If you had ever stopped in at Rowley Farmhouse Ales while Ebbie Edmonston was behind the bar, in the span of just a few minutes, you’d see her call out orders to her staff, greet regulars, disappear to change kegs, take meals out to tables, and maybe take a quick seat to make schedules or purchase beer. No matter what she was doing, she always inspired a certain confidence that everything was under control.
It’s no surprise then, that when it came time for her to apply for the position of executive director of the New Mexico Brewers Guild, plenty of others were confident that she could take on the new role as well.
Recently, I got the chance to sit down with our new director at Hidden Mountain Brewing in Santa Fe. And, over a couple of stouts, and with the gleeful gritos of mariachis interjecting in the background, we chatted about the success of her first big event, how she got to be where she is today, and what’s coming up for the Guild.
DSBC: So, Ebbie, you’ve been the executive director of the New Mexico Brewers Guild for a little over a month now.
DSBC: With one big successful event under your belt, how do you feel about your new role?
Edmonston: I definitely feel a lot more confident. I think there was a lot of jitters leading up to it. And, a lot of second guessing myself, how anybody is with a new job you’re learning. You’re going to make mistakes. And, all of that is totally expected. So with how well I feel, (how) WinterBrew went, I definitely have a little bit more oomph behind all my decisions now. I definitely proved to myself that I can do it. And, I hope I have proved to other people out there that they picked the right person.
DSBC: It sounds like you’ve already learned a lot since you started. What were some of the bigger lessons you took away from this event, and everything else you’ve been doing so far?
Edmonston: Organization is key. Like that (Guild) email is a beast! I have never had to deal with an email that gets so many messages into and out of; I’m making sub-folders and Excel sheets. I’m becoming a pro with that. That side of the computer is like looking real nice in my opinion. (Laughs) But, organization is key.
DSBC: Let’s talk about WinterBrew. It was huge for a first event. A little baptism by fire, wouldn’t you say?
Edmonston: Yeah. (Laughs)
DSBC: You said you thought it went pretty well. What would you say went right and is there anything you would do differently?
Edmonston: I think a lot of things went right. I think my over-thinking and stressing about things really led to being well prepared for a lot of the situations that arose. One thing I would change is to maybe (add) more volunteers. The Board of Directors was really great, and most of them were able to make it, and I appreciate that so much. But, unfortunately, most of them were stuck volunteering the whole time. And so, they didn’t really get to enjoy the event, like a lot of the rest of the people did. And, I think for future events, I’m going to overstaff with volunteers. That way everybody can really get to participate and enjoy the fun part, while also putting in their couple hours’ worth of work. So I think that’s the biggest thing I would change. I think it would be really cool to do other special stuff, but one step at a time.
DSBC: The next big guild event is the Stout Invitational (on March 11) up at Bathtub Row, correct?
DSBC: What’s your strategy heading into that one?
Edmonston: Interestingly enough. It’s very similar to WinterBrew. There’s actually 16 breweries from a lottery, yet again. The only difference is that there is going to be sessions. So in that regard, it’s similar to the IPA Challenge. There’s one, two, and three sessions and you buy your ticket to whichever session you’d like to attend. I think they’re two-hour sessions, but I can’t confirm that off the top of my head. And then, of course, at the end of the day, one stout gets crowned champion. I was actually looking at awards today, like, what kind of award am I going to buy? I don’t know.
DSBC: How about a helmut? I kid. So with WinterBrew finished, with few, if any minor issues, would you say you have a solid grasp on what’s needed for future events this year?
Edmonston: I think every event is going to be different, and every event is going to have its own set of different challenges. The Stout Invitational is really going to be my first solo event because if you recall, I did take on this position a couple of weeks before January, and so Tess (Vidalis), she set up a lot of WinterBrew, and I’m eternally grateful to have that step up. So certain things were definitely taken care of, and then, other things I had to learn. And, that’s great, I learned, and now I get to figure out all the things that she did. So, I’m about halfway there. (Laughs)
DSBC: What other big events are you looking forward to this year?
Edmonston: I’m looking forward to doing the IPA Challenge. It is definitely the pièce de résistance of the Brewers Guild. That’s the big award. Everybody is really, really excited about that. I just want to make sure I do it right.
DSBC: The stakes are pretty high all around.
Edmonston: Yeah, and I’m definitely nervous about the golf tournament, because I don’t know anything about golf. OK, but I do know beer, so I’m hoping that’s going to carry me through. I’ll take some advice.
DSBC: (Laughs) Now of course events are only a portion of what you do in the Guild. What’s something else the public might not know (that) is part of your job?
Edmonston: That’s a really good question. I think at the moment, I’m still learning all of the minutiae that goes into every aspect. Breweries will hit me up and say, “Hey, we have this job posting…” That’s an entirely different widget to the website that I have to learn how to run, on top of the website itself, or people are emailing me about the brewery map that needs to be updated. I will get on it as soon as I’m done with this thing. I don’t know how to use that system, yet. But, I’ll learn. There are so many tiny things that go into making everything run smoothly. Right now, I have about four or five pages worth of different accounts for different websites, and services, and I’m trying to learn all of them. But, there are a lot. I think one of the big things is, I get a lot of emails with questions that I don’t know the answer to (yet).
DSBC: I can imagine.
Edmonston: And then, maybe that one email will send me down a rabbit hole to find the answer. Where do I find it out? Who can I ask? And that, in and of itself, takes how long? But yeah, in the time it took me to learn these things and find out this one answer, three more emails got sent with new rabbit holes.
DSBC: What do you think your favorite part of the job will be as you become more comfortable in your role?
Edmonston: I think my favorite part will probably be making the connections, and just learning from other people who have been in the industry longer than me, because they are such a wealth of information. I have open ears. Give me your insights!
DSBC: One of the things the Guild works on, maybe not every year, but the legislature is currently in session. Is the Guild working on anything this year? Or is there anything coming up in the near future?
Edmonston: So yeah, we actually just sent out a survey last week asking Guild members what their opinions were on certain bills that were coming up. I haven’t gotten all the data in yet. But, it looks like the one bill that’s kind of at the forefront is excise tax.
DSBC: Can you tell us a little about it?
Edmonston: You know it’s a tricky thing, the alcohol industry. Speaking of spirits and wine, they haven’t really been taxed on the same level that beer has been taxed. And, it seems unfair. So we are trying to level that playing field to a degree. There’s also another bill coming up about minimum wage, but that one doesn’t seem like Guild members care about as much as the excise tax. So, you know, we’re sending that stuff out to the breweries. I’m not the one deciding what’s important. I want to hear from the people who I represent and make sure I’m making the right decisions for them.
DSBC: So lets chat a little more about you. You’ve been in the local craft beer industry, since I believe 2014 right?
Edmonston: Yes, correct. On and off.
DSBC: And, you’ve worn many hats, from serving to managing, to things probably I don’t even know about maybe,
Edmonston: Probably. (Laughs)
DSBC: What pieces of those previous jobs would you say prepared you for the role of executive director?
Edmonston: Well, let’s back up. I would say to be a good manager, you have to put yourself in the role of all of the people that you manage. And so, learning how to do all of those things that all of the people under you do is what makes a good manager. I am now in the interesting position of managing a board of directors, so to speak, that are kings and queens of the industry, respectfully. And, like I said earlier, they have been doing this longer than me and are definitely better than me in a lot of regards. But, I’m learning from them, and I’m learning from my own past experiences of being a server, being a manager. From things like ordering the beers, cleaning the draft lines, I understand what goes into those jobs. And, I think that gives me an advantage when I do have to make a decision. I can put myself in those shoes, and put back on the many different hats I wore, to make the right decision.
DSBC: At what point in your career did you join the Pink Boots Society? It was later, correct?
Edmonston: Yeah, it was definitely later. Actually, funny enough, my partner and I were at Lagerhosen (at Ex Novo) in this past year, and it was there that we hatched this plan to climb higher up in our respective industries. And, he mentioned that to me just the other day, and here I am. And, it kind of blows my mind that it happens. I still can’t believe I have this job.
DSBC: Would you say joining Pink Boots helped you get to where you are today?
Edmonston: Yeah, definitely. For a long time, I never really knew very much about Pink Boots. But, I wanted to join because, I wanted to meet more people that had a similar position in the industry. But, as females in the beer world, you see things through a different set of lenses, and I wanted to meet like-minded people and get their experiences and learn from them. And, that’s actually where I met (Canteen general manager) Jamie Schwebach. She encouraged me to go for the board, (but) at the time I was like, I don’t think I can do it. And then, she let me know that the ED position was posted and really encouraged me to go for that. And, without Pink Boots, without her, this would have never happened.
DSBC: Do you have any advice for other women looking to take on different career roles in the industry, you know, maybe looking to step up or step out of their comfort zones?
Edmonston: Just learn. Ask questions. Focus on your goals, and don’t do anything else. If you want to be higher up in your industry, invest in yourself, get that training, get Cicerone certified, get (beer) judge certified. Learn and advance yourself, just keep adding those credentials, so that way others will see how much worth you have, and you will only make vertical moves.
DSBC: What are your biggest hopes and plans for your term in the Guild?
Edmonston: I hope I don’t mess it up. There’s a lot of pressure. I am the third female in a line of executive directors. And, I am constantly worried that I’m not going to be able to live up to them. But, before I even put my hat in the ring for this position, I spoke with Tess, and I spoke with Leah (Black). And, they definitely were encouraging, and I think hearing that from them, people who I haven’t actually spent a lot of time with meant a lot, after just turning in my resumé. Hearing positive encouragement, I thought if they think I can do it, maybe I should think a little bit higher of my qualifications. And then, I thought, what’s going to happen? I’m either going to get it, or I’m not.
DSBC: Do you have plans for the Guild? Things you’d like to try or like to see done?
Edmonston: I do have plans. I don’t want to speak about that too soon, but the first year is just learning, learning, learning. But, I hope that I can make this Guild amazing, and I would love to see more New Mexican beers coming home with medals, and I would love just to make our beer scene great. It already is great, but it needs to get more recognition for how good it is. People don’t think of New Mexico as a beer spot, like they think of Colorado, and that’s fine. They are a beer spot. But why can’t we also be a beer spot? So let’s get there.
DSBC: OK, my last question — what’s your elevator pitch for a new brewery to join the Guild?
Edmonston: So the Guild has been around for a number of years, and every new brewery that starts, the Guild has paved the way for you, in your new brewery to be able to open at noon, or earlier on a Sunday, being able to sell to-go during the pandemic. The breweries wouldn’t be as far as they are without the Guild. It’s a great example where you’re stronger together than you are divided. And, the Guild will only help you become stronger. Once again, there’s how many breweries in the Guild that are current members? And, they have been doing it for a long time. Santa Fe Brewing has been around for what, 34 years now? They’ve been through a lot. So being a Guild member with them, you can reach out with questions like, “Hey, I’m going through this right now in the brewhouse. Have you ever done this?” or “Can you give me some words of advice on beer clarity?” Information is key, and by becoming a Guild member, you can have access to a wealth of information from previous brewers, current brewers, previous EDs who now have their own breweries. So join the Guild, because the Guild will only help you become a better brewery.
Special thanks to Miss Edmonston for taking the time out of her extra busy schedule to chat with us. We in the Crew know you have your work cut out for you, so we wish you the best of luck and many successful events. Here is to all those fighting the good fight to make our local beer scene great.