OGDEN — It’s a tough job, but Jacquie King can’t see herself doing anything else.
As head brewer at Roosters Brewing Co. in Ogden, she hauls 50-pound bags of grain up and down three stories. She rakes 350 pounds of mash out of a tun and sometimes moves 160-pound kegs. She crawls in and out of claustrophobic fermenters. She scrubs, sanitizes and polishes lines. But there are bigger barriers to overcome.
The beer industry hasn’t always been a welcoming place for women. There are all the sexualized advertisements and sexist labels. It’s any wonder women are vastly underrepresented both as craft beer drinkers and workers in the industry.
Some publications report that only 4 percent of brewers in American breweries are women, and Utah certainly isn’t bucking any trends. Of the 14 big breweries the Utah Brewers’ Guild represents in the state, there are only three female brewers. King is the only head brewer its representatives are aware of.
Still, nothing seems to hold King back. With six months as Roosters head brewer under her belt, she spoke with the Standard-Examiner about her passion for beer, the evolving craft industry and her thoughts on female empowerment. The conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
How did you end up at Roosters?
I’be been here for three years. I started off bartending, knowing I wanted to eventually brew. I was like, “All I have to do is get my foot into the company somehow.” I apprenticed under Colton Layton, Ogden’s head brewer at the time, for a year and a half for free. I decided that’s how I was going to get in. You either have to go to school in brewing or you have to apprentice for it — it’s a skilled trade. When the job opportunity opened here, I knew the system, and they knew my dedication and what I could do.
Why not try for one of the bigger breweries in Salt Lake?
I love Ogden, and I wanted to stay local. I love the outdoor access and the vibe of the city. It’s cool to be in a town that is kind of being reborn while you’re here and to to see all the progress. It’s so hard to get into this industry, too, so it was easier to weasel my way into Roosters. Most Salt Lake breweries want you to have a year of commercial brewing experience just to be on the packaging line.
You’re wearing some pretty neat pink brewers’ boots. Is there a story behind them?
The Pink Boots Society was started in 2007, and it’s open to all women in the beer industry whether they work in sales, distribution, brewing, anything. They provide support through scholarships and networking.
If you look at the history of beer, women have always been involved. Women were most likely the first ones to make beer. Anything with food or beverage was a woman’s job. There’s an ancient Sumerian goddess of beer, Ninkasi. It’s kind of cool to see a resurgence of women being involved in beer.
I’m glad you brought that up. The industry hasn’t traditionally been inclusive. Do you ever feel like you’re trying to break into a boys-only club?
Not a ton. I’d say people in the industry seem more welcoming than the general public. At beer festivals, people come up to the Roosters booth and ask the guys next to me about our beer. They’ll say, “I don’t know, ask her. She makes it.”
Even at private events, I’ll be pouring beer and my tip jar has a sign that says “brewer’s beer fund.” I’ve had a couple of people make snarky comments, like “oh, sure, I bet you had so much to do with the beer.” Actually, I do. I make it!
I’d say with those working in Utah’s beer industry, though, it’s a different climate. We’re more a close-knit group because there aren’t a ton of people who are as accepting of us in general, being craft brewers. It’d probably be different in other states.
Where does your interest in beer come from?
I’ve always loved beer. As a kid, my dad was in the Army, so we lived in Germany for six years. I was too young to drink beer, but it’s culturally significant there. It piqued my interest. Then I started home brewing in college. It’s so interesting because it’s basically chemistry. It’s all science. It’s just a really neat process. And who doesn’t love drinking beer? It’s delicious.
What do you think about Utah’s beer scene? It seems like it has come a long way, even in the last 10 years.
It has come a long way. I think we’re still somewhat limited by the liquor laws though.
What law would you change to make your life easier as a brewer?
To a certain extent, the 4 percent ABV (alcohol by volume) draft law is nice in Utah. It limits completion. But at the same time, you’re never pushed to grow if you don’t have competition. If we could have a higher percentage beer on draft, I think it would make for better beers in Utah as well. We don’t need 9 percent beer on draft, but it would be nice to have a 6 or 7 percent beer because we’d get better flavor out of it.
What’s your favorite beer you’ve made for Roosters?
I made our Daily Rise and and Shine Stout. That was awesome, I loved it. It was a coffee-cream oatmeal stout. It was quite popular — it came out at the end of October and sold out, I believe, by the end of November. We’re going to re-brew it for sure. I also did an India pale lager over the summer. It was a Mosaic-based hop profile, which has a complex aroma profile and is typically used in pale ales, but it was a lager rather than an ale. That’s one of the trends in beer, doing unexpected things. Lagering something that’s supposed to be an ale, or making something that’s traditionally a lager hoppy.
It sounds like it’s a fun time to be in the craft beer industry.
It is so much fun. There are so many things going on. There’s a resurgence of sours. There’s a resurgence in natural fermentation and natural yeasts. No one is dead-set on “we have to have these beer styles; this is how a beer should taste.”
What changes would you like to bring to Roosters?
I’d like to see more experimentation. I think we’re going in that direction already. Right now, because we are so small, it’s hard for us to get distribution outside the state of Utah, but I’d love to see our beers in more places, too.
Any new recipes in the works?
My next seasonal beer is going to be a SMaSH beer — it stands for single-malt, single-hop. It’s getting back to simple flavors, so you can taste the malt and taste the hop. Then I’m also going to do a Session IPA in May for the Ogden Trail Running Festival.
For a female who loves beer and wants to break into the industry, too, what’s a piece of advice you wish would’ve been given to you?
Just to follow your dreams sooner. I wanted to do this as a actual profession for about four years before I finally quit my day job and committed to it. If you have a degree in chemistry, that helps. Brewing is chemistry. So, girls, get involved in math and science.