Emily Uldrich is an assistant brewer at the Portsmouth Brewing Co., a small brewpub located along the Ohio River in Portsmouth in southern Ohio. Portsmouth Brewing recently started bottling its beer in six-packs and has launched a new website. The bottles are available in the Portsmouth area and is moving north toward Columbus. Uldrich is one of the few female brewers in the state.
Question: Why did you become a brewer?
Answer: In 2004, I graduated from Shawnee State University with a bachelor’s degree in biology. All of my undergraduate research was in microbiology, and I am very interested in yeast. I started brewing with the Portsmouth Brewing Co. in 2008 as a part-time brewmeister’s apprentice, and since then I have gained a much better appreciation for both yeast and beer! I left my adjunct professor position with SSU’s Natural Science Department to brew and bottle full-time at the Portsmouth Brewing thanks to the addition of our new line of bottled beer, debuting the famous Portsmouth Pilsner. This is the best job ever! I love it and I am grateful for my experience here.
Q: What sets Portsmouth Brewing apart in the crowded beer industry?
A: Portsmouth Brewing Co. is in league with the finest craft brewing America has to offer. While this is a crowded beer industry, craft brewers stand united by the love of beer and dedication to great taste. There are many brands of beer on the market, but there is always room for a quality product. Portsmouth Brewing Co. has the magnetism and allure to grab the attention of the enthusiast in the competitive business of brewing beer. The Portsmouth Brewing Co. is the oldest operating brewery in Ohio. (Editor's note: The original Portsmouth Brewing opened in 1843 and closed in 1920, according to a Portsmouth Daily Times article. The current Portsmouth Brewing was incorporated in 1996 and operates in the original brewery.) This brewery has a rich history, and there is much to be gained from the many generations that have brewed before us. The historic building and PBC memorabilia are a draw in themselves, and it is a huge asset having the brewery in the original building. All of our beer is brewed according to Mault brothers’ recipes. Steve and Ira “Babe” Mault took over the Portsmouth Brewing Co. more than 15 years ago. They were their own brewmeisters, and their brewpub has been successful ever since. The Mault brothers were avid homebrewers before opening their own microbrewery. The Mault brothers embody the American homebrewer’s dream. Steve and Babe started out homebrewing a different variety of beer every weekend in the basement of Babe’s house. Steve’s firsthand experience exploring the beers of Germany and Great Britain led to a unique understanding of the delicate balance between grain and hops, present in all Mault brothers’ brews. I feel very lucky to have been present at the Portsmouth Brewing Co. when new recipes have been created. Of course, I am thrilled to brew recipes like the Mault Bros. Red Bird Ale, a tribute to the classic steam ale originally brewed at the PBC and all along the Ohio River in the early 1800s, and my favorite beer of all time is a Mault Bros. recipe perfected long before I brewed my first beer. However, there is a lot to be learned from the formulation of a new recipe. Last summer, we brewed two new varieties of beer, and both were a huge success. Our brewmeister, Tony Thompson, fashioned Crystal Gold Lager after a brew of the same name made by the PBC in the 1890s when a German immigrant, Julius Esselborn, took over and started brewing lagers. Crystal Gold is a refreshing, light-bodied lager finished with Perle and Hallertau hops. The German influence shows in Crystal Gold’s unmatched drinkability. I also had the opportunity to help Steve design and brew our Belgian Orange Tripel, a complex beer, brewed with orange peel, Maris Otter malt and Belgian Candi sugar, fermented with super high gravity yeast, and oak aged -- it tastes fantastic! The combination of traditional and original beers at the PBC is a recipe for success. Bottling has been a hands-on education in the craft beer business. I have been present from the ground up, and it is interesting to deal with the logistics of this enterprise. I am extremely exited to be a part of the growth of the Portsmouth Brewing Company, and I love the bottled Portsmouth Pilsner! The history, talent, and experience of the people at the Portsmouth Brewing Company ensure continued success.
Q: You’re one of the few female professional brewers in Ohio. What is it like being a working woman in the male-dominated beer industry? Have you had to overcome any challenges or is it not an issue at all?
A: As a female brewer, I enjoy being a part of the boys club. I am fairly new to this field, but I haven’t ever felt at a disadvantage being female. The mechanical/plumbing aspect of brewing was unfamiliar at first, but, now, I am quite the “handyman.” If anything, I have a slight advantage as female brewer. Other brewers and patrons alike are comfortable talking to me, confiding in me, and giving me suggestions. I plan on using this information to make continued improvements where needed and keep the quality and consistency that our customers have come to expect from the Portsmouth Brewing Co.
Q: What is your favorite beer that you brew and why?
A: My favorite beer of all time is Portsmouth Brewing Co.’s Vulcan Dark Lager. Vulcan is a delicious tribute to industry in Portsmouth named after a historic local manufacturing company. The coffee/chocolate aftertaste is irresistible. Vulcan is smooth and easy to drink. It has the perfect balance of malt and hops -- not sweet, but not overpoweringly hoppy either. The last batch we brewed was cask conditioned, and, now, the carbonation is perfect and it leaves a gorgeous lacy pattern on the glass. Vulcan also makes a wonderful black & tan when mixed with Portsmouth Pilsner, Crystal Gold Lager, and even Red Bird Ale. I like it in any proportion or combination. Vulcan is on rotation as one of our seasonal dark beers, and I am always pushing to have it on tap. Happily, I can say Vulcan is on tap now, and I had one today! Hopefully we will taste this mythic brew in bottles sometime soon.
Q: Which beer -- any beer in the world -- do you wish you created/invented/brewed and why?
A: If I could be the inventor of any beer in history, it would have to be the original pilsner. Pilsner is a landmark brew that changed the face of beer forever. Every major brand of beer on the market is either a pilsner or influenced by pilsner. Pilsner is the ultimate beer accomplishment because it is a difficult brew that takes precision and patience. As a lager, it is easy to mess up, and the lighter body is no mask for off flavors. The perfect pilsner is a trophy indeed, and I am especially proud to have Portsmouth Pilsner headlining the Portsmouth Brewing Co.’s bottled beer.