Women in Beer: Emily Kosmal, Brewer at Goose Island Brewing
We had the pleasure of meeting Emily Kosmal of Goose Island and getting to know her during their Migration week in San Diego, CA. Emily’s passion for beer and awesome personality definitely left an impression on us. She is one of the brewers in Chicago and has worked hard with the company’s team to help create delicious beers that satisfy a wide range of palates.
One of the things we love most about Emily is how happy she is to share with others the many awesome experiences she’s had while brewing at Goose Island. In an industry that is perceived to be male dominant, it’s rare to hear about a female Brewer. We are so excited that she agreed to be featured in our “Women in Beer” series to help us spotlight the amazing women in beer and help change that perception. We really enjoyed our conversation with her and we know that you will to.
How long have you been a professional brewer?
Since May 4th (May the fourth haha!) 2015. So only one year and some change.
What is your favorite part about being a brewer?
I love being able to directly interact with consumers/beer lovers. I toil in the brewery sometimes late at night, while the rest of the world is sleeping. To be able to talk beer and share a beer with someone either in our Goose Tap Room after my shift, on the road during a Migration Week, or simply stopping into a new craft brewery while I’m travelling, is what keeps me working hard. Crafting a product that brings so many people together has been my dream ever since I can remember.
This is tricky to answer, as I love everything about my job. I’m living my dream and even though sometimes there are frustrating machinery woes or the work is labor intensive, sticky, hot, and more often than not janitorial, it is all worth it in the end. If you do what you love, there is little to complain about.
What’s your favorite style of beer to brew?
I love making beer with fresh fruit inclusions. There is something oddly satisfying about squishing cherries through a bunghole. Yes, I went there…
How did you get started/what interested you about brewing initially?
The short answer is that I love beer, science, and creating things.
The long answer: I worked as a food technologist for 6 years prior to becoming a brewer. I have always loved science and making things. I wanted to be a food scientist ever since I was in the 7th grade. I attended a Women’s Science conference in California where several professional women working in the industry came to speak. The Food Scientist who spoke really interested my young mind and I started pursuing that dream. Several years later I met a pretty cool dude in Chicago and ended up moving out there (I am a Southern California native!). I ended up marrying that dude. He was the one who first introduced me to Goose Island beers actually. They became instant favorites of mine. So, a seed was planted in my mind and I knew one day I would make beer for Goose Island. I didn’t land the job the first time I interviewed with them, but I stuck with it, and here I am.
Share an interesting brewing experience?
I am still learning this whole thing called “brewing” and I don’t know what I am doing all the time, there is no shame in admitting that. The people that I have met and learned from in this industry contribute to the best experiences I have had thus far. Everyone I work with is a wonderful fount of knowledge and recommendations. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.
What was the first thing you brewed?
I brewed an illegal beer in college. I was in a food processing lab class and we needed to make a fermented product. I wanted to make beer, but that was not allowed…school rules or something. So instead I made root beer. Only, I actually made beer, sneakily adding root beer extract. It was rather terrible, but it was more about the rebellious act than flavor. It was so bad my professor had no idea what I had done. Well, if she reads this blog, my big secret is revealed. Oh no, what have I done…
If you could give one piece of advice to new home brewers trying to break into the industry, what would it be?
If you want to brew, make it happen. I had zero, ZERO, brewing experience before working for Goose Island (unless you count my “illegal” college rootbeer beer haha). When applying to Goose Island, I wrote a lengthy, passionate cover letter justifying why I wanted to be a brewer, related my Food/Beverage industry experiences to the Brewing industry, and I flew my “freak flag.” I cannot express how important that last part is. Be yourself; don’t be afraid to be a little different. Hasn’t history taught us that some of the most celebrated inventors were actually quite odd people? Embrace your oddities. Beer is a creative science.
On your days away from the brewery, what activities do you indulge in?
I am very outdoorsy. I enjoy hiking, exploring (and catching Pokemon haha), playing hockey, and I am trying to get back into skateboarding (as my bruised knees could tell you). I also enjoy drawing cartoons. I have an eclectic collection of stuffed animals and plushes too. I like to set up ridiculous photos of them. Here is an example.
Do you have an experience that stands out above all others during your time as a professional brewer?
For me one of the most exciting, humbling, and crazy experiences I get to partake in as a professional brewer is working at a craft beer event (ie: FoBab (Festival of Barrel Aged Beers) or Great Taste of the Midwest). I used to be on the other side of the booth as a consumer, asking for beer, hoping for a taste of something new and exciting. Now, I get to serve that excitement to people. I have so much fun pouring, joking, and being a part of someone’s best day ever. I once lost my voice after pouring at FoBab. I couldn’t stop talking about the beers!
Did you ever home brew before you became a professional brewer? If yes, do you still home brew and how has your opinion of brewing beer changed from when you were a home brewer to now being a professional brewer?
I have never actually home brewed. I had lofty dreams of home brewing and acquiring shiny equipment, but it never manifested. I had a busy life as a Food Scientist, travelling a lot and working on strange creations. Have you ever had Peeps Flavored Milk?…that was just one of my crazy creations haha!
What advice would you give women who want to break into the craft beer industry?
Do it. Don’t ever think that you can’t. I am 5’2” and tiny. Often when I tell people I work for Goose Island, their first question is “Oh, what do you do for them?” I tell them I brew and the response is always taken aback surprise. “Oh, you don’t look like a brewer!” If you want to do something, you can make it happen, don’t ever focus on a preconceived notion of what something is. If someone knocks you down because you are a woman, then simply keep doing your thing. Let your work speak for you. Work hard and respect your coworkers. I have worked in generally male dominated careers my whole professional life, and it has never been an issue, because I don’t allow it to be. I do my job. I want my work to speak for who I am, not my appearance. It is true, I do not look like a brewer, but I am one. Don’t ever judge a book by its cover. The pages inside might hold a whirlwind of awesome.
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