At a recent event in Manhattan for women who love craft beer, I met Olivia Cerio. At just 21 years old, Olivia is an assistant brewer at Empire Brew, based in Syracuse. Maybe it’s just me and my naivety (the reason why I was at this event), but when I thought of beer and brewing, I thought of men only. Meeting Olivia put a new face to the profession for me and hopefully will do so for anyone else that has this one-sided gender association of the craft beer industry. Read the Q & A below to get to know her better, and find out why she’s hip, modern, and motivated.
HMM: How did you get into this?
OC: When I was 16 I got a job at a restaurant/brewpub very similar to Empire, in Las Vegas, it was called Chicago Brewing Company. It was there that I was able to watch the brewing process through the glass windows everyday, and though I had never drank beer, and had not the slightest idea of what craft beer was, it sparked an interest. Ever since then it’s been something I thought was really neat. When I moved to NY last year, I applied at the Empire and was a server there. An opportunity arose for me to learn the craft, after I had expressed interest a few times, and when the position became open as assistant, it was offered to me.
HMM: What social impact has being a brewer had on you?
OC: The social aspect of the craft beer business has been huge for me. I moved to Syracuse with no friends, and I’ve gained many due to my job. When you tell someone you’re a brewer, it is an automatic conversation starter and everyone wants to know more, plus the community of breweries in NYS is pretty close, so I’ve met a lot of people that way. Being a young female brewer I think I catch people off guard, and I make friends pretty easily.
HMM: What is your favorite type of beer to drink?
OC: I definitely gear towards darker, maltier beers. I love scotch ales, porters, and of course stouts. But I also love Hops, so IPA’S [Indian Pale Ales] of course, and my all time favorite, Strong Ale’s.
HMM: Your favorite beer to make?
OC: Probably my favorite beer to make was Pumpkin ale this fall. The process was very labor intensive, we used real pumpkins from a local farm, cleaned them, carved the inside out, chopped them up, and added them to the mash. The end result made it all very worth it!
HMM: Key to being a successful brewer?
OC: I think the key to being a successful brewer is not cutting any corners, staying up to date on what people around you are doing, and using pure ingredients. Of course you have to be passionate and totally dedicated. It is a lifestyle- not just a job.
HMM: Would you call yourself “Hip”? If so, why?
OC: Sure, I’d say I’m hip, I’m young and open minded…
HMM: Have you implemented any modern practices or ways of brewing at Empire?
OC: We’re a very green business, we use sustainable energy and conserve wherever possible. Our system is a little bit out of date, but we make it work. The brew house was built in 1994 but of course we move forward with new technology whenever we can. The production brewery we’re building this Spring will be completely state of the art and modern.
HMM: What motivates you?
OC: A lot of different things motivate me… I guess I would say of course success motivates me, and selling a good product. The people around me that I work with motivate me, and the things that I see people I look up to doing in the brewing industry motivate me as well.
HMM: Do you foresee more women breaking into brewing or other beer related careers?
OC: There are a lot of women in the craft beer industry right now, and more are joining. It’s not just for guys at all, and I think women are beginning to realize that, whether your a brewer, a marketing director, a brewery tour guide, who cares! Craft beer is fun no matter what you do.
HMM: What do you like to do when you are not working?
OC: When I’m not making beer…. I’m drinking it (she laughs!). I also like to paint, read, and explore Central NY, still considering myself new to the area, there is a lot to see.
For more info on Empire Brew, visit www.empirebrew.com
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