Dionne Roberts's picture

A Day in the Life of Alyssa Thorpe, Head Brewer at Jagged Mountain Craft Brewery

A Day in the Life of Alyssa Thorpe, Head Brewer at Jagged Mountain Craft Brewery

As craft beer has grown exponentially over the years, brewers’ reputations now tend to proceed them, creating rock star personas for the behind-the-scenes curators of the beers we imbibe. However, there are a handful of these back-of-the-house chemists that explicitly stand out. Alyssa Thorpe, head brewer at Jagged Mountain Craft Brewery in Denver, Colorado, (and well-known social media influencer known as the Southern Beer Girl), is most certainly one of them.

I catch up with Thorpe to witness what a typical day at the office looks like; operating her brewhouse like the pro she is, where we discuss her day-to-day routine and her thoughts on diversity within the craft beer industry.

"When I wake up in the morning for work, I put my makeup on and get cute," says Thorpe matter-of-factly. "I like to look cute when I brew."

Thorpe starts work when it fits her own inner clock, readily sharing that she's "not a morning person.” She begins her brew day around 9 a.m. after "lots of coffee and usually a bagel or donut."

9:00-9:30 a.m. Thorpe arrives at the brewhouse to start milling the grain (crushing the grain to expose the inside to hot water.)


alyssa thorpe puts her boots on for a brew day
"When I wake up in the morning for work, I put my makeup on and get cute," says Thorpe matter-of-factly. "I like to look cute when I brew."


"I get my workout on with those 55-pound bags I'm milling," says Thorpe. Thorpe claims to need a workout after becoming "addicted" to offerings from her local cronut shop, Parlor Donuts in Washington Park: "I'm 100-percent addicted. They're so fucking good. Usually I'm a savory breakfast person but these types of donuts really got me."

9:30-10:00 a.m: Thorpe mashes in, mixing the crushed grain with hot water, which turns the starches into sugars over the course of about an hour.

During the waiting periods, like most brewers, Thorpe jams out to her favorite tunes, gaining inspiration from her eclectic playlist in an effort "to get turnt."

"I like music that gets you working," says Thorpe. "I listen to Cardi B radio, sometimes heavy metal, doom metal: (especially Khemmis, which is helmed by Zach Coleman, brewer at fellow Denver mainstay TRVE Brewing Co.), Megan Thee Stallion or straight-up pop, throwing it back to Britney [Spears]."

Around Noon(ish): Thorpe starts the running-off process, which separates the sugary liquid from the grain in the kettle before squeezing in a brief lunch break.

"Since I'm a poor-ass bitch I usually bring my own food or there is a Japanese market close by with sushi and a cheesesteak place, but, either way, I got to get my fuel before I start mashing out," says Thorpe. "Then I get on my little stool and scoop out all of the grains that our farmer comes to pick up."

Post-second round of physical exertion, handling nearly 900 pounds of wet grain, Thorpe rewards herself with a shift brewski, which she says is usually "a lager or kölsch, something light and refreshing like our Four Pass Pilsner."


alyssa thorpe hauls a tub of wort
During the waiting periods on brew days, like most brewers, Thorpe jams out to her favorite tunes, gaining inspiration from her eclectic playlist in an effort "to get turnt."


1:30 p.m: After the kettle is completely full, Thorpe starts the boil and adds her choice of hops. Specifically for the amber she is brewing, she adds the first hop addition when there is about 15 minutes left in the boil (which lasts approximately 90 minutes in total.)

Throughout the day, I notice Thorpe's very functional, industrial stool as a key piece of equipment that her petite 5'1" frame relies on. She laughs at the acknowledgment, referencing that she uses it "pretty much all day to clean since I can't reach anything."

"Cleaning, always cleaning, it's a constant part of the day," says Thorpe, who simultaneously manages her busy Instagram presence while sanitizing everything around her. "Especially on a brew day, social media is always a part of it. I do videos, take pictures and get people involved in what I'm doing because my followers are really interested in the process. So basically, I'm doing two jobs at once: brewing & social media."

The connection to her followers feels authentic, as Thorpe genuinely hopes to impart her brewing knowledge onto others with who have the same level of respect for her male counterparts.

"Most of the time the biggest challenge is people not taking me seriously," says Thorpe. "I feel like being a female brewer is still seen as somewhat of a novelty and people always seem really surprised when they discover I’m the head brewer."

With her vastly impressive online presence as well as her larger-than-life personality while at work at Jagged Mountain, Thorpe has a voice to encourage and educate women and men alike to pursue a career in beer. She currently oversees an intern, Steve Talarczyk, who is completing his certificate of craft brewing course at Regis University, (where Thorpe also attended) teaching him the ropes and sharing her five-plus years of brewing experience.

"He gets to do a little bit of everything including everything I would do," says Thorpe. "I try to take him through every step and talk him through it so he can get used to it.” That includes utilizing his lengthy wingspan, which she acknowledges is "perfect for mashing out."


alyssa thorpe poses with a brew in front of barrels
"I feel like being a female brewer is still seen as somewhat of a novelty and people always seem really surprised when they discover I’m the head brewer," says Thorpe.


3:00 p.m: Thorpe says it's time to knockout into the fermenter, which is when cooling down the wort and transferring it over occurs. She then pitches the yeast, which takes about 30-40 minutes, flip-flopping back and forth between cleaning and working on her computer.

"Anytime I have breaks I reserve that for checking my messages on social media, answering emails or doing orders for other beers," explains Thorpe. "I'm always planning out my schedule, doing admin stuff or talking with the bartenders about their day."

3:30-4:00 p.m: Thorpe jokes that brewing is glorified janitorial work while she handles more cleaning duties before readying to wrap for the day.

From Thorpe's skillful brewing practices to her forthright social commentary to her indicative and marvelously colorful mane, the admiration she garners as a force for good in the industry is obvious and well-deserved. Why? Because she makes it happen.

As our amber-hued Thursday comes to an end, it's easy to see why she warrants the popular following as Southern Beer Girl and why her outspoken demeanor translates to so many craft beer fans pushing for more change within the industry she clearly loves.

"I think we are working towards a better place in terms of inclusivity," says Thorpe. "Marketing to a wider audience, not just white males. News and social media outlets that expose sexism or racism in the industry I think have also helped bring awareness to the lack of diversity in the industry. I think we are starting to see progress, but we definitely still have a long way to go."

All images courtesy Dustin Hall/Brewtography Project except for final image courtesy Jagged Mountain

Advertisement

Table of Contents