The numbers add up for Tractor’s new assistant brewer

Posted: June 15, 2015 by cjax33 in NM Women in Brewing
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Tractor assistant brewer Sharon Garcia has ascended to the top after starting out as an intern. An accounting intern, that is.

Tractor assistant brewer Sharon Garcia has ascended to the top after starting out as an intern. An accounting intern, that is.

A while back I believe that I mentioned we would be re-starting our NM Women in Brewing Series now that ABQ Beer Week is in the rear view mirror. During the first round of interviews, one little bit of info that I picked up at Tractor caught my attention. While the Crew had been working on our beer for Battle of the Beer Geeks, we had spotted a new (to us) female brewer working in the back. The other Tractor staffers then told me an interesting, but brief, tale of how Sharon Garcia came to work for the brewery. Let’s just say she did not start out there brewing, but took a somewhat different path before ending up working hard in the back on everything from the Haymaker Honey Wheat to the Berry Cider and just about every other beer in between.

NMDSBC: So give me the story of you ended up here in the first place and then ended up switching roles.

Sharon: I started off here as an accountant intern while working on my master’s (degree). I did that for a semester (in 2014), then they asked me to stay on for the summer, then they asked me to stay on through the fall. So I did a year of accounting, some bookkeeping, basic stuff. So when I graduated I had my master’s in accounting, I was hoping to be in information insurance, which is a fancy way of saying I did audit work. So I graduated and was in a limbo kind of place. They couldn’t pay me what I was worth, so the CPA firm just wasn’t working out. A couple weeks after I graduated, David (Hargis) asked me if I would be interested in helping him back out there full-time. Why not? Sure, I’ll try it out.

NMDSBC: Did you have any brewing background?

Sharon: Nope.

NMDSBC: You’re going to make a lot of people jealous.

Sharon: The way he explained it to me is you have all the detail-oriented mindset that you need to have. As far as being consistent, being clean, that sort of thing, I had the right mindset. I think that was the biggest draw for him. That and I was already super enthusiastic about being involved in brewing even though at the time I wasn’t brewing. He decided to give me a shot and I’ve been working here ever since (January).

NMDSBC: I remember when we were back there brewing (for Battle of the Beer Geeks), they had you doing all the charts and everything. What all have they been having you do back there? Has it been a wide variety of stuff?

Sharon: There’s two types of people back there, I guess you could call it, the brewery side and the cellar side. The cellar side is more like filling kegs, cleaning lines, that sort of thing. I’m on the brew side, so I’m almost strictly brewing and that’s about it. I pretty much run that whole thing (the brewhouse), then I’ll check the beers at the end of the day for off flavors, where it is in the fermentation process, that sort of thing.

NMDSBC: Has there been a lot of homework?

Sharon: My first week David gave me a book (about brewing). I can’t remember its name, I remember what it looked like. It’s about everything you need to know. The background, the history, a little bit of everything. I flipped through that, kind of got the highlights, but I think only five percent of my education has been from that, the rest is from Josh (Campbell) or David or one of the cellar guys.

NMDSBC: Well, I’ve got to ask, what’s your favorite beer to brew?

Sharon: I like the ones where we add in something really different. Our Berry Cider is really different, even compared to our other ciders. The Berry Cider is fun, and the Honey Wheat.

NMDSBC: Josh must really love you, then. Last summer he was telling us how tired he was brewing the Honey Wheat.

Sharon: (laughs) Uh-huh.

NMDSBC: So as a beginning brewer, what are the hardest parts of the job?

Sharon: I think for the longest time for me was memorizing the process. From here to here, you do this, from here to here, you do that. It’s not big picture, it’s the really intimate (details), flip this lever, push that button, and so on and so forth.

NMDSBC: We’ve seen some brewers when they start out go slowly and carefully. Then after a while they’re just whipping through every step. Is there a lot of muscle memory involved?

Sharon: Definitely. Because you get used to the format. (Though) for a long time you’ll be brewing a regular beer and then you switch to the Berry Cider and it’s completely different. You get used to both, though.

NMDSBC: We’ve been asking all the women we have talked to in this series about their impressions of why it’s taken so long to get women out of just the front-of-house positions and into management and the back of the brewery. What’s your take on all of it?

Sharon: I think big picture, having more women working in the craft brewing industry, I enjoy it and I like seeing that diversity. I think it was bound to happen, at some point, just because I think as more exposure comes out for the craft beer industry as a whole.

NMDSBC: You definitely see the shift in the crowds at the brewery. It’s not just some old guys sitting at the bar. It seems to be an extension of the younger generation embracing a wider variety in everything, from what they eat to what they drink to just all the places they spend their time. As a younger person yourself, what’s your impression?

Sharon: Like you said, it’s not just craft brewing, it’s food, it’s clothing, it’s about anything you could possibly think of. There’s that huge movement for local, getting it handmade, hand-crafted. People are starting to really appreciate not buying something that’s like $3 at Wal-Mart when you can get something that’s higher quality, better made or you can trace back that money to somebody in your community. People like to see that, like to be a part of that.

NMDSBC: I know you’re new at the job, but have you had a chance to talk with any of the other female brewers around town?

Sharon: I’ve only really had a chance to talk to Monica (Mondragon) up at Santa Fe and mostly because she’s the chapter president for the Pink Boots Society.

NMDSBC: Yeah, so far Monica told us it’s mostly Tractor and Santa Fe involved in that. But is there ever a desire to maybe talk to someone like Anna (Kornke) at Marble or Kaylynn (McKnight) at Nexus, ask them their opinions on things? Or would it really be no different then to talk to one of the male brewers like Jeff Erway or Brady McKeown?

Sharon: I think it would be interesting. How do I put it? That kind of communication isn’t always open. There are bound to be certain things in place that are kind of like the unspoken rules.

NMDSBC: You can’t be swapping recipes.

Sharon: Exactly, so you have to be really careful with that sort of thing. But that point aside, I would love to have a conversation with them.

* * * * *

Thank you to Sharon for taking some time out of her busy day to chat. From the look of things, Tractor patrons are already plowing through the Honey Wheat supply again, so everyone in the brewery will be busy making sure that is back on tap soon enough. (Sorry, Josh.)

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

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