Five Questions for the Brewer

July 2022 Interview conducted by Jack Horne

Shawna Hays – Brewer
Miel Brewery & Taproom
405 6th Street, New Orleans, La.

1. How did you start brewing?
I started home brewing with my Dad early on and started my first job in a brewery at the end of 2013, from there my interest and love for the creative science really took off. The brewmaster at Sprecher Brewery then took me under his wing and started teaching me all the basics; letting me read books on the job and shadowing the guys in the cellar and brew deck.  He had me start my own quality control program for the lab and that really started my passion for brewing.  After that I’ve worked at several breweries, wearing many hats, and landed the brewer job at Miel Brewery last August 2021, which brought me down to New Orleans.

2. How did you get into commercial brewing?
The brewmaster at Sprecher, in Milwaukee, WI, really got me in the door but when I moved to Fort Collins, Colorado I finally got a brewing job at the Gilded Goat where I learned so much.  I moved around a lot in the beginning even taking on an unpaid internship in the lab at Boulder Beer, just anything to land a full-time spot in production.  Colorado was a great state to learn loads about brewing and production, plus be surrounded by so many great breweries to try new kinds of beers.

3. Which style(s) are you most interested in brewing and why?
I really enjoyed making the Schwarzbier I recently did for Miel.  Not only is it one of my favorite styles but I also got to make it my own.  I looked at some traditional recipes and then messed it up!  I found a Swaen coffee malt I used in a black IPA before and put a little of that into this batch too and it turned out great.  I enjoy any beer that I can get creative with.

4. What is the most challenging aspect of being a commercial brewer?
I think the hardest part about commercial brewing, other than how tough it is on your body, is trying to make my mark as a woman brewer in this very male dominated industry.  It can get very demeaning and be a hard fight to be seen as legitimate in this industry, but that also has been the fuel to my fire as well to keep learning and making myself better.  So for any women out there looking to get into production, I say if they tell you can’t, then just show them you can plus a little more and don’t let it discourage you!  We need more ladies out there making beer!

5. What advice do you have for homebrewers?
My biggest advice would be to clean, clean, clean everything and don’t forget, sanitize! Give your yeast the best little environment you can to create your best beer.  Also a big one which may be hard with carboys, test your product as much as you can along fermentation.  Sometimes beer may finish earlier than you think and sometimes it may need a bit more time to clean up those off flavors.  At the end of the day though, it’s just beer and it should be fun and creative.  No need to stress over every rule, so mess around with recipes and get crazy!

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