Hopportunity Awaits is a brew on a mission to help highlight careers in craft beer, and inspire more of us to hold the door for the unique talent among us, creating more pathways for diversity, in every sense, across every role. Partial proceeds will benefit Craft x EDU as we work together to launch an educational grant for emerging professionals in craft beer.
On the cans, you will meet 10 industry professionals who are ready to tell their remarkable stories of how they got their start and paved their own path in craft, rules be damned.
Without further ado…
Meet Rachel Breite, a fisheries biologist who turned her love for beer into a new career as a brewer.
How did you discover the world of craft beer, or what inspired you to join?
Before entering the brewing industry, I was working as a fisheries biologist on commercial fishing boats. I always really enjoyed craft beer as a drink–it was my go-to beverage.
My degree is in marine biology and environmental science, which seems like a far cry from brewing, but there are more similarities than people think.
A few years ago, I felt like I was in my quarter-life crisis stage. While working as a fisheries biologist I realized I would have to go back for a graduate degree if I wanted any kind of career growth. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of opportunities in the marine biology field and it was a huge blow to my career plans. I felt like I was abandoning a childhood dream.
What I didn’t realize at the time, was that it was actually a huge blessing. I ended up working for Ye Olde Brothers Brewery, a small, two-barrel brewery in the town of Navarre, Florida. I was waitressing at the time, but my passion for craft beer and natural curiosity kept me wanting to learn more. I found myself always peeking my head in the brewery, asking questions about the craft beer, like, “How’s the honey wheat fermentation coming along? What hop varieties do we use in the IPA? Is the porter coming out soon?”
With a little luck, and a lot of hard work and persistence, I eventually ended up getting asked if I would be interested in learning more about the creation and development side of craft beer and brewing.
The owners at this brewery recognized that I had a science and water chemistry background. Viewing my degree as an asset in the brewing industry, I utilized those tools to begin building my foundation and within a year I became head brewer.
>> Tap Takeaway: No matter your background, there’s always a way to integrate your talents and specialities into the craft beer industry.
After working for a few years at Ye Olde Brothers Brewery, I realized we wanted to go different directions creatively, so I sought other opportunities. I knew the head brewer at 3rd Planet Brewing, Brian Detweiler, and I reached out to see if there were any available opportunities.
Turns out it was the same day they got their canning line, so I offered my assistance at just the right time. I was hired nearly on the spot, and now I’ve just recently celebrated my two years there as of June of 2021.
What do you love about the craft beer community?
What I really like the most is the creativity of it all. It’s amazing to me how inventive this industry can be. There can be so many varieties of a single style of beer; take an IPA for example. In recent years, we have seen so many different styles of IPA come out of the craft beer community. I find it really amazing that brewers are able to take a very commonly brewed beer, and adapt their recipes to make it unique. Brewers are really thinking outside of the box for new brewing techniques, flavors, styles etc.
Science becomes art, and those two things mesh together really nicely. If you can understand the science, you can manipulate it to create the art that you want.
I also just love the community in general. By that, I mean that most every person I have met in the industry has been incredibly kind, and helpful. In my personal experience, it’s like everyone roots for one another, and wants to see each other succeed. I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without the help and insight of my fellow brewers and friends.
Where would you love to see it grow or improve?
Right now especially, I think it’s important to recognize where exclusivities are happening. Unfortunately, there is still sexism, racism, and other types of discrimination within some parts of the craft beer community. Seeing them brought to light is really heart wrenching. But it’s also extremely important that we as a community start talking about these issues, and meet them head on to create a more diverse and inclusive work space.
We need to do a better job creating opportunities for women, people of color, non-binary folks, and the LGBTQ community. I think that this is important not only behind the scenes as owners and brewers, but for our patrons as well.
I feel like we have a really amazing group of people at 3rd Planet Brewing. Everyone is pretty cognizant of how we treat one another. We recognize that there is always room for improvement, and we rise to be the best that we can be for one another and for our community.
For instance, if there was ever a joke made about a ‘girly’ beer in the taproom, I’ve been very lucky to be in an establishment that jumps on that. My coworkers don’t put up with that crap. Beer is for everyone.
We have a zero-tolerance policy, and a strong, intelligent, well informed team. 3rd Planet Brewing is a 15bbl brewery in Niceville, Florida. We distribute locally, and while we are not as large as other commercial breweries, that’s a plus for us because it’s helped us to create a tight-knit group, a true work family. We look out for each other.
What types of skills have helped you personally succeed in this industry?
My background in science and water chemistry definitely came into play. Being able to grasp the mechanics of a brew day and understand the reasoning behind brewing methodology has certainly helped me to succeed in this industry.
The ability to multi-task and my organizational skills have also helped immensely. While it’s something people may not think about often, it is important. It may be a small example, but there is nothing worse than when you can’t find scissors to open a bag of grain.
I’m pretty outgoing. If you know me, you know I’ve been blessed with the gift of gab, and that’s benefitted me as well. I can nerd out about craft beer for hours. This has benefitted me because it has allowed me to expand my craft by socializing with other brewers, even if just through social media. It’s been cool to be able to grow my circle, and therefore my brewing knowledge in this way. I’m always learning.
Who in the craft beer industry do you admire?
Yes, there are a couple people.
Cory King, the owner and brewer for Side Project Brewing in St. Louis, MO is one example. I think he comes to mind first, not only because he’s crafting incredible beer in the area I grew up, but because he has such a passion for the ingredients and for the craft itself. It really shows in his work. He also came from a science background, and turned his literal side project of homebrewing into a really successful business. He’s making it happen, and he really pushes the envelope as to what craft beer can be. I also love that he relishes being a beer geek. I admire what he’s doing, and look up to him.
Alyssa Thorpe is another. She’s the head brewer for Jagged Mountain Brewing, in Denver, CO and runs her social media Southern Beer Girl. She’s very prolific on Instagram, and she is a huge advocate for diversity in beer.
Alyssa really inspires me because she’s also a young woman in the brewing industry, and she is absolutely crushing it. She is so passionate about her work and about the craft beer industry as a whole. She’s thinking creatively, and is always trying her hand at something new. I very much admire her for all that she does and what she represents. She inspires me to be the best that I can be.
I also admire my own brew team! Head brewer, Brian Detweiler, and my co-brewers Rob Weidenburner, and Greg Dedicke. We all come from different backgrounds, and each one of our team members contributes something unique and extremely beneficial to our brewery.
Brian has been an incredible mentor for me. He is always researching and learning something new about craft beer and brewing techniques. He has taught me invaluable lessons and has really helped me to hone my craft and fine-tune my brewing skills. He has really prepared me as a commercial brewer, and I know I will take those lessons with me throughout the rest of my career.
What is the most memorable brew you’ve ever had?
That is such a hard question. I’d have to say that it was a coconut curry hefeweizen that New Belgium Brewery had done for their ‘lips of faith’ series.
It stood out to me because I was at a college at a beer fest and it was so different from any other beer that I’d had before. I really enjoyed it. This is the moment when I understood how interesting different flavor combinations could be, and how far the envelope could be pushed when it comes to craft beer.
A lot of people we’ve been interviewing are late in the game. With your new perspective, what have you seen as a great challenge, when you break into the industry?
For me, one of the challenges was realizing that a brewer’s job is so much more than just making wort and letting it ferment in a tank. It’s learning different skill sets, and understanding all of the moving parts of a brewery. As brewers, it is our job to maintain all of our equipment. So we’re not just brewers, we’re plumbers, electricians, mechanics, and so much more. Cleaning and sanitation is also a huge part of brewing. We like to joke that we clean and cook for single celled organisms.
Another big and exciting challenge is learning in depth how all of the varieties of brewing ingredients: malt, hops, water, yeast, and sometimes adjuncts play off of each other in different beer styles. It’s like a fun puzzle where there isn’t always one right answer. Through communication with other brewers, research, and experimentation you can find unique combinations to craft distinctive beers. It’s a lot to learn, but I find that the knowledge comes with time and experience.
I love to learn new things, especially when it comes to craft beer and my career. I am always seeking out new opportunities to push myself, to challenge myself, and to further my knowledge. In fact, last year I tested to become a certified beer judge, and in January 2021 I became a recognized beer judge through the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP).
Are there people that you know or in-person that you go to and ask?
Oh absolutely! As I mentioned before, I have a great brew team that I can rely on for help. If not them, I either take to doing my own research or communicating with brewer friends online. Nearly every brewer in my area (that’s the panhandle of Florida), is super knowledgeable. Since the time I came on the scene as a new brewer to now, my local brewing community has been beyond helpful in sharing their knowledge and techniques. Though there are not very many female brewers in my area, I have always felt so included.
It’s really nice to be able to rely on one another when it counts. The help and support of those around me has been paramount to my success.
Learn more about 3rd Planet Brewing here.
Say hi on Social!
You can follow Rachel and her adventures at 3rd Planet Brewing here: @rmbreite
Click here to meet more of our talented rule-makers and read their remarkable stories. Once you hear what they have to say, you will realize that yes, you can brew it too.