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Lisa Allen - Head Brewer & Production Manager of Heater Allen Brewing

How many years have you been in the business? Tell me briefly about your background and your current position today.

I've been in the beer industry for 12 (!!!) years now, but I started in wine, so in total I've been in the alcohol business for about 14 years. I started, as I think a lot of us in this industry do, as a server. From my positions in restaurants I became more and more interested in both wine and beer and wanted to see what the production side was like. I worked my first harvest position in fall of 2007 and immediately fell in love with the process behind the product. From there I worked at several other wineries before I started working for Heater Allen in December of 2009. Heater Allen is a family brewery that was started by my father in 2007 and he needed some help at the brewery, I always thought I would go back to wine, but I fell in love with the beer making process so I've been brewing ever since. I am currently the Head Brewer and Production Manager for Heater Allen Brewing, however it's a very small brewery so we all tend to do a bit of everything.

Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?

My "aha!" moment came when I was working a vintage in New Zealand in 2008. I was planning on attending graduate school that coming fall and even though we were working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week I just realized that I wanted to stay in the alcohol business, these people were my people.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

The most rewarding part is knowing that I am making an excellent product and having customers validate it. We all tend to second guess ourselves or think we're doing a crap job so it's really nice to get that validation and support from our customers.

Can you describe any prejudices you’ve experienced in this industry?

I think any woman that works in a male dominated field has experienced prejudices. The ones that hurt the most are when your ability or expertise is questioned just because you are female.

When it comes to beer, what benefits do you think we’ll see as a community by advocating for diversity and inclusion?

By advocating for diversity and inclusion the beer industry benefits from the experiences and ideas from a number of different people. Often this industry can be very closed minded, even when it comes to how our product is made. By having more voices at the table we are able to gain new or different knowledge, which, in my opinion, is always a good thing.

What changes do you hope to see in the wine industry in the next five years?

I hope that in the next five years both the beer and wine industry are more inclusive and diverse. I hope more women are in positions of leadership. I hope everyone feels welcome and accepted at tasting and tap rooms.

What does equality in the beer industry look like to you?

Equality looks like seeing more women, BIPOC, and LBGTQ folks in positions of leadership. I think the industry is becoming more diverse, but most of those in positions of power are still white-cis men, for the industry to become more equal, that needs to change.

In what ways would you say you are contributing to equality in beer?

I personally am trying to contribute to equality in the beer industry by being a voice for industry minorities and by giving support when support is needed. I'm also trying to advocate for other marginalized voices in the industry when I'm able to.

What message do you have for anyone now entering the beer profession?

For anyone looking to enter the beer industry, especially a minority in the industry, look for and find a supportive group of folks that are also in the industry, find a person you can ask questions to that you aren't intimidated by and that you know won't judge you, and education is power and also proves that you are passionate and want to/are willing to learn. (There are also many resources these days to get scholarships and support for educational programs, so don't get discouraged by price tags!)

What other industry heroes do you admire and why?

There are a number of ladies in the industry that I admire, many have had tougher roads than I have and they have worked their butts off to be where they are today. Two are fellow brewers, Natalie Baldwin and Cat Wiest. Natalie knew what she wanted and went for it, she is also great at advocating for herself and helping other women in the industry do the same. Cat knows what she deserves and goes for it, she is not going to take anyone's bullshit, and she'll call you out for it. Another is my friend Anna Clifford who is a winemaker in Santa Barbara County and has started her own label, Final Girl Wines. Anna knew she wanted to be in the industry from an early age and has worked her way up to where she is today, she has always been a supportive and good friend. And a little plug for my mom, who taught me to be a strong, independent woman who can do anything any man can do (and can do it better ).
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