Second Street’s Mariah Cameron Scee paints a picture of what it’s like to be a woman in the craft beer industry

Mariah Cameron Scee has worked hard at Second Street, and she has the ink stains to prove it.

If you’re a fan of craft beer in New Mexico, there’s a good chance you’ve met Mariah Cameron Scee at a beer event, or even at Second Street Brewery in Santa Fe where she works as director of art and branding. At the very least, you’ve definitely sipped on a delicious craft beer out of a can or glass featuring one of her many designs, such as the lightning-quick-selling Coelophysis glass she created for the New Mexico Brewers Guild.

Women work in all aspects of the craft beer industry, from pouring beer in the front of house, to managing taprooms and designing labels for cans. Mariah Cameron Scee has done all of these things, and though she’s worked in many facets of craft beer, art and design has (and may always be) the aspect closest to her heart.

Late last year, Cameron Scee took time out of her very busy schedule to sit down with the Dark Side Brew Crew to discuss her many craft contributions, her journey, what she’s been through as a woman in traditionally male-saturated industry, how far we’ve come, and where we are now.

If you’ve been following the Dark Side for even a little while, you might remember a previous story or two on Cameron Scee winning medals for her can designs. She certainly has made a name for herself, as she’s continuously asked to be a part of some excellent collaborations in our local industry.

DSBC: How exciting is it for you to be winning awards at the Craft Beer Marketing Awards?

Cameron Scee: The Craft Beer Marketing awards are really exciting, because they’re the only awards that are really directed at what I do. It makes it really, really fun. I’m still holding out hope that we might go to CBC (Craft Brewers Conference) this year with some of our staff and maybe, and I would never assume that I would win an award, but maybe this year, I would get to accept it on stage.

DSBC: Here’s hoping.

Cameron Scee: I should not jinx it by saying that. But yeah, as far as beer stuff, those are the only awards that are really for me, or for what I do. And, those are really exciting. This year has a bunch of new categories, so I’m still feeling out what we can enter.

DSBC: At this point, you’ve designed tons of cans, not just the ones you’re recognized for. Some have been very important to you.

Cameron Scee: Yeah. Essential Pie is a big deal. I’ve done two labels for Pink Boots. And, I will be doing a 2022 Pink Boots label as well. That beer is being brewed at Steel Bender this year. And we’re already talking about the label design so that that’s already happening. (That beer, Hop Heroine Pale Ale, is now available at breweries in Albuquerque and Santa Fe starting today.)

DSBC: You also did the New Mexico Brewers Guild’s first ever Pint Day glass.

Cameron Scee: Yes, and I’m already working on the second.

DSBC: Really?

If you didn’t hustle to get one of these, you were probably left out.

Cameron Scee: Yeah, I just asked Leah (Black) yesterday if it was OK, that I said that. Because, you know, she’s about to leave (the Guild). She wanted it to be kind of be a legacy thing that she put into place for the Guild.

DSBC: That glass sold out within hours.

Cameron Scee: Yeah, it was awesome. The next one will come out (close to) March. And the design is finished. It’ll be another one of the New Mexico State symbols with my own twist on it. So, I’m not even actually sure if it’s going to be a can-shaped glass, or if it’s going to be a different glass. Still working on that.

DSBC: Do you have a favorite design for any of the cans that you’ve done? I know you really liked for Brown (Ale) a lot.

Cameron Scee: I do love Brown. Brown Ale’s on there. Supernova is one of my favorites. Even though it’s a few years old now. But, I think design-wise it’s pretty on point.

Here’s hoping this beer returns in 2022.

DSBC: Could we see a resurgence of that? The beer and design? It’s also one of my favorite designs and the beer was pretty great, as well, as I recall.

Cameron Scee: We’re already talking about printing new cans this year. We have a maybe a whole slew of galactic-themed space, science, nerd beer planned.

DSBC: Do you have other favorite cans that you’ve done?

Cameron Scee: I love the Lion and the Cobra from last year. It’s one of my favorites (with) the holographic label. I have a fondness for all the Octoberforest fest cans, which way it is whether it’s an October forest or an Oktoberfest. I get to go sit outside and draw those, which always makes me pretty happy, to go places and draw. Yeah, and then what else? I mean, there’s some cans that I really like. And then, there’s some cans I think are more effective, like Cream Stout I’m really proud of, because how do you make a cream stout can look exciting and still say stout, you know, and still make people think that that’s what’s going to be in the package? And, I think, yeah, can I find a way to make the natural landscape transferred to a beer, and make it make sense?

DSBC: It’s like a cold November sky.

Cameron Scee: Yeah, and the funny thing is, we haven’t had any weather like that. But, the last couple days, we had those clouds. You need me to take a picture? Here’s the weather. Here’s the can.

DSBC: Do you have an achievement that you’re most proud of?

Cameron Scee: I mean, I would say that the barleywine packages are the most key to that, because everything else, for the most part, there’s a lot of art that I do for Second Street that is murals and other hands-on things. But, as far as the beer packaging, most of it’s done digitally. And so, to get to do print-making once a year is pretty cool. And also, everybody who I know that’s a print maker that I show it to is pretty excited and surprised, because it basically reverse engineers what a printing drum does, and I’ve never seen anybody else put a block print onto a circular object. And, whether it’s the beer world, or whether it’s print-making, and everybody who is in either one of those worlds seems to think that’s really cool. And, the fact that it gets to change every year, that’s pretty exciting.

At this point we talked about the history of the packaging design, and the story of how and why the name was changed from Skookum to simply Barleywine. If you’d like to read about it, here’s a link to the legend of the Second Street Barleywine once known as Skookum.

Rufina, in the before times, or back when Mariah joined the company.

DSBC: Tell us a little about your industry history before Second Street.

Cameron Scee: So, in a previous lifetime, before I got to Santa Fe, I worked in the restaurant industry. As far as industry history, I managed a bar in Seattle for quite a while. And, when I got here, I, actually Rod (Tweet) and I were just talking about this. This week was my five-year anniversary with Second Street Brewery.

DSBC: Congratulations!

Cameron Scee: Thanks! Yeah, and when I met him, I just got into Santa Fe. My truck was kind of a little bit broken. It was fine in a couple of days, but I really liked it here, and I thought, you know, maybe I’d stay for permanent, one of those. And, I answered a job listing and went in for an interview with Rod. So, we had the interview, and then he kind of vaguely said, ‘Actually, I’m not interviewing for a job at this property. Here’s the ad. Can you meet me at this address tomorrow morning?’ At 9 a.m. Yeah, and the address is 2920 Rufina Street. And so, I show up here the next morning. Thankfully, my truck was fixed. I actually thought that would be the real challenge. It was kind of a crazy old truck, and I was worried that Rod would change his mind about me when he saw what I drove. But, he was just sitting there staring at it because he grew up around those trucks. They are all built in Washington. And so then, he brings me inside and shows me this place. It was just beams and some walls he built with a bunch of tables in the back. He said, ‘Actually, I need somebody to open this.’ And, that was really exciting. So I was hired as the opening manager of this place. There was a gap in time between when he decided to hire me and when we actually were ready to open Rufina. So I spent the winter at the original location, managing there before we found a new manager for that.

I forget the timeline but it was not long after opening, that we started working on can designs. And, we used to have an outside graphic design firm that did posters, and shirts, and stuff. But, Rod wanted something fresh and new for the can designs, and so he kind of gave me the opportunity to take a stab at it.

He wasn’t just going to give me the job of designing the cans, of course, but we’d been talking about it long enough. And, he knew that I had the art background, a design background, and so he gave me the opportunity to show him what I thought that might go like.

DSBC: I’m guessing he liked the designs?

Cameron Scee: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah. But, I think it took us a second to get to where we wanted. You know, we were trying to find a way to make them iconic, but also make them very artsy, and also speak to Santa Fe and New Mexico.

Mariah with her original can designs. She’s also responsible for that mural in the background.

Originally Mariah did the first three can designs, 2920 IPA, Agua Fria Pilsner, and Bone Shaker Bitter. She was still managing Rufina when they slowly phased out the out-of-house graphic design team. At that point Second Street’s design was now one of her jobs.

As production ramped up at Rufina, then came the arrival of the wholesale operation, which needed full-time marketing. It no longer made as much sense for Mariah to continue managing a taproom in addition to her design duties.

Cameron Scee: At that point we needed actual marketing, and so then my job became art and marketing instead of art and managing.

DSBC: I heard you have a new title.

Cameron Scee: I do have another job title, again. I was creative director and now I am the director of art and branding.

DSBC: Why the change?

Cameron Scee: I think that we did that because, to me, in the design world, in the art world, creative director is instantly understandable. But, I think sometimes it’s a little bit vague to people in the beer industry, what I do. So Rod felt that since branding is a much larger part of my job, it made sense to kind of rework that and make it clear to other people what I’m doing. And also, we have quite a few more people in our own company now. And there’s, you know, during the pandemic, it was only a few of us for a while. We all had different roles that we would (not) normally do. But now, we have all of this new infrastructure and new people, and we kind of wanted to make it more clear to them also what my job role is.

Beer delivery, 2020 style.

DSBC: So it seems like you have found a place where you’re respected, you’re heard. You have a voice. You have the ability to make the moves that you want to. It’s not the same story for everyone, of course. And, it probably hasn’t always been like that for you. How did you get to this point? And, did you feel like you had to go through what many women have to go through, in so many cases, to get where you are?

Cameron Scee: I feel like that’s a two-part answer. I think that in most other aspects of the service industry where I’ve worked before, I have very much had to go through that. So I’ve definitely experienced a lot of that whole Me Too, the beer movement that happened recently. I’ve been there. I have all of my own stories. I think less of that, at Second Street. There was a person who was pretty high up in the company, in the beginning, when I got here, who was very much that person and ran me through the gauntlet, and basically made it seem to the public that I had my job for reasons that are not why I had my job. And, a lot of people in this company had heard this rumor that this person had started, and didn’t want to tell me because, in the same way that all of this starts, they weren’t sure if it wasn’t true. And, that was what was the most hurtful thing to me. Because I have my job because I work really hard, and I’m really good at what I do. But, that’s the only instance in my time with Second Street that that’s been a problem. I feel like for the most part, Rod really hires people for them, for whoever’s the best person for the job. And, sometimes that is men, you know, and there are more overall more men in the brewing world than there are women.

I think anybody coming into a company that’s been established for a long time, when you’re a brand-new person, has to work really hard, and I did. And, I had to be pretty vocal, and be pretty loud to have my voice be heard. But, I don’t think in this particular case, I don’t think it really had anything to do with sex or gender, I think it was just establishing amount of trust, and showing that you can do your job well.

Today is the release day for this beer. (Photo courtesy of Second Street Brewery)

DSBC: Do you feel like you’ve had to work harder to prove yourself?

Cameron Scee: I mean, I feel like I had to work hard because I was always kind of new, I mean, I was new, right? Rod hired me when I’d only been in town for three days. I don’t think having to work harder was really about gender then. But, at the same time, I’ve been run through the gauntlet in many jobs, which was about gender. And so, I just think in this particular case, it was less of that. Also, I am an incredibly stubborn person, and I can be pretty vocal when I need to, and I think I choose those moments. But, I think whether it’s in the beer industry, service industry, or basically any fields really, as a woman, you do have to be a little bit louder, and I don’t just mean volume. There’s a level of competence you have to exude, even if you don’t necessarily have it in order to be heard in order to be trusted.

DSBC: Do you think it might be more difficult at another company, same industry?

Cameron Scee: Second Street isn’t every company, and that’s the hard thing. I don’t want to generalize today, also, from my own experience in this particular company. You know, I’m here, and I’m given a lot of respect, and people very much listen to what I have to say. And, I appreciate that, and I did work really, really hard to get there, and that did not come incredibly easily. But, that’s where we are now, and that’s also part of my commitment to Second Street. There’s a reason why I’m still here, and there’s a reason why there are other jobs that are like my job that exist out there. There’s a reason why I’m here at this particular job, and why I’m committed to this company, and it has a lot to do with the respect that I have for Rod in the way that he hires and deals with people.

DSBC: Where do you see women being most unfairly treated in the brewing industry? Maybe not yourself, at the moment, but at what level? Is it like at the server level? Is at the corporate level?

Cameron Scee: I think it’s two places. I think one of them is having been a server and also knowing a lot of servers in this industry. I mean, a server as a female can be pretty fucking awful. Honestly, I mean, just the way that people talk to you, or try to grab you. I mean, it’s just very constant. I remember saying, not to make light of the pandemic, but one of the things I think I’ve appreciated most about the last couple years is that men suddenly understand what a bubble of space is in a way that they didn’t use to, right? Because now there’s a pandemic, and so now you’re given a bigger bubble. And, I’ve heard so many other women express that it’s no longer okay for a man to grab you because there’s personal space now, as opposed to just being able to say it was never OK for them to grab you. But, it’s always been very common for me in my life, especially when I was behind the bar or serving that people would grab my arms to look at my tattoos, they would do this without asking, and just grab my arm and pull it towards them. Or, just to get your attention, they’d touch you. And, I think the last couple years have changed the way that we think about personal space, and I also realize that’s so horrible that it took a global pandemic, to have women in the industry not have to worry about being touched all the time. And, I’m not saying that nobody has to be worried, but it has changed the dynamic of that. And, it’s ridiculous, and it’s really stupid. But, it’s very true.

So I think that on the on the floor level in front-of-house, women go through a lot in this world. I also think, on the beer side of it, in the brewhouse, I think it’s hard for us to get people. This is something we talk about a lot. How do we find more women that would be interested in working with us?

Proper labeling requires a very steady hand.

DSBC: What do you think is at the root of the issue?

Cameron Scee: I think there are so many young men who want to get their foot in the door. And, they and they have all the confidence to walk up and say, ‘Hey, I would like to get my foot in the door of the brewery, where do I start?’ Right? And, I think less women feel confident about asking for that, because they’ve been told so many times that he had to be able to lift a certain amount, and (not a) lot of women can lift a keg. I run all of our off-site events, and I can’t pick up the keg and put it in (the van). No, you know, there’s a lot of physical limitations that you have to overcome, but you overcome and you figure it out. Also, even the guys shouldn’t be lifting kegs by themselves, because they’re really heavy, and they can hurt their back. (laughs)

DSBC: What else keeps women from the industry, do you think?

Cameron Scee: I don’t know. Sometimes I get the feeling from talking to women who might be interested, they feel like they’re not welcome. And, I don’t know, I think that’s a big question. Right? Like, the big question is, how do we make people feel welcome to apply for those jobs? And, we have a lot of really amazing female brewers in this state, and that’s increasingly becoming true, which I think is really great. I think that as companies get called out and are more thoughtful about being inclusive in their hiring, they do make more of an effort to reach out to diverse populations, including women, to get them in the door. But also, just from looking at it at our level, the vast number of people that are applying for warehouse jobs are men and like, is that my fault? Am I representing Second Street publicly in a way that doesn’t make Second Street a place for women to apply?

Or is it because we’re in Santa Fe, and there are not that many breweries, and most of the people that are coming from CNM are in Albuquerque, and there’s a lot of women graduating that program? But, I do think that there’s there is a barrier there that I haven’t quite figured how to crack. And, we did have Veronica, who was fucking amazing. She and I roller skated a lot last winter. Love her. She went back to Oklahoma. I don’t know. I don’t think we’ve figured out quite how to cross that line.

DSBC: I have a question from one of our female readers. It seems like an appropriate time to ask it. What about the women who are looking to not only break into the industry but succeed in it?

Cameron Scee: Yeah, I think one of the biggest things is to just know that you’re going to have do grunt work whether you’re a guy or girl, if you’re starting from scratch. Know that it’s going to be dirty. It’s keg washing. If you want to be in the brewhouse, it’s keg washing. I think making the connection, expressing interest is sometimes the best way. We might have not have an opening right now, but we’re going to have an opening in six months. And so, if you find the person to talk to you, and express your interest, and explain why you’re interested, I think I think making the connections is really important.

DSBC: Circling back to women being treated fairly in the brewing industry, do you feel like it’s getting better?

Cameron Scee: I think so. I think a lot of what we’ve seen this (past) year has helped to really publicize that. I mean, there were so many things. There’s also the generation of service industry that I grew up in, (where) you just assume that people are going to be sexist and treat you not great. It’s almost an assumption as a bartender, but I also am a little bit older, and that should not be how we assume that everybody should be treated. And, I think having watched, specifically in the beer industry over the last year, so many very large breweries having to answer to that, and the kind of culture allowing bad behavior to go on. They’re having to be held accountable for that too. And, watching so many head brewers or masters or presidents or CEOs step down from their breweries because of their own behavior, or what they’ve allowed to happen, I think sends a really loud and clear message. And, I also noticed from my own experience within our company, and also working with Cheers to Change as part of it, and Pink Boots, all these things I’m involved with, I think that the more those conversations are being had, the more people are comfortable stepping up and talking about what they’re experiencing. But also, it actually is a pretty serious concern to a lot of the men that I work with, to make sure nobody’s doing anything wrong or if we hear anything that we say something. I think because the conversation got pushed to the forefront of this year, it’s making people a reconsider their actions.

DSBC: Do you feel like this is a positive turn for our industry and for women who want to work in it?

Cameron Scee: Yeah, I think so.

*****

Thank you as always to Mariah Cameron Scee. Congratulations on your wins, and may you have many more! We can’t wait to see more of your designs in the near future. Be sure to pick up her latest collaboration with Pink Boots, Hop Heroine, available today (Thursday) at all participating breweries. To all the women making history with their passion for the craft, cheers!

— Luke

For more #craftbeer info and @darksidebc stories follow me on Twitter @SantaFeCraftBro

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