I don't know duck about beer. If it's not whiskey, it's shite, you know? But when it was brought to my attention that there were only three female brewers in Portland, the microbrew capital of the universe, my attention was piqued and I decided to get to the bottom of it. Abby Sherrill has been a beer lover ever since she got her hands on her mom's Miller back in Minnesota. She started at the Lucky Lab in August 2005, washing kegs and working at the front of the house, but all the while dreaming that one day they'd let her try her hand at brewing. It was about two years ago that she joined the proud ranks of the half-dozen female brewers in the Pacific Northwest. The best part of the job? Once a year the Lucky lets her brew her own beer recipe, like last year's Hellas-style lager, "Hellasaurus Rex."
What are your duties?
Most of my job is cleaning. Scrubbing, sanitizing—getting in the tanks can be really claustrophobic. There's a lot of weighing out beer and harvesting yeast. Actual brewing is probably one or two days out of a five-day week.
What can go wrong?
The glycol is like antifreeze in your car—it keeps everything at a certain temperature. If the system breaks, especially over the weekend when we can't catch it, the beers will get too hot and will get off-flavor. Or an infection can develop, which hasn't happened since I've been working here.
What do you do with beer that's not right?
We haven't had to dump any since I've been here, but they've had to dump beer in the past. In a 12-barrel batch, that's like 24 kegs down the drain. It's a bummer.
You could give it to bums...
Yeah. "Here! Drink this infected beer!"
What is an infection exactly?
It's a bacteria that develops. Have you ever opened a beer and it got weirdly foamy—not a nice beer head, but big air bubbles and tasted kind of raunchy?
[I have no idea what she's talking about.]
I had one once that somehow made it through bottling. It's gross.
Favorite brews ever?
I really like Lindemans Framboise. We can't brew anything like that because the fruits stain and flavor the beer lines. In the winter I drink a lot of chocolate stouts. I love lagers, too. Portland's really starved for good lagers. Lagers take two months to condition, so they hold up the tanks. But we do a pilsner once a year and I love it.
Do guys fall pretty hard for brewer chicks? I don't know. I'm engaged. But there is one regular who yells every time he sees me climb in or out of the tanks.