Editors Note: This is a picture of Pam enjoying local beers at Craft Pride while working. Cheers! Irina
The Women Behind Craft Beer in Austin: Part 2
The Austin beer scene was in its infancy back in the 90s with only a few craft beer options around town – all of which were only available on tap. The only Texas craft beer option sold in stores at the time was Shiner Bock. Also at that time the consumer market including myself, tended to think of craft beer more as imports like German and Belgian brews with hefty price tags. The consumer demand for craft beer on a larger scale simply wasn’t there.
Then Pierre Celis came to town and ignited the Austin (and Texas) beer scene. Before you knew it Celis White was on store shelves and the Texas beer market would never be the same. Fast forward to today and we are surrounded by amazing options throughout Austin, and the great state of Texas, with an ever increasing number of breweries on their way. Along with this evolution of the Zythosphere, you have an ever increasing presence of women in craft beer scene from consumers to brewers.
The Women Shaping the Austin Beer Scene series is designed to highlight examples of the women in our community shaping the world of craft beer and cultivating its culture. The second article in this series will highlight the Beer Princess, Teresa Mikulastik of the Draft Shack at Whole Foods Domain and Hop Momma, Sahara Smith of Whichcraft Beer store. These women are the experts that you rely on to guide, educate and provide you with top quality beer.
Teresa Mikulastik: Whole Foods Domain Draft Shack
In case you are not aware, the Whole Foods in the Domain has an entire bar inside of the store. Not just any bar – a bar with 45 taps inside and 6 taps outside on the kid and dog friendly patio. You will find the inside bar nestled between the spacious and generous beer isle and the extensive wine isle. The self-appointed Beer Princess, Teresa is the beer specialist in charge of the Draft Shack, all packaged beer, beer dinners, tap takeovers and classes at Whole Foods Domain.
She started working for Whole Foods about 16 years ago. She worked her way up to lead after a few years and struggled to keep a beer buyer on staff. Being a beer guru, she saw an opportunity for the store and took over the entire beer profile by adding kegerators, coolers and limited addition beers to the store’s line up. At this point, consumer craft beer education had flourished and demand was burgeoning. Today Teresa has created a neighborhood bar inside of a grocery retailer. The Draft Shack is a destination and a community that is inspired by Teresa’s vision of a beer community.
Her sense of community began with her father. Teresa’s Dad was a home brewer that influenced her love for beer at a young age. She recalls watching him brew and falling in love with the smell and the science of brewing. Above all else, she enjoyed spending time with her Dad. As she grew up, her love affair with beer became rooted in the tradition and culture of brewing. Inspired by the Trappist Monks and German styles of beer, her favorite beers are those that have a root in traditional brewing styles.
Being the Beer Princess is not without its challenges. Social stigmas around beer knowledge still exist and sometimes Teresa will offer help to a patron only to have him say “no thank you” and then go around her to ask the first guy that he sees. “My team generally tells them, ‘you want to talk to her’ at which point I proceed to give them more information than they ever needed about that beer”, she says with a smile. Next time you are in the beer isle of Whole Foods and a busy lady asks you if you need any help, don’t say “no thanks”, instead grab a beer at the draft shack and then loiter in the beer isle to listen to everything she has to say. It will be well worth your time!
Born in Austin and raised in Wimberley, Sahara is a Texas girl with a unique background. She started singing at a young age and by the time she was 14, she was featured on the A Prairie Home Companion. By the age of 16, she signed on with a label and started her professional music career. Sahara toured all over the US and at one point made her network debut on the David Letterman show.
After her time in the music industry, she decided to move back to Austin and pursue other “more beer-related” interests. Specifically, she started working for Banger’s Sausage & Beer Garden on Rainey Street. She worked there for a while and then moved on to the Whip In where she spent the next several years selling and learning about beer.
For the last year, Sahara has been with Whichcraft Beer Store as the assistant manager in charge of operations, procedure development and training. The store manages between 700-800 different beers and takes the approach of organizing their inventory by beer styles. What Sahara likes most about working for Whichcraft is the open minded culture that is cultivated by promoting opinions and different styles within the team. Sahara mentions they are not beer snobs, they are beer enthusiasts and are happy to recommend styles based on your pallet and preference – judgment free.
Being the Hop Momma is also not without its challenges. Sahara has encountered her own instances where social pre-conceived notions prevail, “occasionally someone will come in and see me and ask to speak to the manager or male associate for help”. However, she can easily speak the language of the most hard core beer nerd to the common beer lover. She is currently pursuing her Cicerone Certification and is still gracing the Austin music scene with Girl Pilot with Sahara Smith.
Teresa and Sahara are the women that you rely on to keep your fridge stocked with your old or new favorite beers. Their knowledge and passion for craft beer ensures that you get the finest the industry has to offer. Whenever you encounter them on your quest for your favorite beer, be sure to take a few minutes to talk to them and enjoy their vast knowledge of the beverage you love. Teresa and Sahara, represent The Women Behind Craft Beer in Austin. Women are not only part of the beer scene; they are a well-respected group that continues to grow and influence the craft beer market.