but for now she says, “There’s so much knowledge to be acquired from this course that can be put directly into my day to day work like learning about the historical Belgian and Dutch beer styles by gaining extra tools to taste, evaluate and detect flaws in the beer, along with quality control and evaluation techniques to make assertive and informed calls about the beer production.” 

Natasha Peskar is the Head Brewer for Last Best Brewing & Distilling in Calgary, AB, Canada where, as the name implies, they have both brewing and distillation programs. “I understand the basics of distillation thanks to my chemistry background; however, I feel sorely inexperienced when it comes to practical use of the equipment in producing quality spirits with nuance. Also, I have been playing with an interesting idea to distill malt barley washes and then implement it back in the beer brewing process to amplify certain flavours and aromas of specialty malt. I think this portion of the course would be integral in giving me a better understanding to explore if my idea is executable and to produce higher quality spirits for our company,” she says.

Brittany Ribalkin, Brewer at Muskoka Brewery in Bracebridge, Ontario, Canada describes herself as a “quality-focused brewer with a passion for creating creating beers that are consistent, yet innovative.” With Muskoka looking to be relevant to the growing spirits industry Brittany feels, “this course would help me create better products and possibly carve a role for myself in the brewery by binding the worlds of brewing and distilling (two things I love). The goals I have for myself are not to only be a brewer; I want to be versatile. I already have a background in microbiology and experience in quality control, but education and experience in distillation would truly help me set myself apart.”

Cristina Saez is the Co-Founder and Head Brewer for Saez & Son in Valencia, Spain, a 3bbl, two-person company. As a new business owner she is particularly interested in the brewery operations and QA/QC components of this course. In addition to gaining knowledge for herself she says, “I would also like to transmit what I’ve learned to colleagues in the craft beer industry. I would love to give small courses on different brewing topics for the other Pink boots members in Spain, in Spanish, since there is a lack of education in brewing in our native language. I think there are many people that would like to enhance their knowledge in brewing science, however they are hindered by the language barrier since most educational material is in English.”

Holley Voegtle’s path to the world of distilling and brewing came via kombucha. She says, “I got fed up buying expensive kombucha. I knew that I could not only make it cheaper but better. I was correct, but my results were not consistent. At the same time, the opportunity of being an apprentice at a small craft distillery showed up.” Her aptitude for the craft quickly became apparent, allowing her to take over full time distiller duties, to which she added a part-time brewery lab position. Currently the Production Manager/Lead Distiller at You & Yours Distilling Co. in San Diego, CA she would like to someday bring those worlds together. “My long term goal is to one day open up my own brewery and distillery but there is much to learn until I get to that point. Being exposed to opportunities such as this one being offered, is part of the path I feel I must travel.”

In addition to attending the tour, each scholarship recipient will receive a pair of pink steel-toe rubber boots upon fulfilling the Pay It Forward requirement associated with the scholarship.

The fifteen-day Brewing and Distilling in the Belgium and Netherlands course through New Mexico State University is designed to give students in-context introductions to the brewing and distilling traditions of some of the world’s major production regions for beer, cider, and whiskey. Students will meet and experience the people, processes, and styles indigenous to the targeted locations by speaking to the people who are directly involved in local businesses, making connections with owners and operators, and participating in local practice. This scholarship is designed for brewers and brewery employees as well as other beer industry employees wishing to gain more knowledge of Belgian and Dutch beer styles and techniques.