In what the Wisconsin Union Directorate Cuisine Committee called a “rare event,” they welcomed Ashley Kinart, the brewmaster of Capital Brewery, to speak about her personal involvement in the beer industry and the role women play there.
Kinart, a University of Wisconsin alumna, worked as a bartender at The Old Fashioned during her time in college. After graduating with degrees in biology and Spanish, Kinart said she struggled with which direction her life should take.
“I had just graduated college, and I realized that bartending was my real job now,” Kinart said. “I couldn’t just pour a beer and go home. I had to figure out my life.”
After deciding to put medical school on hold, Kinart began taking introductory classes in brewing.
Through these classes, she then discovered her love for beer and the process of brewing it.
“I realized that medical school wasn’t for me and that [brewing] is what I wanted to do with my life,” Kinart said.
Kinart then enrolled in a full-time brewery school, where she took courses that taught her the intricacies involved in producing beer and managing a brewery. After graduating, she was asked to partake in a taste-test of newly developed beers at Capital Brewery.
The staff there was drawn to Kinart and offered her a position on their staff as an assistant to the brewmaster.
From there, Kinart worked her way up the ranks, ultimately to become the brewmaster of Capital Brewery in 2015.
“I started taking on more responsibility and never saying no to any opportunities, and before I knew it I was offered to run the place,” Kinart said. “I was terrified, but, of course, I was excited to accept the position.”
Now, Kinart is responsible for managing Capital Brewery, which she says is best known for producing “Wisconsin beer in the German tradition.” Kinart said this style was inspired by the prevalence of German heritage within the state of Wisconsin and the popularity of that style of beer in the 1980s, when Capital Brewery was founded.
Despite her love for the industry, Kinart noted there is an underwhelming presence of women in the field.
“There are three female brewmasters out of the hundreds of breweries in Wisconsin, so it’s clearly a boy’s club,” Kinart said.
In an effort to have some form of solidarity with other women involved in the brewing business, Kinart and other female brewers established a group known as the “Pink Boots.” It consists of eight to nine female brewmasters from across the country and serves to encourage other women to get involved with the brewing business.
The goal, Kinart said, is to make it a more diverse and equitable industry.
Kinart ended the session by encouraging people to go out to local beer festivals and events.
This, Kinart said, is the “funnest” part of the job.
“It’s the best way to try a wide range of local beers and, best of all, many of them are free,” Kinart said.