By Erica Campbell
I’m back with another riveting edition of Women Brewer’s Spotlight!
I’m thrilled today to check in with longtime SOBDL superfan and all-around wonderful human, Esther Farias (she/her). Simply put, Esther is a delight. I first met this hilarious ball of energy at one of our early Society of Beer Drinking Ladies bevies in Toronto. Digging through our photo album archives, I BELIEVE Bevy0011 at Propeller Coffee in November of 2014 was one of the first bevies Esther attended.
I’ll never forget, at this venue we grossly underestimated the number of washrooms needed for the number of attendees (women drinking beer all night, ya know!?). The bathroom line-up became very long early on in the night and stayed that way, winding around the room. Esther was volunteering at one of our pop-up beer bars, slinging beers out of our finicky draught units into compostable cups for bevy goers. She clearly saw that the line was not dwindling down any time soon, so then proceeded to get crafty and walk two full pitchers of beer over to the bathroom line and yell “WHO NEEDS BEER WHILE YOU’RE WAITING TO PEE?!”
Women were overjoyed they could have another brew whilst waiting for the bathroom, throwing their beer tickets at Esther in exchange for the unidentified foamy pitcher beer. Esther multi-tasked like a pro, stuffing beer tickets in her pockets, filling cups with beer and then running back to the bar to refill and drop off the tickets! This went on for most of the night and although she had left her volunbeer post, her bartending skills were put to good use and her rogue entrepreneurial spirit was the highlight of my night.
Flash forward to present day, and I am really proud of Esther who is now employed full-time as a brewer at one of Canada’s most influential and iconic craft breweries, Steam Whistle. Her confidence and work ethic have paid off and I love seeing her shine in this role. I would hope that all the beer she drank, connections she made and beer she slung at our bevies over the years also played some sort of a role too 🙂
So without further ado, meet Esther!
What got you interested in brewing?
Drinking beer of course! I moved to Canada from Mexico for a business management program. As a student, I needed a part time gig, so I started bartending at a fancy place downtown, with quite a broad selection of craft beer, which I discovered I liked a lot. I finished school and I started working for the LCBO, focused in the craft beer area of the business. That was a fun job. Getting samples brewery-fresh and then having to decide if we could sell it in the store? Heck yeah!
I am the kind of person that researches every thing that catches my interest. Deeply. When I discovered that beer could be made at home, it was a game changer for me. All of this exposure to craft beer made me eager to broaden my horizons in the industry, which led me to apply for a job at Steam Whistle. I knew I still wanted to gig in beer – but in a fun, more laid-back environment.
How did you find a (brewing) home at Steam Whistle?
I have to say that I found a home thanks to my friends there: Max (taproom supervisor) and Jen and Joyce (fellow brewers.) It is these ladies who motivated me and kept me happy to show up to work every day. Jen and Joyce were patient enough with me to teach me all they know about the brewery and its quirks! Max made every hangout at work (and after) amazing and fun. I also have to give a big shout out to Jeff Pearson. He is retired now, but he is my mentor and one of my coolest friends. These people changed my life, trained me and motivated me to come to work with a huge smile and disposition to learn.
What is your day-to-day like on the job?
It’s pretty steady with the occasional surprise! On a regular basis I take care of filtration and filter shut-down, tank monitoring, cellaring tasks, and tank CIPs (cleaning). There is always the tank CIP after we are done filtering the beer in it. In such a busy facility, especially with all the new brands we are working with, turning the tanks around is fundamental to keep the production’s synergy.
When in the cellar, the most important part of the job is making sure the beer and the yeast are happy and stable. Yeast management as well as fermentation and aging monitoring are very important to us. And of course, I participate in the super important sensory test before releasing a tank for packaging. It’s a responsibility I bear with joy. All I’m saying is we are always busy and I love it!
What was the process of getting hired as a brewer?
I literally just asked. I was working as a bartender and tour guide at the time. One day I ran into the Brewmaster, Erica, and I asked her if it was cool for me to apply for a brewer job (I was a couple of beers in, as one does). I mentioned that I had a bunch of training provided by the LCBO as well as some schooling on my own, in addition to home brewing. She said it was cool and encouraged me to apply, since hiring internally is a big value for the company. I got an interview with a bunch of dudes, and at the end only two other guys from outside made it, and myself. I was the only girl that applied for that job and I got it. I will always be proud of that.
What’s the most enjoyable part of your job?
In my opinion, the most important trait of a brewer is our capacity to troubleshoot on the fly. There is no room for error in a facility as big as Steam Whistle, so we have to do everything possible for things to run smoothly. That is a big chunk of my job. I find it extremely satisfying to analyze where things got stuck and “MacGyver” my way out of it.
In addition Steam Whistle, along with many craft breweries, is an excellent place for personal development. If you want to get trained on a new process and/or machine, there is always an opportunity for us working on the floor. I feel I am a constant work in progress and I find that very fulfilling.
Overall, working in any craft brewery is a happy experience. The craft beer is a community where everybody is welcome and I love that.
Also, did I mention the free beer? That’s a cool perk to have.
Any personal and/or professional goals for 2021?
Surviving this apocalypse is key. It has been keeping me pretty busy so far. Personally and professionally I want to continue learning and developing my brewing skills, but I am also interested in following how the industry is adapting to meet the needs and demands of these weird and uncertain times.
For women looking to get into the brewing side of things, any advice?
If you want the job, go for it. If you have the knowledge and the skills, the only thing you have to tell the people who say you can’t do it is “watch me.”
On your off days, what style of beer do you typically reach for?
I love bitters and English ales. They are my go-to on any given day. That being said, I also love visiting a local brewery every time I travel and just sampling what they have to offer. It’s a great way to find delightful surprises.
Do you listen to music or podcasts while you’re working or travelling to the brewery? If so, what are you into right now?
No matter where I am, I need music in the background. My playlists are all over the place and my range can go from Folk to the deep corners of the 80’s. The more synth the better. I will say there is always a fair amount of Fleetwood Mac in there, the brewer soul I have needs to keep things witchy.
Tell me something random/interesting about you!
I don’t like pizza. Gave it a try many, many times. I just don’t get it.