Brewmaster enters the final four
Squatters Pub Brewmaster and Park City resident Jenny Talley once again finds herself in a field of men, competing for the coveted position of Four Points by Sheraton’s Chief Beer Operator, an international "ale aficionado" for the international hotel chain.
Talley is one of four finalists chosen from a worldwide search that yielded more than 7,000 applicants. She is in the company of a CEO of the Web site Kegmaster.com, an information security architect, and a Web designer.
The competition is also a matter of public vote. Within the last four weeks, nearly 13,000 visitors to Four Points’ Web site from all over the world have voted on their favorite beer expert based on resumes and videos launched on http://www.fourpoints.com/cbo. According to Four Points Senior Vice President Sandy "Suds" Swider, the online ballot closed Friday afternoon. The winner will be announced sometime next week on the site.
Tally appears to be relaxed and confident about her chances, in part, because she feels that during her tenure at Squatters, as brewmaster and as research and development director of the Salt Lake Brewing Company, she has been able to make significant contributions to the industry.
"I have to admit, I think I’ve shown women can [be brewmasters.] And not only can they do this, they can do it really well," she explained. "I hope that other women can see what I’ve done and follow my path."
It’s not so much that women aren’t welcome in the beer industry it’s that they don’t attempt it, she says.
"It’s absolutely fantastic being a woman in this business," Talley confesses. "The men are very welcoming. Most of the guys, if not all, are very refreshed to speak with a woman about beer intellectually."
Though she’s proud of the road she’s paved for women, she is equally, if not more pleased, at the array of Utah beers she has designed.
Since her recipe for Squatters’ Vienna Lager won the Great American Beer Festival’s Gold Medal in the Vienna Style Lager Category, Talley’s racked up 12 awards for the beers she’s helped create at Squatters six of which were awarded to her Black Forest Schwarzbier from 2000 to 2004.
Last year, her Emigration Amber Ale (named after Utah’s Emigration Canyon) won the World Beer Cup’s Silver Medal in the Amber/Red Ale Category.
"I think my contribution to the beer industry has been to show how you can make such great beer at moderate alcohol," Talley explains. "People get confused and think it’s less if you say ‘3.2’ But you don’t have to make everything at eight percent to blow people’s socks off you can make a nice, moderate alcohol, great-flavored beer."
One of the beers "near and dear to her heart" that she’s brewed is "Full Suspension," a pale ale she named after purchasing her first full-suspension mountain bike frame in 1995, back when she was a competitive cyclist.
Talley often labels beers with names inspired by her personal experience. After watching her dog chase his tale at the dinner table, she named one of her beers "Chasing Tail Pale Ale."
Some beer trends Talley follows, others she avoids, she says. For instance, while she has joined other brewmasters who have made Belgian-styled beers, she chooses not to partake in the new "extreme beer" craze.
"Now people are making double [India Pale Ales] and double amber ales and they’re inserting twice the amount of alcohol 10 percent and twice the amount of hops," she observes. "You take it and it’s just a mouthful."
Her latest project is a locally-grown, organic-certified amber ale she’s spent an entire year on. The beer, Squatters’ Organic Amber Ale, is slated to hit shelves sometime near Memorial Day.
"To me, what makes a good beer is balance," Talley explained. "I really like a beer with a great malt profile, but also a great hops profile that has some complexity to it: with a beginning, middle and an end.
"As you drink [the beer] and you get the malt, you get the hops, you get the hops nose and you say wow it finishes well. I want another one of those.’"
She calls good beers "session" beers, meaning "a beer you sit around and have a hang out session with."
Since 1991, when she worked sweeping floors as a Squatters’ brewer’ apprentice for less than $5 an hour, seldom has her drive to advance in the industry been diverted. She received a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Utah, and then a masters in social work, but "there was no way I was ever leaving my brewing community," she says.
It’s a passion as well as a profession. Last year, though six months pregnant with her son Dylan, Talley continued to stay hands-on at work. "I even had a belly jumping into the kettle," she recalls.
She’s slowed down a bit since Dylan’s birth, she says, leading "Brewmaster Dinners" and "Mug Club" meetings at Park City’s Squatters Roadhouse Grill.
Chief Beer Officer at Four Points will be a part-time consulting job, should she nab the spot. Talley will therefore continue to hold her position at Squatters, as she has for the last 13 years.
According to Swider, the winner of the contest will be chosen at Four Points’ parent company’s headquarters in White Plains, New York.
The new job for Four Points was created to help evolve the hotel’s beer selections and food pairings, she says.
The idea behind the position is to emphasize local brews as part of the hotel experience, Swider explained, advising guests about local brews, brewery tours and beer festivals.
The Chief Brew Officer will oversee the "Best Brews" program at 125 hotels located in 122 countries around the world.
The best candidate will be chosen by public vote and by personal interviews with executives. "It will be a difficult decision," Swider admits.
"We were looking for someone who truly knows beer and can help add value to our program," she explained. "When we saw the final four, we knew they were the right ones…It’s been a fun process, and it’s also been overwhelming."
The winner will be announced online at http://www.fourpoints.com/cbo.
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