When Sarah Henderson got the job as assistant brewer at Golden City Brewery eighteen months ago, there was more than a little fate involved.
"I had just posted my resume on ProBrewer.com," says Henderson, a Colorado School of Mines grad. "And literally, the day I called him looking for a job, the head brewer, Jeff Griffith, was getting ready to call me." Though Henderson hadn't brewed professionally before, she had passed a six-week online course at the American Brewers Guild and completed a six-week internship at Avery Brewing in Boulder.
Fate struck again in September. That's when Griffith, who had been at Golden City for eight years, took a job at the aptly named Fate Brewing in Boulder, which is set to open in December in the old Jose Muldoon's.
See also: - Golden City's Jeff Griffith takes the head brewer's job at Fate Brewing in Boulder - Wynkoop Brewing hires Bess Dougherty as its first female brewer in 24 years - A dozen new breweries on tap for the Denver Metro area by spring 2013
And Henderson was the right woman to take over. She is now the only female head brewer in Colorado -- and one of only ten or so women who actually work in the trenches here, lifting grain bags, mashing in, getting messy, according to the directory of the Pink Boots Society, a national trade group for women in the brewing industry.
"I might also be the youngest," says Henderson, who is 25.
But she's hardly daunted. "I started homebrewing when I was in school. It was a hobby I picked up from an old relationship -- maybe the best thing I got from that relationship," she says with a laugh. "I decided I wanted to make it a career."
And her parents were fine with the idea of their daughter -- and her mechanical-engineering degree -- going to work in a brewery. "They supported me the whole way," she says. "They are big beer drinkers. My dad is always trying something new."
So are some local craft breweries, which have traditionally been almost 100 percent male-dominated. But in the past few years, more and more women have gone to work in beer houses: in sales, marketing, quality control, accounting and ownership.
The last frontier is the brewhouse itself; the Wynkoop, for example, just hired its first female full-time assistant brewer in 24 years. "It's hard for us to get our foot in the door because getting into brewing is all about who you know," Henderson says. "There are a lot of hurdles for women on the job...but once you're in, you're in. And it's amazing to see how many women make their living from brewing now."
Henderson is tinkering with a few of the recipes at Golden City, which has a ten-barrel brewing system and makes about 1,000 barrels per year. But over the next few months, she plans to develop and brew a few of her own recipes, including a holiday ale.
And she's looking to hire her own assistant brewer. Although she would love to hire another woman, she says, she needs someone with a little bit of experience.
Maybe fate will step in.
Westword's Beer Man on Twitter at @ColoBeerMan and on Facebook at Colo BeerMan
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