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 Mara Young, Co-Owner and Founder of Community Cultures Yeast Lab.
Describe your average week. What are you responsible for?
My role consists of everything on the business side, from the website, marketing, responding to and fulfilling yeast orders, inventory, invoicing, shipping, and everyday operations; to the yeast management side which consists of daily brewing, cleaning the tanks, keeping stock of our yeast bank, sourcing and developing new yeast strains, as well as lab analysis both for our own quality control, but also for our brewery clients who send in beer samples for testing or label approval. I am also the chief boss lady of mopping, dishes, and bathroom cleaning.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
I love the outdoors; camping, and kayaking; so for me, exploring Texas for undiscovered and new Saccharomyces strains is the most amazing “job” I have ever had. However, on a day to day basis, my favorite part would be feedback from our brewers. Nothing makes me happier than a text from a brewer saying how satisfied they are, or that the yeast was amazing and delicious in their beer.
What challenges have you faced in this or previous roles in the beer industry?
I consider myself relatively new to the industry so it’s been a major learning curve. When I decided to join my partner/husband in this role, I had to learn everything from the bottom up. He is a Microbiologist and Biochemist, and he had worked in the beer industry for several years putting himself through college. Whereas I came from a career working at a University and didn’t know much of anything about fermentation, yeast, or daily lab operations. I have taught myself a huge amount of beer chemistry over the years and I continue to learn more, in order to better assist this company and our clients. It’s been a significant life change, but I am very honored to be here.
How long have you been working in the beer industry? What did you do before this role?
Since 2016, we started first as Texas Cultures Laboratories, now named Community Cultures Yeast Lab. Before that, I worked for about 15 years in higher education. I was the director of Biology, advising for the School of Math, Science, and Engineering at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio.
If someone asked you to describe the current state of today’s craft beer climate what would you say?
Evolving. I am really thrilled to see more women, people of color, and our friends from the LGBTQ+ community, having a bigger place in craft beer, having a louder voice, and being recognized for their leadership roles. I hope to see more and more of that. I think collaboration and inclusion is the key to an even better craft community.
Is there anything else you want people to know about you, your company, and/or the industry as a whole?
We are Texas’ original full-service yeast lab, established and located in the heart of San Antonio since 2016. We specialize in rare and newly discovered yeast strains sourced directly from the land, as well as a wide variety of traditional commercial strains, custom blends, and bacteria. With over 20 years combined research and lab technique, yeast development, production experience, administrative expertise, and customer service, we are here to support and build the craft beer community with fresh and superior yeast cultures, fast and affordable shipping, full laboratory services, yeast banking, and brewery lab consultation.
Has Pink Boots played a role in your career? If so, how?
Yes! Pink Boots has been an amazing opportunity for me to continue to learn, and build relationships. I’ve realized that most of us are still learning. Nobody is an expert at all things, all of the time. Everyone is awkward and trying to find their way in this industry, trying to “sell” their beer or their yeast! And that’s okay. It’s okay to love what you do, it’s okay to build your dream, and push for your company to succeed. It’s okay to be a badass! And they are, they’re all amazing women.
What question(s) are you tired of answering/getting asked?
I only do “traditional” beers, I don’t like sours! Is your yeast clean, what is it exactly?? I see you do a lot of wild and funky stuff, do you have ‘normal” strains?
Yes, we have lots of “normal,” pure isolate, commercial yeast strains. In fact, ale and lager strains make up the majority of our daily orders and shipments. None of our native strains contain Lactobacillus or Brettanomyces, they will NOT make your beer sour. They are Saccharomyces strains that were sourced directly from nature, instead of from bottle dregs or from a brewery. They are one of a kind and super awesome, and you should try them! However, while they certainly distinguish us from other yeast companies, they are only one part of what we offer as a full-service yeast manufacturer and fermentation laboratory. We love traditional beer too!
What beer are you currently enjoying the most?
The “Highland Scoundrel” from 4th Tap is in my fridge right now, delicious! And the Martin House, El Chuco, is an all-time favorite. There is always and forever a bottle of Jester King somewhere. My husband is a big fan of anything from Independence Brewing and Thirsty Goat….so…. basically, that’s the hardest question ever!