Craft Beer’s #1 Badass Woman

Julia Herz and an unidentified brewery employee on the North Carolina brewery tour

Julia Herz and an unidentified brewery employee on the North Carolina brewery tour

In the male-dominated world of craft brewing, Julia Herz is one badass woman. Ashley Routson, @TheBeerWench on Twitter, said so last week in the online food and drink ‘zine Thrillist. In Rouston’s article, “10 Badass Women Behind the Scenes in Craft Beer,” she ranked Herz #1. She heaped on so much well-deserved that she didn’t even have to mention Beer Pairing, the book Herz co-authored with Gwen Conley (#7 on Routson’s list).

Last July, Julia Herz and I ended up as bus seatmates on a pre-conference tour in North Carolina. Riding between breweries that afternoon and evening, we talked about all sorts of things, including Beer Pairing, which was slated for a December release. There are few people in the craft beer world as qualified (more on that later) as Julia and Gwen to write on the topic. Listening to Julia talk, I realized this book was set to be a big deal in the craft beer world.

Keynote speaker Julia Herz's at the 2015 Beer Bloggers Conference

Keynote speaker Julia Herz’s at the 2015 Beer Bloggers Conference

The next day, I watched my seatmate jump on stage and pump up 160+ people as the keynote speaker for the conference. As the Craft Beer Program Director for the Brewers Association, Julia Herz can fire off information and statistics on the state of craft beer with dazzling speed. And when it comes to pumping up a crowd, she’s one badass cheerleader.

Four and a half months later, my copy of Beer Pairing arrived. (I totally suggest you buy your own hard copy. You’re going to want to marked it up, dog-ear pages and refer back to it a lot. Plus its chock full of gorgeous photos that display beautifully in a hardcover book.) My expectations were high. The book exceeded them. The authors explain beer pairing well enough that beginners can grasp the fundamentals and get started. But even most experienced brewpub chefs will learn new things and find inspiration.

Q&A with Julia Herz

Last week, I emailed Julia to see how she and the book are doing. Ever passionate about craft beer, she somehow found the time for a detailed reply just before leaving for the Big Beers Festival in Vail, Colorado.

LP: What was your reaction to being named the #1 badass woman in craft brewing?

JH: I thought it was super fly cool and I’m extremely flattered! Although in a fantasy world one day we simply recognize men and women equally on merit, and don’t need to separate out women as a group just for the chance to feature us in force. As Ashley Rouston, the amazing writer of the Thrillist post and a badass beer person herself, says in the piece: Sadly, most (women) go unrecognized.

LP: Beer Paring is racking up great reviews on Amazon. What other feedback are you and Gwen Conley getting about it?

JH: The book just hit stores and on-line retailers December 1 so feedback is streaming in. We’re getting a fantastic response from brewers, beer loves and media. Jeff Alworth provided what I call a glowing review. “Beer Pairing lands on a short list of what I would consider essentials for the beer and food enthusiast’s library. Buy it.” When knowledgeable beer geeks like Jeff praise the book, I know we are on the right track. I’m looking forward to seeing food influencers, chefs and wine educators also utilize it.

LP: What do you see as the hottest trends in craft beer for 2016?

JH: More innovation from small and independent craft brewers. An ever increase in quality and knowledge behind beer recipe formulation and brewing process. New not so crazy styles like Gosa, herb and spice, coffee beers, and more session styles. IPA is not going anywhere and between that and seasonal beers look for these two to still top the list as most purchased. And Nitro beers. Soft silky nitrogen beers in a variety of styles are about to boom.

LP: As the Craft Beer Program Director for the Brewers Association, how much did you travel in 2015?

JH: Lots! I love visiting new beer markets and then also revisiting to see evolution. Everywhere I go I can just tweet out (follow me @HerzMuses) where I’m headed and connect with amazing beer people. I love touring breweries. Stat: In the U.S. 75% of legal aged Americans live within 10 miles of a brewery and more than 10 million people visited a brewery in 2014. Every place I go, no matter the region, I feel such love and passion for the beverage of beer. The community is amazing and the people are all fellow badasses in such a fun great way.

LP: In addition to your day job, you’re a homebrewer, a BJCP beer judge, a Certified Cicerone®, and an author. What’s next for you?

JH: Keep on keepin’ on. I love being a voice for small and independent craft brewers. Over the years I plan to reach as many people as possible talking up why craft brewers are worth their support and why their beers are so rewarding. Personally, I am ever amazed at what the Brewers Association does on behalf of U.S. breweries. Staff are committing their professional careers to advancing our members who make up 70% of today’s U.S. breweries accounting for 99% of the beer made in the U.S. For ten years strong we have organized American Craft Beer Week (May 16-22, 2016) that has become a national event dedicated to highlighting small and independent craft brewers at both retail and breweries. Celebrations happen in all 50 states.

The Brewers Association publishes numerous brewing books, numerous educational websites and magazines, we publish member resources on brewer safety and sustainability, we host multiple events and competitions, we have robust beer and food pairing and brewpub resources, we work on keg repatriation (KegReturn.com), we conduct raw materials and pipeline work via assistance from brewery membership committees, we have grant programs for research, we have 46,000 homebrewing members through the American Homebrewers Association (HomebrewersAssociation.org), plus we publish resources on how to homebrew along with recipes. Additionally, our government affairs work on behalf of both commercial brewers and homebrewers is centric to success of today’s brewers, and our work to keep beer quality top of mind continues to grow.

I also will continue to educate. A great free resource is the CraftBeer.com Beer & Food Couse. 60+ pages of great information can be downloaded at: http://www.craftbeer.com/culinary And I will continue to work to see beer treated fairly at retail and presented in a manner that is equal to wine yet still striving to have it remain both the beverage of moderation and continue to be an affordable fermented beverage.

When I’m not working I will continue to take Zen lessons from my dog and be committed to my husband and two kids (10 and 13). Exercise is big in my world (I love Crossfit) and getting outdoors. I live in Colorado. I call it the promise land.

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