The role of women in craft brewing has grown along with the industry in the last decade-plus. Whether across the country or here in New Mexico, women are taking more key positions than ever before, whether in positions of management, working atop the brewhouse, or holding down other important jobs that sometimes go unrecognized. Well, it is high time to recognize some of these women for the hard work they are doing in the Land of Enchantment. Luke has already introduced you to a pair of women holding down the role of general manager in Santa Fe’s Alana Jones and Second Street’s Colleen Sager. Well, before what I thought were my allergies actually revealed themselves to be a nasty cold, I was able to finally sit down with one of Albuquerque’s unsung heroines in Bosque Brewing’s Jessica Myers.
Co-owner Gabe Jensen and head brewer John Bullard immediately pointed me in Jessica’s direction when I asked them if anyone at Bosque should be interviewed for this series. She is someone who we have all probably seen before at one of the Bosque locations, though few people know of the jobs she does for the company. Gabe and John said the title of general manager is actually inadequate for how important Jessica is to Bosque. While they work on that new title, Jessica and I sat down at the San Mateo taproom.
NMDSBC: What is the job you do here?
Jessica: It’s evolved a lot over the last couple of months, definitely. I originally started as a bartender here when we opened from day one. And then pretty shortly after we opened there was a need for some sort of taproom manager position which was coined general manager. I was doing a combination of both, so serving and then also doing the day-to-day stuff here — scheduling, payroll, putting out small fires — and also just taking care of front-of-house so Gabe and Ryan (Jameson) at the time could focus on brewing.
It stayed that way for a while until we started looking into opening a Nob Hill taproom and Las Cruces, which opened before Nob Hill, and then it became clear that doing both (managing and serving) was going to be too much. So in October I transferred over to just full-time general manager. I would say I mostly just manage the three taprooms. We just brought on taproom managers at each location, so that’s helped. I was doing a combination of managing day-to-day of all three at first, which was definitely overwhelming. Especially since Las Cruces and Nob Hill had been (opened) in such close proximity to each other.
Now I help the three taproom managers make sure those places are running. Front-of-house is kind of my specialty here, making sure the guests are having the best experience possible when they come to any of our taprooms. Maintaining the Bosque culture for all three, it’s a lot. We had 12 to 15 employees six months ago and now we almost have 50. It’s grown quickly. Just trying to maintain consistency across all three locations is kind of my biggest priority right now. There’s a lot of day-to-day stuff, chairs falling apart, making sure we have signs for all the specialty beers on the wall, just little things that kind of take up the day, emails, payroll, a lot of managerial stuff, a lot of face-time with all the employees.
NMDSBC: Things can be fixed and stuff can be put back on the walls, but dealing with people can be another matter.
Jessica: That’s definitely happening a lot more now that there’s three times the amount of people. It’s definitely been eye-opening, I think, for everyone who’s been here since the beginning to see Bosque evolve so much. I’m just trying to facilitate the old and new as much as possible. Make sure that everyone is on the same page and understand what the expectations are. Every day there’s something; I can’t really be away from my phone for very long, which I’ve come to terms with and which is fine. I’m kind of the problem solver, which I’m happy to do. The more I can take off of Gabe’s plate so he can focus on future goals, the better. That’s what I’m doing right now, hopping around between all three locations.
NMDSBC: You must be putting some mileage in your car if you’re driving to Las Cruces often.
Jessica: Yeah, we usually try to make a (multi-person) trip out of it, so Gabe and I will go together and knock out things we have to do. I’ve gone a few times on my own. It’s a really easy drive. I’ve gotten used to it, I could do it in my sleep if I had to. (And) it’s nice to have that time in the car some times to process everything that’s happening, since it’s happened really fast.
NMDSBC: How did you know about the job in the first place? Did you know any of these guys beforehand?
Jessica: Yeah, I actually worked with Ryan Jameson at Burt’s Tiki Lounge, that was back in the day. I was working for a lawyer at the time this location opened. I was just kind of looking to get back into the service industry. I had bar-tended and served for a long time. It kind of got me through college, working multiple server jobs. I was just kind of feeling like I was in a rut at that job I had as a law clerk. I asked Ryan if he had anything open. I think it was just right place, right time. Most of the people that started here were related either to Jotham (Michnovicz) or Gabe or Ryan in some capacity or another. Dave (Eichorn), who is our taproom manager at Nob Hill now, and I were the only ones who weren’t family members. People just figured I was a Michnovicz for a long time, which is kind of funny. Really just right place, right time. I’m just really, really grateful that the opportunity presented itself when it did. It all just kind of evolved naturally.
NMDSBC: When people ask you what you do for a living, what kind of reaction do you get? Does it differ between men and women, between younger and older?
Jessica: Sometimes I don’t know what my job is, to be completely honest. (So) it’s never really frustrating when other people seem to maybe minimize what my job is here. That’s fine, I don’t need the recognition. I would say women definitely seem to understand more what it is to manage that many people and how much pressure it is. Not to say that men don’t, but it seems like when I’m talking to other women who are in the same field there’s that camaraderie.
I would say that the craft beer community is really, really growing in Albuquerque and a lot of people my age and younger seem to have a better handle on that, and seem to understand what an opportunity working for this company is, compared to maybe someone my parents’ age who don’t understand much about craft beer. I don’t want to say older people know less than younger people, it totally depends (on the person) and I hate to generalize like that. (But) it seems like people in my age range do kind of understand what this opportunity is.
NMDSBC: People tend to think of the brewing industry is just about the people who brew, but there’s so many different positions right now, do you find that it’s becoming more and more accessible for women to work in the field?
Jessica: I think this is a great industry to be a part of at this time. It’s also at a time where women are getting more valuable jobs and being seen as more than they have been in the past. I feel like the women in this industry, especially here in New Mexico, are getting more opportunities. I think it’s because of the industry. I have never felt like because I’m a woman that I’ve been minimized in this industry by the people who matter — by the other brewery owners or by Gabe and Jotham, I’ve never felt that way. The outsiders, yes, I can’t lie and say there hasn’t been times where I haven’t been taken seriously because of my age and my gender, which I’ve had to work through.
But at the end of the day, I can see women just continuing to become a bigger part of this industry and just in general having just as successful careers as men have had, which is exciting. I’m all about empowering women, it’s definitely something I think about all the time. I read a lot of books written by women that inspire me to continue to lead by example for people who are coming into this industry, women especially. But men, also, I think that men and women both need to recognize that positions should be given based off of merit, which I’ve always felt like I’ve had that opportunity here which is lucky. Because I know some women haven’t been so lucky.
NMDSBC: It’s kind of a double-edged sword, because you want to be seen as successful because of the job you do, not because you’re given some leniency as a woman. But at the same time where you want to be proud that you’re a woman in a position of authority in a certain and an example to others.
Jessica: I try to be really careful about giving that too much weight as well. I don’t want to add to that mindset. It’s really hard to find that balance. Yes, I am a woman, I am empowering myself, and I am in a position of authority. Those are all things I take really seriously. But also I don’t want to think too much about being a woman in this industry, because then I’d be adding to that misconception that women shouldn’t be treated the same way. It’s a really hard line to tiptoe and I don’t think people think about that. But that’s fine, I just want to continue prove myself based on the job I’m doing and not by which bathroom I go to and my age, too. I’m 27, I started doing this when I was 25, that’s a lot of it, too. Just questioning whether or not I have the experience to handle this position has come up a lot, too. I definitely feel like I have to prove myself.
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Based on the high regard that Gabe and John and the rest of the Bosque staff have for Jessica, I would say she has more than proven herself. I thank her for taking some time out of her busy day to sit down, and for being a good sport when it came time to take the picture above. Also, her phone did not ring once (it could have been set on silent, though) while the interview took place, so hopefully I did not take her away from putting out one of those small fires during the day.
Let us all raise our glasses this weekend in honor of all the women in the New Mexico craft brewing scene. The Crew will be back with more entries in this series next week, at which point I will hopefully be healthy enough to drink again. Man, I miss beer.
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Your awesome Jessica !!