It’s indisputable that women are important to the craft beer scene. I think the NM Dark Side Brew Crew has made a nice case for that with our NM Women in Craft Brewing series. As we’ve shown, women work in every aspect from brewing to managing, serving, and bartending. You name it, women do it, and they are great at it. Something interesting I’ve noticed from my interviews is that many women that work in the industry started in a similar place, namely behind the bar. Perhaps it’s because behind the bar is where they gained much of their first real knowledge of the industry. It may have been where they got to know the crowd they spent so much time with. Perhaps from behind the bar, they learned to lead, manage a space, learned to be tough when they had to, and compassionate at other times. Whatever the case, in the craft beer industry, I think that tending bar becomes more than just a paycheck. It’s where many of these women discovered their passion for craft beer. For my fourth article in the series, I sat down with Draft Station craft beer-tender, Annie Siegel.
NMDSBC: How long have you been bartending?
Siegel: Now? God, probably about five years. I’ve only been in the “Beertending” business, as we like to call it, for a little over two.
NMDSBC: How did you get started?
Siegel: I was a server. I started as a host. I’ve kind of done a lot of different things in restaurants. But yeah, I started as a host, then I got a serving job when I was 19. And, I did it kind of seasonally, through college, and then once I finished college, it was like, at least I can make money and I have a job.
NMDSBC: Was there any sort of transition from cocktail bars to craft beer bars?
Siegel: Oh yeah, absolutely! It’s a totally different game. I mean, I think when I got hired at Marble (before it was Draft Station), basically, I’d been coming in here. I was one of the regulars, beforehand. And (the manager) asked me if I still needed a job. And he pretty much hand-picked his staff, so we were really close. All the staff was really close. But, yeah, it’s a totally different ballgame. Craft beer is so much more community oriented. So, you get that feel, whereas serving at a regular bar where you’re just serving drinks and a full menu, you don’t get that same type of interaction.
NMDSBC: Now, I know you know your stuff. Did you have to go through special training to serve craft beer at Marble? Or did you just kind of learn on the job?
Siegel: I kind of learned on the job at Marble. We did a brewery tour. I knew, essentially, the very basics of styles of beers, but yeah, when we moved over to Draft Station, we did have a couple of beer classes. And you know, I talked to the brewers at Blue Corn a lot. I’ve talked to a lot of brewers, so you kind of just pick things up as you go along. And if you’re interested in it, you want to know more about it.
NMDSBC: You were the one who would describe all the beers to us when I’d bring my craft beer tours though here. How did you gain your expert knowledge? Was it sampling? Was it memorizing descriptions? Or a sort of mix of both? Just familiarizing yourself with the beers you serve and drink?
Siegel: For me at least, it’s been through experience and talking to other purveyors. I’ve also definitely gone out of my way to seek some of that knowledge out. Most of it, for me, is just that I’ve been all over the country tasting craft beers and figuring out what styles work for me and what styles don’t. Especially for more European styles of beers, I didn’t have a lot of knowledge about those, until I really started tasting that kind of stuff.
NMDSBC: And I imagine tasting in your travels, all over the country, was very different from your experience with beer here in NM.
Siegel: Yeah, we’re definitely more West Coast feel here. So, a lot of the West Coast styles of producing beer, is very much the style of what we have here. Once you get a little more Midwest and Northeast, it’s very different. People have very different styles, and the palates are very different there.
NMDSBC: Here in Santa Fe, especially at the Draft Station, you have a lot of people, tourists, coming in from all over, so what they’re seeking in terms of beer, might be very different from what we brew here, right?
Siegel: Yeah, I think it’s definitely dependent on the beer drinker. If they come from more West Coast or Pacific Northwest, man, they want those hoppy beers. But, if they’re not coming from there, you know, it can really go either way.
NMDSBC: What about an average Joe just coming in off the street? What beer would you recommend to him on a really cold Santa Fe day?
Siegel: On a really, really cold day, I would definitely go for the darker beers, you know, stouts, porters — we haven’t gotten a ton of porters, though, actually, which is kind of sad, because I really like porters. Reds, usually, too. Anything that’s kind of medium bodied, kind of middle ground to the kind of dark stuff.
NMDSBC: Couldn’t agree more. What would you recommend to someone on a hot day when the pilsner and lager taps have already kicked?
Siegel: I would always go (Marble’s) Double White. That’s a fan favorite, for sure. I also kinda like all these session beers that we’ve been getting lately. I’m also really into SMaSH (Single Hop and Single Malt) beers, too, and all of the session pale ales we’ve been getting. They’re all really nice and light, and low ABV so you can just kind of enjoy your lazy Sunday afternoon and hang out.
NMDSBC: And what would you recommend to a guy who’s causing a ruckus in your bar?
Siegel: (Laughs) Generally speaking, I give you the warning, and then you gotta get outta here.
NMDSBC: To the door with him.
Siegel: Yeah, exactly, to the door. It depends on what he’s doing and if he’s disturbing the other guests, because the guests are my first priority, obviously.
NMDSBC: Right. So have you ever had to deal with an unruly late-night crowd? Ever have to mix it up and throw a few punches?
Siegel: Um, you know? Late night doesn’t actually tend to get that bad. It’s when it’s really, really high season and it’s super hectic in here, and there’s someone …
NMDSBC: It’s the day drinkers.
Siegel: It is kind of the day drinkers! It’s guys that, it’s like 5 (o’clock) and they’ve already been to four other bars, and they’re getting rowdy on the patio, and they want to smoke out there, and you tell them no, and you cut them off, and it’s a whole thing. But generally, our clientele is pretty good and pretty respectful of our policies, so …
NMDSBC: The location doesn’t hurt. What sorts of advantages do you think women have in the industry?
Siegel: That’s a really good question. I think women get underestimated. I think men are surprised by the amounts of knowledge that women can have about beer and brewing, and that can work in their favor. And women just bring a different skillset, a different set of talents than men.
NMDSBC: What advice do you have for women just starting out bartending at a craft beer bar?
Siegel: Try everything. Be open to everything. I think a lot of people try to pigeon-hole themselves and try to be snobby about the things they drink, and what I found is that, there are just so many beers that you can suit different palates. And also it’s so much better when you know about different styles of beers and you can tell people about them and recommend them, especially when someone comes in and says, ‘I drink this,’ or ‘This is what I would normally drink. What would I like?’
My palate has just gotten so much wider, and I’ve experienced so many great, great beers, and I think that’s the one thing, don’t be somebody who says, ‘These are the only styles I drink.’
NMDSBC: That won’t get you very far, because then you can’t recommend certain styles to people who’ve never had them before.
Siegel: Exactly! Exactly. It just better suits your service. Usually I can bring someone three samples and be right on the mark with one or two of the three.
NMDSBC: And you can always push them to try something a bit different.
Siegel: Yeah, exactly.
NMDSBC: So, let’s talk about women and their drinking and ordering habits. What’s a common misconception about women and beer?
Siegel: I think a lot of people like to think that women will go straight for the lighter, kind of more floral and fruity beers. And it’s kind of all over the place. Obviously, there are definitely women out there who don’t really like beer that much, so that’s not what they’re gonna drink, but there are a ton of women out there that will drink all the high-octane stuff. They’ll drink the IPAs and the imperial stouts and the imperial reds. I think it just depends on how much experience they’ve had with craft beer.
NMDSBC: You’ve seen all sorts of people come in here, from all ages. Have you noticed any trends in how women drink beer? Do younger women drink more of a certain style or …? Or are you ever surprised?
Siegel: Yeah, it constantly surprises me. People go all over the place. Last night I had a girl … she was probably about 23 years old. She had had two Elevated (IPAs) and then she switched over and had a Wildflower Wheat, and I was like OK, wow, you’re totally going from A to C! It’s all over the map.
NMDSBC: So when people come in here, do you see more of the younger women drinking the beer, or is it just …?
Siegel: Yeah, more of the young women want to be in here. They know what it is. They’re looking for that type of experience, whereas like, there are a lot of older women that come in here that they don’t really know what it is. And those type of people tend to be more of the touristy type. In general, it’s the younger people who are looking for this type of thing.
NMDSBC: What’s your response when someone says, “Craft beer bars and taprooms are for dudes only?”
Siegel: I would probably just laugh at them, because that’s just completely untrue. It wasn’t always this way but it’s progressing.
NMDSBC: So what do you say then to the person who says, “Girls only drink beer to impress a guy?”
Siegel: I could definitely see that, but like I said, it’s a community driven thing. And I think now, especially with craft beers, especially the fact that anyone can homebrew, and many women do, now, that particular view is a pretty shortsighted, limited view on what craft brewing and craft beer is, because at its core that is the point, to share it. Craft beer is social. And it doesn’t matter what gender you are to enjoy it.
NMDSBC: What do you think is appealing about beer to the modern woman? The woman who maybe five years ago would have said, “Oh, I don’t drink beer.”
Siegel: I think it’s just the variety. And it’s the passion that gets put into craft brewing in general. And it’s just how fast the palate can move. And how many different styles you can create. Especially if you come into a place like this where you have this huge variety of stuff on draft and you can try a little bit of everything and decide for yourself what works for you and what doesn’t.
NMDSBC: So beer is versatile and can meet any level of sophistication and palate.
NMDSBC: What direction do you think women are going in craft beer, whether working in the industry?
Siegel: It’s getting more integrated now, as women take on and fulfill positions in the back of the house and in the front of the house. Here (in New Mexico), there’s plenty of women who manage taprooms, who are brewers, who are chemists, or on the production side, on the sales side, on the advertising side, and as we go along, we’re just going to see more of that.
NMDSBC: It’s becoming a level playing field, at least what’s available.
Siegel: Yeah, and it’s going to even itself out eventually.
NMDSBC: Let’s hope. Finally, what’s your favorite style of beer to drink at the end of the day?
Siegel: Oh, my god. That is the hardest question. It changes. It can depend on the situation.
NMDSBC: Rough day, double shift, you’re just done with the brain work for the evening. You’re in need of an attitude adjustment, as my mom calls a happy hour, and you’re at a craft beer bar. What’s in the glass, Siegel?
Siegel: I’m always gonna have an IPA. I’m always gonna go for something bitter and hoppy, (like) hop-forward reds, but I’ve gotten a lot more into pilsners lately too, which has kind of been a strange kick for me, but I’m really liking it, lower ABV. But yeah, I mean, every brewery that I’ve been to, across the country, the one thing that I’m always gonna try is one of their IPAs. It’s a consistent staple that I have.
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We’re still in the middle of the Craft Beer Revolution, and women are very much a part of it. We have not quite come full circle from the days of the brewsters and the Babylonian goddess, but the trends of women working in the craft beer industry, as well as women’s drinking habits, are changing at a rapid pace. Women are drinking more craft beer than they ever were. Instead of just red or white, they’re asking for Imperial Red and Double White, and so much more. More women are finding careers in an ancient industry, and maybe because we’re playing by a more modern set of rules. Perhaps the shift has come from the fact that women see the potential of the industry, the fast growth, the fun, the excitement, the endless learning, the creativity, the social components, the welcoming community, the craft itself. Those are all fine reasons, but perhaps sometimes it’s simpler than that, perhaps in some cases women took the jobs, worked extremely hard, expanded their knowledge and perfected their art for something more basic, for the love of beer. For all of the above, Annie Siegel, and all other women craft beer-tenders, the NM Dark Side Brew Crew salutes you!
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