Ebbie Edmonston has been in and around the craft beer industry for eight years. She’s almost always been behind the bar, and has seen nearly every situation from the other side of the pine. After working at Duel Brewery for three and a half years, she was beamed aboard the ship at Meow Wolf as bar manager, and then later moved on to Tesuque Casino, where she was able to handcraft her own cocktail and beer list.
Ebbie has worked at several breweries in Santa Fe now after her long term relationship with Duel ended, even taking a job at Second Street, briefly, before COVID closed the doors to all but a slim crew.
Recently, she was promoted to bar manager at arguably one of the best craft beer bars and breweries in New Mexico, Rowley Farmhouse Ales, and I promise she knows more about beer than you and I combined.
Ebbie began like many young women in the craft beer industry. At first, it wasn’t really about the beer. But then, it really, really was about the beer, and now, her craft beer knowledge is something she takes very seriously, as she strives to be taken seriously in today’s predominately male craft brewed climate.
DSBC: How did you get started in the New Mexico beer industry?
Edmonston: I was born in St. Louis, but grew up in Mesa, Arizona. And, after going to college in Flagstaff, I bounced around Arizona a bit.
I honestly moved here because I was in a bad relationship. And, I was looking for jobs. I was living with my parents, and I didn’t have any friends. It was just me and my parents. And, I saw an ad on Craigslist for Duel Brewing, and so I went there. Within a week, I got a call back a day later and started.
DSBC: Had you ever served before?
Edmonston: I’d served before, but I didn’t really know anything about beer. Previous to that, I think my drink was like, not even gin and tonics. I was drinking vodka and lemonade. Wine. So I didn’t know anything about beer when I went into the industry. I just kind of like bullshitted my way through the questions that people would ask me like, oh, what’s this? And, I’d say it’s like Blue Moon, I don’t know. (Laughs)
DSBC: Eight years ago, the beer industry was just taking New Mexico by storm. When you were first looking for a job, did you know the industry would become something so big? It was a job. Not quite an ‘industry,’ yet, right?
Edmonston: Eight years ago, I didn’t really have the frame of mind to like really look at the beer industry back then, right? Back then, I feel like in Santa Fe, all we had was Santa Fe Brewing, Second Street, (and) Blue Corn. And, it was just like, yeah, that was it.
DSBC: So how did your journey begin? From beertender to the beer geek you are now? I mean, what got you interested?
Edmonston: I hate to say it, but it was a boy. You know, I met a guy who I also happened to work with. That lasted a very long time. During that time, I learned a lot about beer.
DSBC: Because he was really interested in beer?
Edmonston: I don’t think he was really interested in beer, I think he was more interested in the power dynamic of being in charge.
He was younger than I was, but I remember, you know, he was bar manager already. This was like eight years ago. So I was like 23, 24. It was interesting then, but in retrospect, I’m realizing that more and more that he had the ‘seeming-ness’ of being in authority, but not necessarily know-how of how to wield it.
In those years, I was very ignorant of this, and I kind of like, looked at life with like, happy eyes, you know, like, oh, these things are OK. But, now that I can look back and think yeah, these things were not OK. It’s definitely like, you know, somewhat a feeling of shame when you look back and you like, what you put up with?
Ebbie recalled a young adulthood much like many have experienced, where, when we were younger, we may not have known what we deserved in terms of respect or how we are supposed to be treated. And, sometimes we only learn after a kind of awakening, or, a “wokening,” if you will, which for some comes with age and experience, and for others, by many other voices speaking up and speaking out.
The craft beer industry, the one built long after the ashes of Prohibition cooled, is still relatively young, and the people in a relationship with it are growing up and realizing what they deserve (or don’t deserve), deciding how they would like to be treated, and speaking out to help others find their voice.
Back in May, amid the momentum of a second major #MeToo movement, Brienne Allen, @ratmagnet on Instagram, asked women to share their experiences with sexism and harassment in the brewing industry. Hundreds responded. Thousands listened.
Edmonston: I definitely look back at similar situations where I saw something and didn’t speak up, and, you know, I wish I hadn’t been afraid of repercussions and I had spoken up.
DSBC: How would that be different now?
Edmonston: I think now, like now there’s a fire in me. I had to take a step back from watching all of the Ratmagnet stories roll in, because it really was affecting me, like it was getting me fired up. And, it’s in the back of my mind, and then I would go to work. And, I would see the same things happening as far as like customers treating me like I don’t know things. And, I’m thinking ‘oh my gosh, I guarantee you, I know more about beer than you do.’ But, well, you know, I’m gonna bite my lip, because at the end of the day, you’re the one that’s giving me money. But then, it’s also like, how much do you bite your lip when it comes to money? And, when you go home, it weighs on you. So it’s a hard one to really put a price on, basically, your beliefs or how much you’re willing to put up with.
DSBC: How do you deal with it? Like, if you’ve experienced similar sexism in the industry, how do you move forward with that professionally?
Edmonston: For me, I like to play devil’s advocate. I’m trying to see it from all the perspectives of maybe why somebody will say a certain thing to me. And, it’s not just me. I have bartender’s ears, so I hear what people say to my other servers as well. And, people definitely say things to the other servers more than they will to me. Because I think I can adequately express what I’m trying to say as far as beer. But, it’s harder for somebody who’s coming in and maybe they don’t necessarily know as much. There’s that stereotype of like, oh, you’re just a girl working at a beer bar; you don’t know anything about beer. But, they work here, and they’re learning about beer. So give them the chance. Ask them the questions and then give them the opportunity to find the answer and give it back to you. Cause otherwise, no one’s going to learn from that.
There was a customer recently, within the last month, and it was a busy night. And, one of the servers was very flustered, and she messed up a couple small things. And, the guy said something like, what are you girls smoking? And, I kind of brushed it off because I was in my server mode. And, I was like, ‘ha ha,’ you know, ‘we wish.’ But, later on, I was like, you know, that’s really fucked up to insinuate that like I must be high right now, or she’s high, and that’s why we’re not doing a good job. Like, if you look around us and the world that we’re in right now, every hospitality industry is understaffed. We’re working as hard as we can. And, I just ask for you to have a little bit of patience.
DSBC: Bet this happens a lot these days.
Edmonston: So recently, what I’ve been doing is, I approach tables that have somewhat of an aggressive energy around them. I approach them apologizing. I’ll be like, thank you so much for your patience. I try not to say ‘I’m sorry.’ Because I haven’t done anything wrong. What I’m trying acknowledge is thank you for being patient for the situation that we are in. Set the tone. Right now, it’s a lot about trying to view the world from somebody else’s shoes, and just be a little bit more patient with everyone. You know, it’s a hard time right now.
DSBC: How has your general experience been in the industry been before the pandemic? Do you feel like you’ve been able to progress freely, or do you feel like you’ve had obstacles thrown in your way because you’re a woman?
Edmonston: Definitely. Yeah. You know, I will say there’s a boys club. It doesn’t matter where you are. This industry is just a boys club. And, it’s definitely a bummer. Because after reading through those stories on Ratmagnet, I mean, it’s really sad to see how many people left the industry because of the horrible experiences they had.
And, I’m thankful that I haven’t experienced the same level. But, it’s definitely hard. I think the main reason I wanted to become a certified Cicerone is because I thought, if I had that, then people wouldn’t treat me like, oh, you don’t know what you’re talking about. But, the fact is, even if I do have that, I’m a certified beer server, I’m working my way through the courses, I’ve already got the German and Czech styles down … (but) they still think I don’t know anything.
DSBC: Do you feel like that condescension is mostly a customer thing? Or does it come from men in the industry as well?
Edmonston: From my experience, which is all I can really refer to, is definitely from a customer perspective. I mean, from the few breweries I have worked at, I’ve experienced some boys club stuff, but nothing to the level that customers have given me.
DSBC: What are the best ways we can move forward from this?
Edmonston: I think it really is going to be (about) listening. And then, talking about it. I know, these conversations aren’t going to be fun, and they’re going to be you know, probably a little bit anxiety-sweat, and awkward, but you’ve got to have them, and you’ve got to check in. Make sure that, OK, we were good last month, like, how are we this week, and next week. Let’s keep checking in, let’s hold each other accountable. And also, because I think it is a community thing. You know, when all this stuff was coming up, I started writing down every single brewery, every single name that was in those stories on Instagram, and it became so many that I had to take a step back, because I was getting so frustrated, because I didn’t want to support breweries that have done this or like, didn’t know.
DSBC: What does the brewery, or brewery staff, or person(s) responsible do now that we’re aware that they’ve been involved with the damaging sexism?
Edmonston: I think first, it’s admitting that you fucked up. Admit that you made a mistake, and then open the floor and be like, what can I do, so I don’t do this again?
DSBC: I like what you said, about checking in, like, let’s check in from month to month, are we still doing OK? Like how’s my driving, but not a fake number on the bumper.
Edmonston: And, I think, you know, it doesn’t have to be like long-term goals, like you can you can set a goal and like, by all means, I would love you if you hit that, but just keep the conversation going. A monthly, hey, not necessarily just ladies, but people of color, LGBTQ, let’s get together, CIS men, come on in. Let’s talk about ways that you can be allies to the people that aren’t being respected and heard.
DSBC: Do you think things will get better?
Edmonston: I think so, as long as we keep the conversation going.
DSBC: How is it now that more people are out and about?
Edmonston: I mean, it’s nice where we are now, because I like being able to speak to the faces. I like being able to talk to them. I am very thankful that people are coming out, that they want to come out. I’m also extremely thankful that people want to work, because I mean, I love to work, and I like money a lot, sure. But, I am only one person, and I cannot give good service if I have my attention divided by how many tables there are, how many people there are at each table, thinking about food and beer and water and all of that.
Ebbie’s real interest in beer came from a beer trip to Belgium and Germany. It was this experience that would change Ebbie’s perspective on beer forever.
Edmonston: After that, I was all in on beer. Like, all right, I gotta learn everything. And, I went really hard into it. But, the problem is, it’s just so it can be expensive, especially in New Mexico, for the Cicerone program, or at least the work-from-home study program. They give you specific styles, and they’re like, this is a beer brewed to style, you need to taste and try these examples of the style. But, it’s tough here, because of where we live, you just can’t find those beers.
DSBC: We need to get a grant from the government to educate interested women who want to get their Cicerone to take their knowledge and maybe even earning potential to the next level.
Edmonston: I would love the grant, or even just like a local meetup. That’s one of the great things about Facebook. I have definitely joined many Facebook groups for craft beer, and there are specific ones where it’s like, ‘Hey, is anybody else studying for their Cicerone?’
DSBC: I’m sure I don’t even have to ask, but I will, how important do you feel server education is?
Edmonston: You have to give people the tools they need, rather than expecting them to go out and find the tools on their own. When you get people excited about something, they can talk about it all day.
Much thanks to Ebbie Edmonston for chatting with us in the Crew. To listening more and keeping the conversation going, cheers!
For more #craftbeer news and keen Untappd beer insight, follow me on Twitter @SantaFeCraftBro.