Women in Beer | Jill Paluch
When I started writing for CraftBeerAustin.com back in 2015, my first series of articles was about Women in Beer. I am happy to announce that thanks to the ladies of the Austin chapter of the Pink Boots Society, I am bringing back the Women in Beer series. This edition features Jill Paluch, Quality Control Manager at Central Machine Works.
Describe your average week. What are you responsible for?
As a Quality Control Manager, I run a small lab at our brewery. I propagate yeast, so I am constantly checking on the health of the baby yeast, and growing it up a step to keep it in great condition while growing it up to a large enough batch to use in a 15-barrel batch of beer. I check our beer in the different stages of the brewing process and communicate the beer status with the brew team. I create sensory tests with a panel of participants who give their feedback on each beer, and then I use their responses as data points when choosing whether or not to serve a beer, or how to describe the beer. I lead beer education sessions for our front-of-house staff.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
I love that I am constantly learning something new, and running experiments and solving problems. If I can be a student forever, I will always be happy.
What challenges have you faced in this or previous roles in the beer industry?
Some challenges in the industry are that everything breaks! We have to know how things work so we can troubleshoot often. And often, I don’t know how to fix things, but I do have a great team and we support each other and teach each other whatever we can.
How long have you been working in the beer industry? What did you do before this role?
I have been in the beer industry for 3 years, and before this, I was an elementary school teacher for many years.
If someone asked you to describe the current state of today’s craft beer climate what would you say?
I think that the craft beer scene is creative, innovative, and collaborative, especially in Austin we are supportive of all of the other breweries for one another. Craft beer is getting better and better. Like, remember trying to find IPAs around town 6 or 7 years ago? There were only a couple of good ones.
Areas to grow as an industry is in taking lessons from other industries and applying them to our own. Sometimes it seems like we are a few years behind other industries. Our brave noise movement was separate from the me too movement of the rest of the world. I learn a lot from Lean In, the organization started by Sheryl Sandberg, all about empowering women. Lean In shares data about women in the workplace and I think it is mostly in tech, but the lessons can be beneficial to other industries. Lessons like: work/life balance, speaking up, equal pay, and diversity, equity and inclusion. And it can’t just be people like me reading this stuff. We need our managers to read this stuff, and implement routines for progression.
Has Pink Boots played a role in your career? If so, how?
Hell yes, it has! A big reason that I joined was that I was a bartender and I wanted to learn to speak about beer more confidently and eloquently. Through observing other women in the industry and asking questions, I brought my pink boots experience into the brewery where I work and asked informed questions to my colleagues there. Those questions opened doors, and I stayed inquisitive. This is essentially what led me from a bartender to a packaging assistant and to a quality control manager.
What question(s) are you tired of answering/getting asked?
I’m tired of the surprised reaction that I get when I say anything that shows I know about beer. For example, if you know about beer and hear me say something accurate about beer, don’t act surprised. A confirmation or affirmation that “yes, that is also what I have read, or what I have found”, those are comments that affirm, but you don’t have to go “oh, wow, yes, you are actually right.” Those comments give the implication that you are surprised that I knew something maybe because I am a woman or newer to the industry.
What beer are you currently enjoying the most?
Live Oak Heller Rauch – super light, subtly smokey, very enjoyable
Vacancy After Hours dark lager – easy drinking, with light coffee, chocolate, toffee malt flavors
Bad Wrap Hazy IPA from Zilker – as soon as I smelled this beer I knew it had HBC 586 which is the most lovely hop I’ve ever smelled. Zilker showcases it well.