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Image courtesy of Southwest Michigan's Second Wave

Meet the Brewers: Amy Waugaman

This is the first post in a multi-part series we are calling “Meet the Brewers”. We feel that our brewers bring something unique to every beer we produce, and we are happy to share with you how they became brewers and how they perceive the art of brewing, in their own words. (Image courtesy of Southwest Michigan’s Second Wave)

Brewer’s Bio by Amy Waugaman

I frequently refer to myself as the resident “grasshopper brewer”, given that my beer history is very green. I began my journey into craft beer at 35 years of age. Up until that point, I had never had a beer before and was busy delving into the big, bold red wines of the world. At 35, I went through a major life change and knew I would need to start thinking about a career after being home with my three small children for nearly 8 years.

Amy on a tour of Hope Head Farms

Amy on a tour of Hope Head Farms

I hold a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Northland College and I spent enough time in a microbiology and chemistry lab to know I didn’t want to go back into that arena. I also hold a degree in pastry arts and baking from the Institute of Culinary Education and was honest enough with myself to know I didn’t want to spend my days away from my children making wedding cakes. Perhaps it was my brain floating in some delicious Red’s Rye from Founders, or maybe it was being around the culture and community of craft beer in Southwest Michigan, but as I sat in a popular brewery, the light bulb went off for me. I wanted to be a commercial craft beer brewer.It would prove to be the perfect marriage of my educational backgrounds.

I went home, made my announcement, and proceeded to teach myself how to homebrew. I read books, got equipment and started my first batch. I approached home brewing the same way I do most things- get the foundation down, then experiment. My first batch was an extract brew. Decent. Drinkable. Nothing to write home about. My second batch was a partial mash brew. Same results. My third batch, and every batch since then, was all-grain. And what a comedy of errors that batch was! Everything that could go wrong, went wrong. But I persevered with that beer from grain to glass and it was pretty darn good.  Never to be repeated, naturally. But that batch taught me that brewing is not a static event. You have to think on your feet, constantly adapting to the needs of the beer. You are at the mercy of a living organism, and if you treat it kindly, it will reward you. Usually.

mashed in

Amy brewing in the pilot system at Boatyard

I came across Boatyard Brewing Company on Facebook. Brian had posted about fostering a brewing community in Kalamazoo. I jumped on the opportunity laid before me and contacted him immediately. I bartered my time for his mentoring. It was one of the smartest decisions I ever made. Being part of the Boatyard family from the ground up has been an eye opener for me from learning my personal brewing style; (which is intuitive- know your ingredients and how to get what you want from them and think about how the flavors will mellow and marry in the mouth-) to knowing how to take your recipes on a 10 gallon system and translating them to a 10 bbl system; to learning how to roll with the punches government throws your way.

I hope to keep growing and learning in this rich craft beer community in Southwest MI. There are so many delicious beers out there to share with each other, and so many that have yet to be created. Thank you to all who have come to BBC and really made us your home brewery. It’s an honor to create beers for you.

Q&A with Amy:

  • What are your top 3 favorite beer styles?
    Today? Barrel aged beers, saisons, big IPAs. But I love a delicious farmhouse ale or rye beer.
  • Besides water and Michigan craft beer, what else do you drink?
    My day starts only after I’ve had my cappuccino or latte. I also have a ridiculously large collection of scotch, bourbon, and Irish whisky. I’m particularly fond of the peaty scotches of the Islay region. I love it when a man assumes that I can’t handle that kind of scotch. They usually need ice or water in theirs.
  • Have you influenced/converted others to drink craft beer?
    Yes! Lots of times! It’s much easier than you would think.
  • What interesting food/beer pairings do you like?
    Is bourbon food? Instead of reaching for a big red wine to pair with my dinner, now I try to pair beers. So really anything from a traditional Czech meal to Thai take out to meatloaf. The sky’s the limit.
  • Besides BBC, what other Michigan breweries do you celebrate?
    Founders, Bell’s, Dark Horse are my favorites. I try to get out and try new beers all the time though. Doesn’t have to be a big name brewery to satisfy me.
  • Cans or bottles?
    So as not to upset my friend Andrew McClean, owner of Michigan Mobile Canning, I’m going with cans. BUT- always pour into proper, clean glassware whether it’s from a can, bottle, or growler. Cans preserve beer better, are better for the environment, and are easier to transport.
  • What do you listen to when you brew?
    That depends on who gets to the stereo first. Hopefully it’s a mix of good rock ‘n roll. There’s only so much Jimmy Buffet a girl can brew to. Give me some Pearl Jam, Led Zeppelin, Jack White, etc and I’ll crank out a good beer.
  • Where’s the most scenic location you have had a craft beer?
    I’ve had craft beers at the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, Jackson Hole, Grand Tetons, Yellowstone National Park, and the Badlands. I’ve also been fortunate enough to imbibe in the UP.
  • List one last random fact about you.
    My 5 year old can name the major ingredients of beer and explain the basic process of brewing.
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