Women in Beer: Carli Smith, Head Brewer at Rock Bottom Brewery La Jolla
Being women who love and are passionate about great beer, we want to start highlighting the talented women working in the craft beer industry. Women’s Equality Day is today and it is the perfect day for us to start. Carli Smith is the Head Brewer at Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery in La Jolla,CA. We had the opportunity to grab a beer with her, learn more about her, and hear how she made it to where she is today. After almost two hours of conversation, it was clear that Carli absolutely loves her job and that she really knows her stuff!
How did you get into beer and decide to become a brewer?
“I studied abroad in Austria and that is when I really started getting into beer because there were two breweries in the city that I stayed in… I came back and our head brewer at Gordon Biersch was in between assistants at the time so at a staff meeting he asked if anyone would help with all of the manual labor that didn’t require any knowledge of actual brewing. I told him I would help out because I didn’t have classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. That is when I really started getting into it. We then got an official budget for me to be his assistant in December 2012. I was his assistant brewer for ten months. I then transferred over to Rock Bottom because Gordon Biersch and Rock Bottom are owned by the same corporation. I was the assistant brewer at Rock Bottom from October 2013 until January 2015 when my boss, Marty Mendiola, left and I was promoted to head brewer.”
Did you actually go to school for brewing?
“I went to University of San Diego to study finance. Marty, who I worked for here, went to the UC Davis extension program. I put myself through my own little version of it because Marty still had his textbooks from when he went in the 90s so I used them to study. It was a lot of self teaching. I’ve done a lot of my own research and learned a lot from the experience of working with the brewers I worked for. Everyone in this industry is very helpful and collaborative so I have had help with brewers around town as well.”
Is there anyone in particular you would like to do a collaboration with?
“I have a few coming through the pipeline that I’m excited about. A brewer that I really respect and admire is Matt Akin from Benchmark Brewing Company. I love how he sticks to really clean beers. I also like Mikkeller SD’s Bill Batten. He’s been brewing forever and is super nice. I’d also love to do a collab with the brewers I’ve worked with before like Marty at Second Chance and Doug who I worked with at Gordon Biersch.”
What style of beer do you enjoy making the most?
“I like more balanced beers so everything I do whether it’s going to be a malty or hoppy style, I like it to be relatively balanced. I think that comes from being a brewpub brewer because most of the time people are going to be eating while they’re drinking my beer and I don’t want to ruin people’s palate so they won’t be able to taste the food because our food is really good too.”
Do you like being a brewpub brewer?
“I love the brewpub atmosphere. I really love being very available to our guests and because our system is spread out throughout the entire restaurant people see me running around all the time. This gives guests the opportunity to see that we actually brew our beer here. I like having that education aspect of it; not just with our servers and staff, but also with the guests that come in. I also like working with our chef to come up with food and beer pairings. Being with a restaurant brings its own challenges, but on the whole I like the brewpub aspect of it.”
Have you met many other women brewers in San Diego?
“I think there is four of us that are actual brewers and there are a bunch of others that work production lines, cellars and shift brewers.”
Do you know about these women through the Pink Boots Society?
“Yes, we have monthly meetings now because our chapter has grown so much. It allows us to meet the women throughout San Diego involved in the craft beer industry. I have also met a lot of people by going to different beer festivals.”
What advice would you give other women that are trying to get into the industry?
“Definitely come to a Pink Boots meeting to see what it is all about. It’s a great place to not only network, but to see what the different beer jobs are. No matter what your background is you can pretty much find a job in the industry. Step one would be to look up the Pink Boots website and then join Pink Boots if you are able to. The best way to hook up with the San Diego chapter is to find our San Diego Pink Boots Society Facebook page.”
Myth Buster: Many people believe that since Rock Bottom is a chain restaurant that every single one has the same beer recipes. Carli made it clear that this is not the case! There are 31 Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewerys around the country, and every single one has their own beer recipes. Different parts of the country enjoy different styles of beer so each Rock Bottom Brewery has a different head brewer that make beers that are more popular in their area.
Learn more about Rock Bottom Brewery La Jolla by visiting their:
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