By Day Bracey
Pittsburgh Current Craft Beer Columnist
Dec 6, 4 p.m.: I’m in Inglewood, CA, 10 minutes from LAX. It’s a redeveloping neighborhood with a new stadium under construction around the corner. Property taxes are up, as well as homelessness, so “bum fights” during the Rams tailgate parties should be epic. And if you think pitting two men against each other for scraps is a barbaric form of entertainment, wait till you find out what goes on inside the stadium.
I’m in town for the Brewbound Live beer conference and have the pleasure of running into one of the few female brewers in attendance, Alexandra Nowell, Brewmaster and Co-owner of Three Weavers Brewing. She invites me to stop by the brewery and Google maps says it’s only 11 miles from my hotel. Not too bad. An hour in L.A. traffic later, the Lyft drops me off and I’m in much need of a drink. I order a flight and hit record.
Me: Where are you from? How did you get into brewing?
AN: I’m from Miami. I was on my way to law school but I started studying brewing as an elective. I didn’t really drink beer at the time, but I love learning how to make things, and I fell in love with it. I hadn’t felt any real passion towards law, but I was all about brewing in theory. Then my college professor was like, “This is a profession if you want it to be. It pays shit. There are not a lot of women in it. It’s hard to get into. But if you want me to, I can write a letter of recommendation.” I don’t know if his letter of recommendation actually did anything for me, but it provided me with the motivation to try. After a while, I got a call back from Sierra Nevada for a technical writing internship that required brewing knowledge, allowed me to live on site, and paid $10/hour. So, I moved to Chico from Miami three weeks after graduating from college, and I haven’t left this state since.
Me: So, were you here during the founding?
AN: I’m the founding brewmaster. I met Lynn after she had technically founded the company, but hadn’t really built the image of what Three Weavers would become. It was exciting because I had never built anything from the ground up either, and we were able to do it together. I like to look at the Venn diagram of Lynn and I; she has a finance background, and I have a production background. That little overlap that we have is in aesthetics, culture, ethics, and morals, all the important shit that you can’t teach. So, we worked really well together staying in our lanes and also learning together how to make it work and building something genuine.
Me: California is a saturated market, as is the rest of America. I’d imagine it was saturated when you got in. Is there any room for new breweries?
AN: There’s no room for error anymore. Someone at the conference said you’re fucking crazy for opening up a brewery now. I don’t agree. I think you can successfully open a brewery in this climate. You need to have a proper mission. It needs to be true. You have to be committed to it and consistent with your messaging. If you have that kind of conviction there is still room for it. All those shitty breweries that are open now are not going to be open forever. The ones that rest on their laurels and don’t want to get better and see themselves as perfect, they’re not going to be around much longer. So, there’s always room for good beer in everyone’s neighborhood. But it’s still competitive as fuck.
Me: You mentioned judging and taking home gold at beer fests. I never understood how those work. Like, if you brew a gold beer one year, why not brew the same beer next year and win gold again?
AN: Oh, I have. Gold at the World Beer Cup one year, trash at the Great American Beer Fest the next year. The judges are so subjective. Like, what if the judges drank a little too much the night before and are hungover? Also, where does the beer land in the flight of beers? So, if you’re given 10 beers in front of you, this beer isn’t going to taste as vibrant as this beer. Your palate gets blinded by the end of that. That’s a real thing. It’s a lot of luck. It’s a lot of luck and it’s a lot of bullshit. Some of those competitions are so self-serving. I have so many awards in my office. They hang on pushpins! My World Beer Cup award stayed in a box for two years before I leaned it up against a book. It gives me job security, but it doesn’t mean it’s a great beer. It’s great for our egos to win.
Welp, I guess she can add “Realest Interview of 2019” to her plethora of pushpin plaques. Happy Holidays!