Features & Essays

The Future is Female

Of fermentation, that is. Meet five NoCo women who are poised to change what you sip—for the better.

THE TEAM LEADER

Stephanie Palladino
Brewing Manager | New Belgium Brewing

As a 21-year-old college graduate, Stephanie Palladino found herself managing 10 Anheuser-Busch union men the age of her dad. She had majored in chemistry and didn’t expect to put her degree toward brewing, but Palladino’s father worked at Budweiser and mentioned that it could be a potential career for her. “If he hadn’t said anything, it never would have occurred to me,” Palladino says. Eleven years later, she’s New Belgium’s brewing manager, leading 31 brewers and working with eight leadership members, making sure the fourth-largest craft brewery in the country puts out consistently good beer. She keeps her team on schedule and oversees the everyday production of brands from flagship Fat Tire to experimental Juicy Haze. But Palladino confesses that when she started working in breweries, she didn’t love beer. “I [eventually] fell in love with beer because of what it is as a science and what it is as an art,” Palladino says. She and her team enjoy discussing the next trends in craft beer and the latest ingredients, and they’ll also geek out over a perfected and replicated process in the lab. “You’re very much interacting with the science,” she says. It’s a message she has extended while working with middle-school girls in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) programs. And it’s a message she hopes to transmit when giving tours of the brewery to young women. “This is science?” the younger kids will ask, and she’ll answer: “Yes! This is science!”

THE DREAMER

Loren Matthews
Owner and Head Distiller | Elevation 5003 Distillery

When Loren Matthews was working as brewing manager at Anheuser-Busch InBev, she would notice her co-workers retiring after 30 years, saying they were finally planning to do what they loved. It made her reconsider her own career path. “I’m not sure what it is,” she had thought, “but there’s something else.” Matthews enrolled in an MBA program at Colorado State and put together a business plan to open a distillery. She’s always loved a good cocktail and she began to look at distilling as an extension of her beer knowledge, taking the process of brewing one step further. When tasting existing spirits out there, she had thought: “This could be better.” Elevation 5003 is now one of six operating distilleries in Fort Collins, and it’s a grain-to-bottle operation that starts with ingredients like malted rye and finishes two years later with a straight rye whiskey aged in oak barrels (finished on maple wood). The final product is sweet to the nose and again at the finish, but absolutely a traditional rye, according to Matthews, who hopes to appeal to longtime spirits drinkers as well as those new to the practice. She’s also created a citrus-forward gin, a subtly sweet vodka, coffee and Falernum liqueurs and, in 2018, a single-malt whiskey and bourbon. Unlike brewing, there are no courses around and hardly any literature on distilling, so Matthews’ process is scientific trial and error. “[Distilling] is where craft brewing was 25 years ago,” she says. “But it’s coming super fast and furious.” Though her operation is only a small part of the growing industry, she recently signed on with a national distributor and she’s started hiring more employees to meet demand. “I planted this little seed,” she says, “and I’d like to see it grow into a flower.”

THE MULTITASKER

Linsey Cornish
Co-owner and “Miss Master Brewer”

Three Four Beer Company

Last August, Linsey Cornish took a leap. She left her job of four years as head brewer of Horse & Dragon Brewing Company to become co-owner of an upstart brewery and take over its day-to-day operations. Three Four Beer Company now has a renovated taproom, a new lineup of around a dozen beers, and 18 or so more taps of Cornish’s favorite brands. Cornish has five employees but some days it’s just her brewing a double batch on the 3.5-barrel system for 14 or 15 hours, or running the taproom, pouring pints and answering customers’ questions with more information than they were expecting—the different ways to nitrogenate beer, for example. After a passionate explanation, she says they’ll sometimes cock their heads and ask: “What is your role here?” Despite wearing many hats, Cornish is comfortable in educator mode. She teaches a course at CSU on beer packaging, which is how she got her start in the field, working on the keg and bottling lines at Odell Brewing. She makes sure her students take this less-glorified industry work seriously. “You can make great beer, but if you can’t put it into a package and get it to someone, nothing matters,” she says. She applies that market practicality At Three Four as well, rotating beers frequently and keeping most of them lower in alcohol—bucking trends— in order to keep her customers sticking around for longer. “Everybody and their brother wants to open a brewery,” Cornish says. “But I know now it’s not just about making beer.”

THE NEXT GENERATION

Lauren Sandell
Lab Manager | Kathinka Labs

You could argue that not a lot of women start off their freshman year of college with this refrain echoing in their heads: Fermentation is really what’s for me. But it’s what haunted Lauren Sandell as she enrolled in CSU. Sandell had been an avid sauerkraut and kombucha maker back home in California, and she knew she wanted to be a scientist and work in a lab environment. Luckily for her, the year she began her studies (2013) was also the year the school started a fermentation sciences major. Beer came later, however: “Learning about how intricate and controlled the brewing process is, I just fell in love with all of it,” she says. “The flavor compounds, the different yeasts. . .it was stunning and super complex.” Sandell is now the lab manager at Kathinka Labs in Fort Collins, an engineering firm’s spinoff service for breweries and other fermentation businesses that need their products’ quality tested, their microflora analyzed and their alcohol measured. A year after graduating from CSU, Sandell runs the lab, working with a sensory specialist and current CSU student. She is an Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau-certified beer chemist, which means she can test a brewery’s product and provide documentation on alcohol content and composition so it can be shipped across state lines legally. Most of Sandell’s classmates wanted to open their own breweries, she says. But it was never the end goal for her: “I’m a scientist for sure. So I think, ‘We need to analyze this, and we need to figure out why it’s going wrong or right.’”

THE TRAILBLAZER

Jennifer Siewald
Owner and Cider Maker | Summit Hard Cider

For the last six years, Jennifer Siewald has been making cider, helping to shape the laws that govern her business, and outlasting any other similar operation that’s opened in town around her.

“Unfortunately, I tend to be a trailblazer,” says Jennifer Siewald, who owns Summit Hard Cider, Scrumpy’s Hard Cider Bar and Branch Out Cider. Since Siewald started making cider at Scrumpy’s in 2012, she’s continually run into gaps in cider industry regulation, and, at each impasse, she continues to work with the state to establish standards for herself and other makers.

Two years ago, she expanded her taproom and urban cidery Scrumpy’s into the space next door to it on College Avenue. Siewald also took over operations at Branch Out Cider, a gleaning and cider-making company that produces alcohol from residents’ unwanted fruit trees. Last year, she bought a 10,000-pound mobile juicing trailer in Canada, drove it across the border and now travels with it around Colorado collecting apples, pears, grapes and peaches from farms and orchards with no other use for them. That juicing trailer creates an easily packaged and sold fruit juice for herself and other alcohol producers. Its product, in turn, led to her working with the state to create the laws for a new type of  business. When Siewald first hears the word “no,” she says she won’t usually accept it. Her answer instead? “I say, OK, but let’s talk more about this.”

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