Shanon Fink is the head brewer at Black Cloister Brewing Co. in Toledo and one of a few professional female brewers in Ohio. Black Cloister, founded by a minister, owes its name to Martin Luther who led the Protestant Reformation.
Question: Why did you become a brewer?
Answer: I fell in love with homebrewing five and a half years ago when I created my first batch of beer. I loved the process and the creativity of brewing. One night when I was searching for something on the Internet, related to beer of course, I came across the American Brewers Guild Craftbrewer Apprenticeship Program. I had my nursing degree and had all the science prerequisites they were asking for so, on a whim, I applied!
I never thought I would be accepted but I was and after being on a two-year waiting list to enter the program, I finally started my brewing education in January 2015! I started brewing professionally right after I finished up my internship at Fat Head's. It wasnít hard leaving the nursing profession. I love making beer and I love the people I have met in this industry. It really is where my heart is!
Q: What's the best aspect about being a woman in a male-dominated brewing industry? And on the flip side, what's the worst?
A: The best thing about being a woman in a male-dominated industry is Ö well I would have to say to be able to inspire other women who want to be in the industry. It can be very inspiring to see other women doing great things in an industry where they may not feel that welcome. The worst thing about being a woman in a male-dominated profession is that people think you canít physically do the job and many times your professional opinion is not valued the same as a male brewer. †
Q: What advice can you give future brewers to be successful?
A: Advice I would give to future brewers to be successful is to brew as much as you can and always be your worst critic. Also, never stop educating yourself and learning.† A brewing education is invaluable, especially to someone who has no professional brewing experience.
I knew that without a brewing education I would not get anywhere in professional brewing because I was female and I had no professional experience. My education also included an internship, which gave me practical hands-on experience in a working brewery, which was incredibly helpful!
Q: Whatís your best-selling beer and why do you think itís so popular?
A: I think our best-selling beer is Helles Angel. Itís a traditional Munich lager made with German malts and hops. It is a light and easy drinking beer and I feel it appeals to the craft beer drinking people as well as the non-craft drinking people, which is why I think it is so well-received.
Q: Which beer Ė any beer in the world Ė do you wish that you created/invented/brewed and why?
A: I hope Matt [Cole, brewmaster at Fat Head's] doesnít get mad at me (lol), but I wish I had been the creator of Hop JuJu! It is so freaking delicious. Amazing aroma. Perfectly balanced. It really is the best imperial IPA I have ever tasted and I look forward to its release every year! Matt is really amazing at hoppy beers and that is something I need to get better at! Maybe someday I will be able to brew a hoppy beer as amazing as this!
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