Capital Brewery’s Ashley Kinart Gave a Quick Talking To

capital brewery

capital breweryA couple of months ago we received a press release from Capital Brewery discussing a new beer, “Fishin’ in the Dark.” The release discussed how Assistant Brewer Ashley Kinart was the brainchild behind this Imperial Schwarzbier. We figured, what better time to do our first interview with a woman from the brewing industry. This is how the interview went:

BM: How’d you get into brewing?

AK: Getting a job at a beer bar forced me to learn more than just what beer tasted like. Researching the brewing process really hit my interest in science, making me realize all my classes towards my Biology degree from UW-Madison were relevant to my job and new hobby, homebrewing.

BM: As a woman, what type of obstacles did you encounter in breaking into brewing?

AK: I don’t feel that getting into the industry had any holdbacks as a woman. If anything, people may have been more welcoming to my questions or to host me in their brew house because of the small number of women getting into this line of work. You see a lot of women in the lab areas of breweries, or start in administrative departments, but I was more interested in seeing the more labor-intensive end of brewing, and they weren’t afraid to put me to work.

BM: Why did you decide to work at Capital Brewery?

AK: I have been serving their beer since before I was even old enough to drink (18 is the legal age to serve alcohol) so I have always had a huge respect for what it took to open a small brewery in the mid ’80s. There has also been a ton of new product development and new marketing directions, so I thought it would be great to be a part of a brewery with such a solid history that was still moving forward along with the constantly changing craft brewing world.

BM: Where’d you get the concept for Fishin’ in the Dark?

AK: I really like a lot of dark beers, and tend to shy in that direction for drinking and for a majority of the homebrews I’ve done in the past, but knew this beer would be released late spring, early summer. Dark beer cross-listed with my heavily-German brewing education led me directly to a Schwarzbier. I also wanted to use Wisconsin ingredients, so starting with a few ingredients and companies, I adapted my available malts and hops from Wisconsin to fit the flavor profile of a traditional Schwarzbier.

I really love the history of how traditional styles evolved based on the city or location they were brewed simply because that was what they had, and how they were able to brew it. So re-creating a traditional style in a day and age where we can obtain virtually any worldwide product, using the ingredients I have available to me locally, was more of a challenge and felt really good. I also decided to go with the “Imperial” designation to make it a little higher alcohol than the standards, to make sure to deliver for the higher price and smaller packaging than our regular offerings. The name really came out of how I was trying to put into words the feeling of the beer (if that makes sense). I needed something that encompassed warm weather, nighttime, friends, beer drinking … So naturally that was the best way to get all those things together.

BM: Describe your day-to-day experience in the brewery.

AK: Our brew days are set up into many overlapping shifts, our opening brewer gets the first brew of the day started very early in the morning, so by the time I arrive, we are just finishing lautering the first brew. Once the kettle is topped up, I have to clean the grain out of the lauter tun — about 2,000 lbs. worth — and start mashing in the second brew. From there, cleaning and sanitizing the tank, and lines the wort will go through after the boil, doing gravity measurements, and setting up grain and hops for the brews, heating and filling water tanks, etc. are all juggled back and forth throughout the cooling of the first brew while lautering the second brew. And then that brings the cycle back to where I jumped in at the beginning of the day, and I do it all over again until we’re done mashing in all brews for the day. Three brews a day is pretty average, although four is becoming a more regular occurrence, and Fridays we only do one brew and have a lot of weekly projects and deep cleaning.

Long story short, “wort production” is the most concise way to describe the process I do day to day in the brewery, while cleaning and hosing out the brewhouse vessels seems to be a majority of my tasks. Mashing, lautering, boiling and cooling each brew, are the specific steps I am in charge of the in the grand scheme of the grain-to-glass process.

BM: What are some life lessons you’ve learned being a brewer?

AK: Admit to yourself when you’ve made a mistake and ask for help. I’m one of the newest people in the brewery, so I never stop learning from my co-workers. Even if I think its something small and easy to fix on my own, these guys have been there and done that 20 times over. And, although I think I might be bothering someone who has something much more important to deal with, at the end of the day, all the school in the world doesn’t teach you how to do every tiny little task and fix every minute detail you run into on a daily basis. And there’s usually a pretty good story behind the last time they had to deal with it.

BM: If you had unlimited time and resources, what beer would you brew and why?

AK: Based solely on the unlimited time factor, a Belgian Sour is probably the style of beer I love to drink, but don’t have the time or patience to try to brew. But I really think I was given that opportunity with Fishin’ in the Dark, and that really hit on all the things I want for my own “me” beer. So my real answer hit the shelves early June.

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