Marble’s marvelous duo of Rice and Kornke keep the brewery rolling

Posted: May 5, 2015 by cjax33 in NM Women in Brewing
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Brewer Anna Kornke, left, and Director of Marketing Amberley Rice are two of the most important staff members at Marble that most people have probably never met.

Brewer Anna Kornke, left, and Director of Marketing Amberley Rice are two of the most important staff members at Marble that most people have probably never met.

Before the Isotopes returned to Albuquerque to suck up all of my available free time last week, I trekked over to Marble Brewery to interview Amberley Rice and Anna Kornke, two women with very different but equally important jobs, for our ongoing NM Women in Brewing series. Amberley is Marble’s director of marketing, and as some might have guessed by her last name, is married to owner/brewer Ted Rice. Anna is part of the brewing staff, working in the back with head brewer Josh Trujillo. We covered all the aspects of their jobs and their views of women in the craft beer industry.

NMDSBC: So usually I start these interviews by asking people how they got into working in the industry. Amberley, we all figure you got dragged into this by Ted.

Amberley: Actually, that’s not how it happened. Ted started brewing (right around) when we had been dating for two or three years. We were in our early 20s and we went to visit a brewery in Maryland. We hung out there, were chilling out, drinking some beer, and I told Ted he should start brewing (professionally).

NMDSBC: So it’s all your fault.

Amberley: (Laughs) Yeah, it’s all my fault. I dragged myself into craft brewing.

NMDSBC: So, Anna, how did you get into this?

Anna: I have a bachelor of science in medical laboratory science. I worked in a hospital for a year after graduating and it was horrible, not fun at all. So somebody at work told me that breweries and wineries needed quality control people. I didn’t have a huge understanding of craft beer or this industry. So I just kind of shot random emails even though I didn’t know what size of breweries needed people (like me). I shot random emails around town. Marble was one of the first places, it was the largest. I just sent an email to the info at marble and got denied. But the taproom manager wrote me back and said sorry, we’re not hiring. Then Ted wrote me back a few days later and said sorry, that should have been forwarded to me. If you want to come in to talk. So I started here doing about 10 hours a week of part-time lab work.

NMDSBC: So you can say you quite honestly started off small.

Anna: Yeah, it was very small. Because I was working part-time, they needed bartenders over the summer and I picked up bartending, so I was working full-time between bartending and lab stuff. When the head brewer (Daniel Jaramillo) left in 2012, then I got offered to send me to school and get trained up. And now here I am.

NMDSBC: Amberley, you have done a lot of different things here at Marble. Right now your title is Director of Marketing, but can you explain what that entails? I know it is a lot more than most people with that title at other businesses.

Amberley: I started off booking music and booking events. We expanded the music program. We added more nights, added more events, added more fundraisers. Then I started with the food trucks because we didn’t have food trucks here (originally). So we started doing merchandise, we added to our merchandise line, a lot of our T-shirts, hats, designs. We redid the website, so I keep that updated. I was doing social media, but then we hired Leah (Black), so Leah and I work together. I do festivals now, all the off-site festivals. I organize the staff for those, handle all the permits. I do beer releases. I’m basically like the events coordinator, the coordinator of all our different events coordinators, and then the coordinator of all of our different marketing people and the merchandise. And then I’m also in charge of decor. When we did the renovation I picked out different things and purchased them. Working with the contractors, working on new projects. I think that’s it.

NMDSBC: So basically you’re busy all the time. And you have kids, right?

Amberley: We have one daughter, she’s 8.

NMDSBC: So what are your responsibilities, Anna?

Anna: I do … OK, so I brew. A lot of yeast management, I make sure all of our yeast is in good health. I do our taxes, for brewing operations, state and federal tax. So a lot of paperwork, too. I’m in charge of our quality control. Nick helps me out with doing a lot of that, since I’m so busy with other things. I’m just making sure he’s on top of all that stuff. Oh, and festivals.

Amberley: Anna and I work together a lot on festivals, on different ideas and concepts.

Anna: I’m also maintaining the barrels back there. We’re all spread pretty widely in the brewery, which is nice because everyone has a bigger understanding of how the brewery works that way.

NMDSBC: In terms of perception and reality, a lot of people out there that we encounter still feel this is a male-dominated industry. A bunch of bearded dudes in flannels brewing and all that. For either of you, what is your take on where women are in the brewing industry?

Anna: I definitely know that there’s not a lot of women in the industry. I’m not sure why it developed that way. There’s the Pink Boots Society, supporting women in the brewing industry. I think that’s a great company. But at the same time I’ve never felt that I needed better representation. When you go to GABF (Great American Beer Festival) and the Craft Brewers Conference, people are surprised to see women brewers or whatever. So there is a little surprise from people, but at the same time there is plenty of support. I’ve never felt discriminated against or been unsupported for being a woman. I think everybody has something to offer. If you’re a smart person, that’s all that really matters.

NMDSBC: There is a little bit of a double-edged sword. You want to be judged as a brewer first, but at the same time you are representing other women in the industry. There can be a little more scrutiny on you. Do you sense that, not from your co-workers, but from the industry at large?

Anna: The only time I’ve picked up at that has been at GABF or the Craft Brewers Conference. When people come to your booth and they want to talk to a brewer. I’m standing back there with my co-workers and they never once look at me. They just automatically look (elsewhere). Josh is the bearded brewer that everyone knows is what a brewer looks like. People are surprised when I say I’m a brewer and I can answer their question. Once they get over the initial surprise they’re totally fine with me.

NMDSBC: Dealing with the business side aspect of it, it’s probably not too similar. There are more women in key management positions on the business side. Do you get the sense that it is growing faster for women than on the brewing side?

Amberley: I think so. A lot of women are involved in the marketing and front-of-house operations. I’ve been involved in the brewing industry with Ted for 20 years. I’ve been to breweries all of the place, beer festivals, and I never really noticed until you started your series that it was so male-dominated. I’ve been friends with all the brewers and just hung out with them. And then when I went to the CBC in the spring and after I read that you doing this series on women, and Anna and I talked about the Pink Boots Society, then I realized it was a real male-dominated business. But I never really thought of it that way. I was always with Ted on the inside of it.

I think front-of-house is definitely where (the number of) women are growing faster than in the back. I’m sure it has to do with all of the preconceived notions and places that women have worked historically.

NMDSBC: One thing that someone told me, I won’t say who so he doesn’t get in trouble, was that women aren’t strong enough to lift some of the equipment in the brewery. How do you react when you hear stuff like that?

Amberley: Anna is stronger than most of the men who work in the back.

Anna: I know that I’m not the largest of women. (Laughs) I think one of my favorite things to experience is when we have like people come in the back to shadow a brewer kind of thing. When someone is graining out and the guys have to move a 55-gallon drum of spent grain. It weighs like 300-plus pounds. I don’t know how many people work in the brewery and have seen me do this for like a year or six months. But they’ve never actually done it and then when they try to do it, they know they’ve seen me do it so they think they can do it, but then they try it and fail. (Laughs) I do get a little bit of happiness from that. I have a background in sports and like to be outside. I am a little bit stronger than most people my size. It’s heavy lifting. Just because I’m little doesn’t mean I’m not strong.

NMDSBC: Another thing we’ve paid attention to are the sales stats. Much like in baseball, they have a stat breakdown for everything. The stats are showing we’re moving closer to a 50-50 split between men and women in terms of buying beer at craft breweries. What do you see as the reason for more women just becoming fans of craft beer?

Amberley: I really don’t know. I’ve always been friends with women who drink beer. We go to breweries and pubs. I’ve never really known anyone who wouldn’t come to a place like this. But when I first started working here, it was a different crowd. I wouldn’t say gender-wise, but it was different. We decided to take Wednesdays and make it a little more family friendly, a little more chill. My friends would come down with their friends. Wednesdays would have our most diverse crowds, with more women, children, families, young people and older people. I think maybe a lot of times women don’t feel comfortable going to a place that’s all men. But now I think we have a very diverse clientele here.

Anna: I think a lot of women, when I was bartending, a lot of women you could tell got dragged here by their boyfriends or whatever. They were not psyched. They’d come to the bar and ask for a glass of wine. I’m sorry, we’re a brewery, what kind of beer would you like? They would ask for a Coors Light. I’m sorry, we only serve the beers we make. I think one of my favorite things to do is when women would come in with this preconceived notion that they don’t like beer and you would sit them down and help them find a beer. The look on their faces when they realized hey, I can drink this, that was great.

Amberley: I don’t remember it being that way. When I first came to New Mexico in ’98 and Ted started brewing and we would go to the festivals, no one in New Mexico was familiar with craft beer. Men, women, husbands, wives, everybody was there and everybody was like what is this? We’d have to explain everything to them. Maybe somehow it changed way back then and became more of a guy thing. But even back before then when Ted was working at a brewery in Long Island, the crowd was men, women. I’m wondering if that’s kind of a West Coast trend that came to Albuquerque. When we moved here, there was a little bit of craft beer, but most people were very, very unfamiliar with it. I don’t remember it being a male-dominated industry back then, like I know it is now. Especially in Portland and Colorado.

NMDSBC: When the reorganization happened, did you look at Ted and go ‘Are you going to make me do even more stuff?’ Or were you jumping in there wanting more responsibility?

Amberley: I was definitely saying I’ll take on whatever. I really like helping and working, but at times there got to be too much on my plate. So I really like being in charge of things and working hard at them, but I also like working with other people and not having to do it all myself. It’s just finding my balance. That balance, it’s in all aspects of Marble, we all struggle to find that. We all love working here, we all are really, really hard workers, but sometimes we can’t do it all.

NMDSBC: I imagine the anniversary week saw a lot of that for both of you.

Amberley: No, Anna went on vacation. She was smart about that. (Laughs)

NMDSBC: I’ve heard about how crazy things can get in the back, too. There have been stories told about how every place in town will run out of the same beer, then it’s all hands on deck. But when you’re in that super-charged atmosphere, how do you keep your cool?

Anna: I think the biggest thing that helps with that is that everybody back there has the same thought. We love beer and we love this industry and we want our beer to be top quality. At the end of the day we want to go home still and live our normal lives, not our work lives. So we’re kind of all in it together. Everybody back there, when you’re stepping over hoses, dragging hoses, and dragging this pump around, it gets totally chaotic back there on certain days. I think everybody back there handles it really well. You run into people and you bounce off of them. Everybody back there is really helpful.

* * * * *

I can attest to the fact that moving around in the back of Marble can be a challenge sometimes. Hence the need for future expansion (we’ll have more on that when Marble is ready to move forward with the project).

But as always, a huge thank you to Amberley and Anna for taking time out of their busy schedules to talk. Since Anna was wearing foot-flops instead of boots, it was clearly a paperwork day, not a brewing day, so she really did not seem to mind taking a break to chat.

We still have a few more stories to tell for this series, so keep an eye out for our interviews with additional staff members at Santa Fe, La Cumbre, and a certain head brewer at Nexus in the near future.

Until then …

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

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