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Annie Johnson Oral History Interview, November 2, 2019

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TIAH EDMUNSON-MORTON: Ok, I'll start this one. Go ahead and introduce yourself.

ANNIE JOHNSON: I'm Annie Johnson.

TEM: And it's November 2nd.

AJ: November 2nd, yes.

TEM: The sun shining. [Laughs]

AJ: Beautiful sunshine.

TEM: Today is November 2nd. And we are at the Hilton in Vancouver, at...

AJ: Washington

TEM: Nanocon. [Laughs]

AJ: Nanocon. [Laughs]

TEM: Let's just start with where you were born and where you grew up.

AJ: Sure. I was born in Otzberg, Germany. And I was adopted, as was my older sister. She was also born in Germany. We had GI fathers. And her mother was German. Mine was Irish. And then they couldn't take us, so my folks were there working with Department of Defense and adapted us. They had already a child, my 00:01:00older brother. And then we moved back to the States, about three years, when I was three years old, to New Mexico, cuz we're a blended family and that was a really good place to be, was Albuquerque.

TEM: Oh.

AJ: Yeah if you were an interracial family. My dad was also Finnish. He was Doctorate in Education at University of New Mexico.

TEM: That's really interesting. Was that something that because they were in the military they knew about?

AJ: Well, they were active. My mom was from Minnesota. My dad was from L.A. They had met 10 years before they got married, working their way through college at Yellowstone. And they, classic correspondents, keep in touch. And my mother got this Beethoven scholarship to go to Germany to perform at the different bases. 00:02:00She was a singer and a piano player, classically trained. Then my dad finishes his masters at Whittier College in Southern California. Then he joined the Army, cuz that's what you did-military service.

So he was stationed there. So they picked up their romance again. And then he got sent out. Three years later, he went back to the States. And she was there. She was never going back to Minnesota, probably because it's too cold. So he came over and then they got married. They started teaching. They were teaching at Department of Defense schools throughout Europe. So my brother was born in France when they were teaching there. And they would get different post in Germany. And then my sister was born in Oberammergau. And their pastor on the base, the chaplains, they knew they wanted to adopt. And they said, "would you 00:03:00consider adopting a child who's in this situation, the black GI and this German woman." And they said, "No, we don't care." So they did. And then the au pair, who's my mother, became pregnant. And that was a whole other story. But didn't work out. So she couldn't go home to Ireland cuz she had already had a child. And later on, she had another one. So she didn't want to go home, cuz her parents had raised her other ones.

So then they adopted me. And then they moved to New Mexico. And then about a year after we were there, they sent for my mother's friend, cuz they really 00:04:00liked her to come over-they wanted to sponsor her to come in the States. And my mother, she's very clever Irish said,

"Oh she got married, she moved."

So she goes, "Well, I'm available."

It wasn't a lot of jobs then for the single Irish women who didn't want to be in Ireland, didn't want to get married and all that. So she came to New Mexico. And she's still there.

And then we left and went to northern California cuz my dad was a principle of elementary school. And his whole thing in college was education for migrant families, farm workers. In Northern California, it was so big with agriculture that he could do that. So he set up a bilingual program. And then we stayed there until they left, when I was just getting into high school. They went to the Middle East to keep teaching. And my sister, by then, was in college. My brother was in the Navy. So I went over and went to boarding school in Egypt. I 00:05:00was there for three years, and then came back to Sacramento Valley, and went to college, and then stayed there.

TEM: Do you have memories from Germany? Or is it the sort of -

AJ: I have, since I've gone back. My sister, more so, older and has more vivid-she can remember a lot more. But now I visit family in Ireland since I've reconnected with all the Irish family. So, when I go over, Germany is for fun. But the ties with Ireland, as now I know, I think about nature/nurture, meeting all that family, cuz I didn't realize there was that many of them. I went over and that's more recent. I go travel there more often, to visit.

TEM: So what was it like, then, to go to Egypt?


AJ: That was interesting cuz I didn't speak any Egyptian Arabic. And I hadn't had any experience, myself as I can't remember at that age living overseas, since I was so young when we moved back to the States. It was a boarding school. And I was there with all the rest of the kid. And you'd find something in common. We were all there because some kids-there was one gal, her father was the Turkish ambassador in Oman, but there's no school there. There were British schools. But my parents went, "You need to get your American curriculum." And that was an American school. And it had been established in-I think it was-1920s. So it was an older school in Alexandria on the coast. It was well-known.


And I'm still friends with a lot of the students. But their situations were different. Some had parents that were working in Cairo, but the American school, it was better for them to go to boarding school. And there was another fella who's dad was -I think he was-in charge of WHO at the time, the health organization. And he was there. So, they were all over from Morocco, and Italy, and so I remember we had a flag hall with all the flags from all the countries. And I think there was just under 70 different countries that're represented in the students.

TEM: Did you learn Arabic?

AJ: I did. And I still am pretty good. It's fun when I get into a situation and I ask someone where they're from. and they'd tell me they're from North Africa, 00:08:00or parts of the middle east. And I'll strike up a conversation. And I'll tell them "it's not so good", I'm speaking it. They're like, "It's better than you think." [Laughs] So that always makes me feel good because I thought I was a terrible student at Madam Ragah's class. She'd always tell me to pay attention. But I made it through 7th grade. They'd start you off at Kindergarten. Instead of Dick and Jane, it's Omar and Amal. And you'd go through the set of the book, and everything, the pictures. It really is the same all over the world, except you're reading right to left, which is funny now when I pick up magazines, I start at the back. I've no idea why I do that, books too. I'm like, "this is odd." Weird. But I loved it.

TEM: So what was the, kind of going back to your time in California, what was it 00:09:00like to grow up in California? What are some of the memories that you have of?

AJ: I liked it. We were north of Sacramento in a small town, Marysville is about 35 mile north of Sacramento, and 40 miles south of Chico - Flat valley town. There's a military Air Force Base. So a lot of Air Force kids are still in active base and get closed down. So there was kid you get to be friends with and then they'll be gone. But summers were easy. My parents were both teachers. And you had to go to summer school. We loved that. Everybody swam all summer long, or flew kites were hung out.

And there were levees. The town is surrounded by levees. I remember our 00:10:00neighbor's dad was a manager of the Montgomery Ward warehouse. And he'd bring home cardboard from all the refrigerators and the appliances.

And then we'd run over to the levees in all the grass and you'd just slide down. You'd get dirty and have a good time. My dad had a real green thumb, so there was always a garden and I remember a lot of yard work and stuff like that. My mother, being a teacher, having her summers off. The kids find something to do-eight o'clock in the morning they'll carry you out, come back when the streetlight comes off. So we'd be outside from 8, 9 in the morning till 9 o'clock at night, hanging out, riding your bike, going to the swimming pool. It was easy. Screen door, you don't even lock it. Leave your windows down on the car.

TEM: Did you go into the more populated Bay Area a lot? Was that part of?


AJ: My folks went all the time. My mother's brother was the pastor at the Oakland Presbyterian Church, the big downtown on Broadway. So we'd see him and her other brother lived in San Francisco. And we were the van family. So when they moved from Germany, they brought over their '58 VW. So we had that wagon. So we did a lot and we'd camp in San Francisco at the beach down at the end of the park, Golden Gate by the windmill. And we went to a lot of ball games at Candlestick, and the coliseum. Her brothers, being in both cities, we'd visit one, and then we'd go to the other one. And we were in the Bay Area a lot. At the time, the war was still on. My parents were very big activists. I remember a 00:12:00lot about going to Golden Gate Park. And I knew it was fun for me as a kid. But they were there because they were actively protesting the war. My mom wore a lot of muumuu's. And my dad had a beard without a mustache. [Laughs] They were really into politics, big Democrat family.

TEM: Was there any conflict with them having been involved with the military?

AJ: No. My dad was in the military in the 50s, and it was your duty to do something, and even with my mom and her Beethoven scholarship from the Army. And I have a dog tag, I always keep it in my wallet everywhere I go. It was what you did. There was no shame in that. But then with Vietnam, it was different once 00:13:00things started to come to light, what this was really about. So they're very active with that. You know, my dad, with the heavy and bilingual education and just seeing those kinds of things, knowing it shouldn't be like that. It was good for me to get that in still a young age. I know there's a lot of my friends who didn't get it, so I'm very conscious.

TEM: I'm curious to hear more about the, that bilingual education and the kind of mechanics of that.

AJ: It's amazing that he was doing that as his thesis, and my dad was born in '33. He had great memories of growing up in and around Los Angeles, Culver City, 00:14:00when L.A. was not what it is today. And going to beach, making his own surf board, going to Pismo for the clams. And doing all these kinds of things, and then going to school and recognizing that so close to Orange County, these migrant farmers. And I don't know what it was in him that decided that, education was gonna be in, especially bilingual. He must have seen something. I know that both my parents saw a lot of things that they didn't talk about. I don't know if it was that generation, we just didn't. And he didn't complain, because they both-my mom had it particularly rough, growing up on a farm, they raised turkeys and growing up to the Depression, and had there a lot of kids in their family. And her mother, she was in and out of, she was schizophrenic, so 00:15:00she was in and out of a facility. She had 6 brothers and sisters. And then eventually, their father got divorced because she was just incapacitated. And then they got remarried when my mom was 14. And she just was so thankful to have a mother, because she was the oldest daughter and she was helping raise all these kids, and then the turkeys. I always remember she hated turkey. When I was, Thanksgiving, "Turkey!"


AJ: She was like, "Ugh, if I have to." But she never complained. But every now and then, some would pop out, a tidbit. I remember sitting in the back of car-probably had been 12-and she was talking about one of her younger sisters. And she said, "Well, you know, she killed herself." And I, "Where did that come 00:16:00from?!", "What popped in?!"

And things I never knew about. I know she had it hard. When she got that scholarship-and she was very smart, she graduated teaching high school at 21- and she got that scholarship and she was like, "Out." She didn't look back, never went back.

TEM: It's that interesting perspective, I think, as adults when we live more and think about our parents, that kind of perspective of adulthood now.

AJ: Right. And her step-mom-my grandma-they had a talk. She did tell me, she said she'll probably never see her father again. And he died 5 years later. Cuz she had to take a boat. Coming back from Germany at the time, I know that we'd need to stop in the middle of the Atlantic and refuel, and then we'd continue 00:17:00on, cuz there was just no long range flying then. Stop somewhere in the middle. Maybe it was in Norway-not Norway, but-Greenland, or some place. It's interesting.

And I remember my mom tell me, she said "You had, chickenpox." And we had to just cry all way

TEM: Oh, on the boat?

AJ: On the plane back. She said, "but everyone just loved you cuz you're so fat." I'm like, "Thanks." [Laughs] "And you know, they'd just pass you round."

TEM: Poor you with your chickenpox.

AJ: Yeah. I guess I wasn't contagious at the time.

TEM: You probably felt terrible though?

AJ: Yeah, I'm sure I did, because my mom said "You knew how to walk before you got on of the plane. Then you didn't walk for 5 months after." [Laughs] You know, I think I was almost 18 months and where did I forget how to walk? And why 00:18:00did it take me so long in the first place? [Laughs] Good stories.

TEM: So what were you interested in, academically, when you were in school?

AJ: When I went to school, I really thought that I wanted to be in communications. I wanted to work at a news room -not in front of the camera

TEM: What about when you were a little kid? What was the...

AJ: Oh god, it was bad. I think I was captivated by the Century 21. Everyone was like, "I want to be a doctor." And here I was like, "I'm gonna be a real estate agent," cuz that yellow place. [Laughs] Silly. I don't know why.

TEM: That's awesome. [Laughs]

AJ: Fascinated with that, cuz you'd see the signs. I'm like, "I'm gonna get the smart blazer."


TEM: They look smart.

AJ: And they are always attractive. And they got that going on. And that faded. And then I loved drawing. I had an art teacher in junior high, I just adored her. So I thought, well this is it. And then I went to college and art was my major. My dad said, "you need to switch that." And he was very, he promoted our hobbies and thing that we liked to do. But that was the first time I got really sad, cuz all he said "you'll be able to do nothing." And it wasn't probably hard for him-gives out advice all the time as an educator. But I thought, "oh, no." So I just switched it to a minor and changed to communication, which was ok. It was good. And then I started working. I worked for a concert promoter. So I 00:20:00thought, "that's what I'm gonna do." I worked for Bill Graham and I loved it.

TEM: How did you get into that?

AJ: They had a, through the university, they had a program called UNIQUE, which was for Unique Network of Innovative Quality in University Entertainment-can't believe I remember that-where you would bring speakers and bands since it's campus. And then they had a call out because Pink Floyd was coming to Sacramento Memorial, to the City College. They had an outdoor stadium. And they needed help, so I went, "I'll volunteer." And then they started doing these summer series concerts. And I just got in and I was good. And I just kind of moved up. And then next thing you know, it was behind the stage and doing all kinds of 00:21:00things, and picking up Jerry Garcia at the airport, and all kinds of fun stuff. And "get down the wards, we need some fishnets for Elton John." - "I'm on it." And you getting in the help and getting into the production, go over and help, and back up. And then a few times with Bill himself, I was hanging out with him while he miracled people. He loved the Deadheads, because he thought they were so pure and he would give them a little ticket, like a Regal movie ticket from years ago. And you'd know if you saw one of those, you'd just let that person in. And then you'd go and find him, cuz they'd just sit there, asking for a miracle, putting up their hand, finger, waiting for it.

Now when I do beer shows and we do Great American Beer Fest, we get these free tickets, I'll go out and I'll do that miracle, "I'm gonna miracle people." We're 00:22:00not selling them. We're gonna give 'em all away, to people that couldn't get in. So I'm trying to keep that spirit alive. Yeah, I thought that I would do that. And it was hard work.

TEM: Did you travel? Or was it just...

AJ: Yeah, I was in and around the bay area, parts of northern California, into Nevada whenever you had super big shows and you needed to call and then go. But there were so many venues around northern California, Bay Area.

TEM: Yeah.

AJ: And things that he started-he had Concord, he had Mountain View, he had Sacramento and Reno, and then all parts all over San Francisco, the Pacific Auditorium and Cow Palace. It was just a lot.

TEM: Yeah. Lots of good music.

AJ: Yeah. And there were a lot of private ones. You know it's a private one when you just see a handful of artists, work with those. It was fun.

TEM: So this is like the "what's your favorite story?" But I'm curious, what's 00:23:00something like Elton John fishnets that sticks out?

AJ: I'm telling you, Guns N' Roses, Bill Graham was a stickler for being on stage in time. He's like, "these people paid their money to see you. I'm hiring you, you need to be on stage." And he had a rule that you couldn't be late. He might give an extra 10 minutes. And then Guns N' Roses was late. They were half an hour late. And they did their whole thing. And he said, "Ok, it's great. I'm not paying you."-after the show, smart.

And they were like, "What do you mean 'I'm not gonna pay you'?" And they had all their peeps. And Bill had all of his people. They knew they're not gonna be able to rumble. And that was that. And the next time they came, they came out early 00:24:00and they played for free. [Laughs] But you didn't disrespect him because he set that standard in the music industry. So it was a big deal, and he really did. And the way he brought people to the music, cuz he loved music. And that's how I got into Bonnie Raitt, Robert Cray Band, Stevie Ray Vaughan. He had such a knowledge for that. And then all the local talent pushed up and out in the Bay Area. I love the Grateful Dead, but I'm not a massive fan of the music. And they were hard shows to work. But they just had this following. He just made it effortless to have them play. And it was happy. It almost seemed like we just have a happy time when he was alive.

And when he died and that rock n' roll way died, everything changed. I stopped 00:25:00listening to music. And I made a switch. I went right to AM sports radio. I never have gotten back into it like I was in, which is a shame.

TEM: Before that, did you think the kind of physicality of it backstage, like you have mentioned, would be challenging in the long haul? Did you think about shifting to a different facet of the music industry?

AJ: I liked to do, I thought that it might be fun to do sound engineering. But then it's so much road travel, and nights. And then there is that element of the ugly side of the industry that made me cringe a little bit. Once he died, I 00:26:00backed away from all of it. And I just went and got started working for the government, the legislature. And then going back to school-they sent me Davis this time. And I went and just stayed there. There was an ugly side of that too but being in a civil agency, a civil service agency is a little different than being a staffer and that. But I can still see that. And then as I got older, unfortunately, it came about "get up, go to work, do the job, come home." But then I got into brewing. And then I was energized. It was a whole new life of something, the passion that I had working and listening to music. And now I have something else. This is really great. It's my lifesaver.


TEM: Can you say more about that time in the legislature? You worked in government for twenty years?

AJ: Almost twenty.

TEM: Almost twenty years, and you were doing IT related things.

AJ: Yeah. So the agency is one of the smallest agencies with one of the biggest budgets. So there's two halves of the agency. One was the data center, and the other is the counsel bureau which provides all the legal support for the Senate and the Assembly, and then other is the IT. So my job, specifically, was working 00:28:00on software programs to bring the legislature out of the Stone Age. [Laughs] They had chisel and stone at that time. And then sitting a lot, working with staffers and working for people that supported other parts of the legislature, 00:29:00like Sergeants and Army offices, Secretary of State, Legislative Analyst. This small agency does it all. So they also support all their district offices, so there was some travel to visit some of these district offices and in Modoc County.

But it was basically keeping the whole legislature online. And then the legal was all about the deputies which were all lawyers. They actually write all the legislation. So a constituent has all the great ideas, they always do, and then they bring it to their Congress person, and then Congress passes it off to the Counsel Bureau who does all the research and does everything, and then writes all the legislation, and it goes into that. And it's interesting, cuz you'd find out about how the bill becomes law in California. It starts out as A, and then 00:30:00it gets passed and goes into laws Z. This whole gutting them in-it really is a fish analogy. When you gut that fish, take it out, and I'm gonna put it inside of some other animal. There it is-give it a fur coat. [Laughs] It's a coat, you know. It's interesting.

TEM: It must have been an interesting time to have that as your skill set to be in the Bay Area, knowing about technology or talking to people about that.

AJ: It was. I didn't think that was going to be my thing, cuz I don't think that I'm very talented software developer. But some people have real skills for writing code. That wasn't mine. I wasn't that good that it. And mine-because I'm 00:31:00a better communicator-was really figuring out what users want, and then turning it into nerd-speak, which I could do to the actual development team. So, I was the business analyst-

TEM: The translator. [Laughs]

AJ: -in between. Yeah. So it was a lot of time spent at the Capitol, listening to people talk about what they want-and then they don't know what they want-and helping them. It was a challenge, but it was fun. But it was this side of, as a citizen, voter, working for an agency, and then seeing the waste even by my own party in power. It was just awful. It was awful. Just ugh

TEM: I'd imagine, too, growing up with this activist family that that was-


AJ: It was difficult, yeah. We were modest. We didn't have, teachers don't make any money. Nobody goes into the teaching for the money.

TEM: Yeah.

AJ: By then, it was a conflict. But, again, I got a mortgage, I have things. And then with brewing, it just turned out to be this other area where I could be creative-because I still love doing art and drawing, and then, I get to be creative. And I like to cook, and all these other things. And then, when the chance came to work in the beer industry, I had a good chat with my boss. And she said, "If you not now, it'll never." And she said, "You got skills. You'll 00:33:00be happier, cuz you could always come back." Cuz I was latched into something for eighteen years with cement feet. And she just gave me that push. And it's been 6 years now, 6 and a half.

TEM: So were you interested in food and drink as a consumer?

AJ: My mother was an excellent cook. She had a way of getting into different kinds of foods and doing really well. So, she really got into French cooking. She could cook really good Mexican food, German food which is kind of easy. [Laugh] She was just good. And it must be a thing about teachers, but my parents were the ultimate party hosts. And mom loved to throw dinner parties. And it 00:34:00didn't matter if it was 6 to 10, 12, 20 people. So, if someone said to me today at this time, and said "Well, tomorrow morning, you gotta put on brunch for 60 people." -" I'll be it, no problem." [Snaps]

My sister didn't get that at all. She hates it. So, I get serviced out a lot in my family-you can, "We're having a party, ahhhh!" And so I love it. But because I look at it like my brewing, it's gotta be good. That's the worst thing when you see some put something in the mouth and "ugh." So she really gave me that. She was a fabulous cook. I remember being home from school in Egypt, and then visiting them in Abu Dhabi. She had the French ambassador over. And it didn't occur to her, it was just like "Of course, I'm gonna serve them French food." 00:35:00And cooked. And they were so happy. And I remember that. I thought, if I'm gonna learn, I'm gonna be a good cook-it occurred as a teenager-and I'll get that same reaction.

TEM: Yeah

AJ: It was amazing.

TEM: It feels sort of like a volley question that you will say yes to, but I'm curious about, then, bow do you feel that kind of early exposure to different places and different types of food comes out in the way that you approach recipe creation now? Is it an active?

AJ: Yeah definitely. Yeah, it was the exposure. And then, also my folks always had us great, a lot of friends, from all different backgrounds. And because they 00:36:00loved to have these dinner parties and BBQs and things, the influence in the flavors that you taste, and someone would show up and said "try it." Getting exposed to Indian food in a young age, and all different kinds of things-it definitely does now. And now, with recipe creation, I get a lot of inspiration from just being outside. What's in bloom, the weather-I'll see something and I'll smell something, and it just sticks and I gotta do it. Or, I'll be watching a cooking show. So I've got this idea now. I definitely gotta do something. I'm thinking about some kind of beer I can make with lemons that are caramelized in a way, cuz I see them doing this with the flame. I'm thinking, what effect could that have in a beer? But it's creating the right base beer so it's not a pour 00:37:00abomination. I don't want to get it so wrong, so I have to think about it for a couple months. But I have so many stacked up that I'm moving on to the next one.

The last one that I did was nettles. I have a nettles pesto. I thought, "This is really good, how do they get the sting out." And I'm reading about it. And I thought, "I can make a nettles beer. What can it go in?" And I put it in a lager. It was great. I did a Czech, Pilsner base, but the nettles are most green beer. But it's naturally green.

TEM: Like color green?

AJ: Yeah.

TEM: Oh, interesting.

AJ: Cuz the nettle is this bright rich green.

TEM: I've never even cooked with nettles

AJ: They're cool.

TEM: Yeah.

TEM: They are harder to harvest-you know, wear gloves. But it's a short window. 00:38:00And then I did a beer that was inspired by Danny Kahn, with chanterelle mushrooms. And "How am I gonna do this and not make it cost $500?" [Laughs] But it was like, "I can get the nettle. I'm gonna get these mushrooms myself"-which I eventually had in one of my very young friends come by over, with pounds of them. She's like, "I went chanterelle hunting. And here I am." So it was making that beer, and then finding what is it that chanterelle mushrooms taste like. It tastes so different in beer than it does when you're making a risotto. But it was great. So now I do that. I go around neighborhood with scissors at night. [Laughs] I give neighbors a beer, "thank you, neighbor."


[TEM and AJ discuss the event noise happening in the background]

TEM: So did you take brewing classes at UC Davis?

AJ: Yeah, I took one in the early 2000s. I don't remember, maybe 2004...? And then I didn't take any formal classes after that. I just all self-taught. But going to conferences and then studying, and learning. And then I got a nice trip to the Czech Republic to brew at Urquell, and learning from them. And then breweries of, my favorite is in Belgium; Fantôme. So on a business trip, I went 00:40:00there, this tiny town of Soy, and hung out. Then I can get real-world experience and learning about the farmhouse, saisons.

And surprisingly enough, this last spring, Dr. Bamforth asked me to hold some review classes for him at UC Davis. So I had gone there for software, for IT, and then going back for the brewing to teach-was pretty cool that he entrusted me.

TEM: Did you think about cooking as a career? Was that something-

AJ: I thought that it would be neat to go to the culinary institute, especially 00:41:00growing up in northern California, then being all over in Napa. But I had friends that were in the restaurant world. And you'd find a lot when you do the music, cuz you're out so late. You'd start to get favorite restaurants and you'd hang out at. It's brutal. It's too much. And there was a lot of alcohol and drug abuse that was woah, I'm a child of the Nancy Reagan, you know


AJ: Yeah, no drugs. And my parents didn't do-they would drink, but they didn't-smoke or anything. It was just too spooky to see that. And in grade school, they had all those after school specials. You'd see one kid taking one 00:42:00head off a joint and then they would jump off the second story. "Oh it's such a shame about Susan. Stay out of drugs kids."

So it scared me. This was the 70s. It scared me to death. So I never was-as for that part of the cooking. And then I don't think I have a discipline. And I didn't know how to chop. I'm addicted to cooking shows, thought. Those are my favorites that I watch. And then they're all on tape. And then I loved watching PBS, had Julia Child, her show. And then she did cooking with Jacques Pepin. And I like the older cooks-Lydia, the Italian chef. And then there was a big one in Sacramento, it was Biba Caggiano-she had northern...As I was learning about different region, I thought if you of Italian food and you're kind of naïve, they all sound the same, it's all spaghetti. No, you don't know that's one 00:43:00region that just loves to cook with lemons and the other one is fish. So they had the different regions. I think I answered that question.

TEM: Yeah

AJ: I had thoughts of it in my head but I don't have that discipline, I don't think.

TEM: Seems like it's joy of not having to it, the joy of being able to experiment and not have to-

AJ: I think cooking, when I started brewing-cuz I was already a good home cook-it was just a natural extension of that. My mother was the one who pushed me into brewing. She said, "it's just like cooking. What are you sitting there for?" But it was a concert that I finished working, that paid us in cash. We loved this one, Reggae on the River, cuz you could get out of town. And you could go up to the Eel River. And then we would go to Fort Bragg after and just 00:44:00decompress. And that's where I got my homebrew kit cuz it's on the window. And Fort Bragg was a special place, cuz you went there every year for Easter break to go to your family, at the old wagon and then drive four hours at the beach, cuz my folks just loved North Coast. So that's my sweet spot. So all those breweries there, Lost Coast, Eel River, North Coast, Anderson, absolutely. And it isn't like that in Sacramento, like "well, those were my home breweries."

TEM: What did you decided to make first? What was the first thing, when you said "now I'm gonna make a beer", what was your choice?

AJ: The first one was a nut brown. I think that's what every homebrewer starts with. They maybe start with some version of a Newcastle. But then you buy it in 00:45:00the shop, it's called Nutcastle. [Laughs] No creativity. But I was doing it with my best friend and her husband. Cuz we would read the directions, we would quite literally-and then do it, just as they said, with the pot on the stove. And then cool it down in the sink, and figuring it all out. And we were such big sports fans at the Bay Area. All of our beers were named after Oakland A's or Oakland Raiders players.

So it was Tim Brown Ale. We had Rollie Fingers, a Rollie red. They were Plunkett pours every single one-Catfish Hunter was our IPA. Everything was after As or Raiders. But the amber was the one that got me the most, the Rollie red, cuz I 00:46:00love Mad River Jamaica Red Ale. Those are one of my favorite beers. And then the Old Red Tail too. So that was the amber. And that was the one that, when I decided to enter competition, I put the amber in, and I got out of blue ribbon, and then I was just like, "I'm good!" [Laughs] And at state fairs with the big, beautiful rosette, cuz they give out those horse-size rosettes. They're the only ones I know that still do beautiful ribbons. They really go out, they do it well. A lot of other competitions are down to medals, and they're kind of cheap, pressed together. But those rosettes, they can't. There's no way you can miss 'em. I go into breweries and wineries in northern California and I see their state fair, cuz it's a big deal. Cuz it's such a big state that people went.


So I was hooked on that. And then I thought, "Well, I'm going to branch out and enter all these other competitions in other states." And I just started winning. [Laughs]

TEM: And then I just won. [Laughs]

AJ: Every homebrew goes through, in the end they become a little bit of a ribbon hoard. And I got it, I got it, but winning was important to me. And there were very specific brewers around my area that I competed with. And then if I could beat them-then I loved it, cuz I'd put it 3 or 4 beers, they'd pump in 20, 30. And I'd beat them, they'd know "I beat you in IPA". You go ahead and have you Belgian Blonde, I beat you in the IPA. [Laughs]

TEM: What was important to you about it? Did it change your relationship with 00:48:00them, or-

AJ: Well, I knew I was getting better. But I couldn't get anybody to take me seriously. So the more I won, the more people started to recognize that I had a voice and something to share. And I remember joining the homebrew club, and I thought, "Oh the politics and the drama, this is not for me." Not saying "I know this is the way you do it", but "Here is my experience" and then just getting that "Little lady, calm down ma'am." And I thought, "Fine."

So I started my own club and we only had 3 people in it. And we only existed to find equipment and then we would share it. So someone would always find kegs and 00:49:00then we'd share beer. And that was it. So it was very small. And then when I'm in Seattle, same thing. I picked a homebrew club that wasn't one of those brewing machines. It's always the one that doesn't charge dues. That means they don't take, are not so regimented. And it's just a collection of people that get together once a month and do that. And the clubs now are shifting, with all the newer, younger, they're really into structure. And I, "Oh, I gotta go back to having my own club again." [Laughs]. And now that I know what I want.

But I'm starting to get a little bit of that "Quiet down, old lady." You know, 00:50:00cuz for me now, if people want help-cuz it's usually just processes-helping with those, one, two, three little things to improve their beer. But when they don't want it, I'm like, "Why are you throwing money down the drain and telling me this is good when it tastes like pool water?" You know, there's just a few things you need to do, and learn from my mistakes, cuz I made a lot of bad beers in the beginning. But maybe, I think, I'm just getting old, or grouchy and they don't wanna approach me. I don't know what it is. But I just wish they would.

TEM: So I'm curious, what year did you start home brewing?

AJ: '98.

TEM: So it's been 21 years. So, how has your-or, has your-approach to dealing 00:51:00with those people changed as you've gotten older and learned more, and lived life.

AJ: Well, I went through the beer judge certification program. So it's not just brewing, it's judging, and moving up. So I'm not a master, but I'm a national which is pretty dedicated, and lots and lots of competitions and tasting people's takes on certain classic styles. And then if you don't want to take my brewing advice, then I'll go ahead and rate your beer based on the program, because they all wanna enter competitions. And so I'll show 'em, this is where you made your mistakes. So you can have it this way, or this way. But, if you don't do something, it's not gonna work out for you-because they've got that 00:52:00ribbon, they've gotten that bug and that when you become a "ribbon hoarder", you, in the home brew, you have to brew classically. You can't take shortcuts. It has to represent the classic originator of that style.

And there's so many podcasts out now and online presence, people that are taking shortcuts, and this and that. And they do that. And they ask, "Why isn't my Czech Pilsner taste that?" And I, "Cuz you don't think like a Czech. You want to go this way." If you're not willing to put in the work, then decide that you don't like it, then that's where you're failing yourself. So I'm trying to approach it that way. If you're in it just to win ribbons, you're gonna have to change. You're gonna have to be quiet, you're gonna have to listen. And I'm 00:53:00happy for you, not getting down at you cuz you've been brewing for 3 years, and you got a third place in shows and homebrew comp. But if you want to win-in pros or master homebrew competition-you gotta brew like a Czech. And if you want to win the AHA homebrewer of the year, which is so hard you have to do it, be very strict about how you do it, and pay attention cuz this is not easy. I won but I probably would never win again. It's so difficult. And you'd have to think about all kinds of things. I'm trying to tell these people-think about all these other factors. That's the one thing I really want to know-how do I win?

Well, first of all, don't be disappointed if you don't win. You'd have to think about what you're gonna make, where is the competition being held, who's the 00:54:00judging pool-because they judge beer differently on the east coast than on the west coast, and northern as well-and pick their kinds of favorites, what month is it being held in. All these things, and then you beer has to be absolutely perfect. Cuz it will go to Gordon Strong. He always runs the best of show panel. I'm lucky that he was for my light American lager when it won, because the other judges-he told me-didn't feel that it should win simply because of that style, because you know it's your Miller Light, Coors Light. So they thought, "Well this isn't, winner should be like a doppelbock, should be one of the other classic beers." But he was very, "tell me what's wrong with it. And then it 00:55:00won't be best of show." So there was a struggle. He's like, "You just gotta buy us out of it, what you don't like. Cuz it matters what you don't like. Cuz I don't like a lot of beers' styles, but I don't judge it that way."

TEM: Cuz it's not about what you would order.

AJ: Exactly. Or how I would brew it.

TEM: Yeah.

AJ: It's about the classic version.

TEM: I'm surprised that people don't just listen to you cuz you won. [Laughs]

AJ: I know, especially the Urquell thing. They do listen to me more on that. But what they don't wanna do is decoction mashing. "You don't have to do it now because the malts all are modified now." The Czechs are still doing it, then try it, and then tell me you don't want to do it. But don't rob yourself with the 00:56:00experience, because it's all historic anyway. And there's so much modernization in brew houses. But a lot of that is for giant breweries. And they need it cuz they can't light a fire under it. [Laughs]

They don't use kettle, it's dumb. They use steam and it stays moving around cuz they're doing their production and they're fast. But you're not Sierra Nevada, you're not Anheuser-Busch. You can do things historically because they didn't have all of that fancy stuff. And people now, they're like, "Well, I don't wanna get those, I have low-dissolve oxygen in my fermentation." So they're adding all these extra additives. And I'm like, "What are you doing? Why are you doing that?" Because A, B and C podcast person says you should. And what have they done, except, you know, have a rowdy podcast, which is dumb.


But there are some podcasts that are really good. They aren't like that. But there's some that's just dumb. And then they keep that mentality of dumbness and do jokes and crew noises, and a lot cussing. There's no substance, show. "I'm funny", which they're not funny, and they know what are fun. You know what I mean.

TEM: Absolutely, yeah. Well, I'm curious-I know that you do have an interest in history and the history of brewing.

AJ: Yeah, you have to. Absolutely.

TEM: So what is that, I imagine that is a kind of conflict too between this podcaster, instant access, cheap short way to do it, versus this depth of history.

AJ: You go cheap, short-that's what your beer is gonna taste like. You'll taste cheapness. You'd taste it. It's ok. But there's one note. There's not depth, 00:58:00there's no complexity. On the same time, there's those people that brew that they do it just for the fun of it. And I like that a lot. But it's the ones in the element of influence that are telling them to cut corner in a bad way. It just makes my blood boil.

TEM: How did you set about learning how to brew once you had mastered what was in the recipe book in the kit? How did you learn?

AJ: I started picking styles of beer and devoting time-like with Belgians, I spent just three years on it. And I read a lot, I judged a lot of competitions, 00:59:00picked those categories to judge. And then reading and brewing, and making mistakes, buying commercial examples, trying them, comparing them. And then getting into the point to put them certain competitions where I knew that that was the focus of the competition. So it might have been taken it to a different level, but that's the way I wanted to do it-cuz I didn't want to tell somebody "Well, you gotta brew it this way" when I don't brew one or two, cuz some people do that. And I just wanted to get it, so it was second nature. And that's what I do with all the beer-I want to get it to second nature. And reading, and then going to the source-it's not that hard to get a page translated so you can read it, cuz I don't speak Flemmish, but you know. [Laughs] And doing that, and going 01:00:00right there.

And it's an amazing thing when I come to small little conferences, talking to the vendors, the yeast experts, they're right there. They love giving info. And then emailing them, get that. And they'll just tell you all these things you didn't know. There's so much information that is wrong, and these bad places and influence. Well, you can go right to the source. There's nothing better than visiting a small maltster. And they get to talk about what they're growing, cuz they'd love that. You can go out to their farm. You'd talk to them and you'd have beer. Bring them beer, and then you'd learn. You'd learn about things. It might be a lot, but you'll get enough where you can apply that in what you're making at home, or if you're a professional. Go see the maltster. Go see the hop grower.


TEM: So I'm curious. I had a couple of questions around shaping and design. Part of that is that, how does history shape how your think about recipes, but also that idea of how place shapes what you think about making. And certainly, being in the Northwest, we have a lot going on, we have a lot of hops going on. Just east of where you are in Seattle, there is certainly a lot of work with grain going on. So how does the place you are now, living in the Pacific Northwest, how has that shaped how you think about what you're doing, as opposed to living in California? Has that shift in location changed the way that you think about 01:02:00what you're doing?

AJ: Yes. When I was in California, at the time, there was, I used to live in a place-it was rich with hop lands. And they're gone. They're wiped out. When I got to Seattle, it's so very different because Yakima's so close. And then the concentration of independent breweries and what they're doing, and then the maltsters that are around the state. And getting to know them, and then really getting into the raw ingredients of beer, would change a lot of the way that they brew certain kinds of beer. I hope that answers the question.

TEM: Yeah.

AJ: It's interesting because I didn't used to think about hops the way I do now, I mean so much so that hops grower, corporative, gave me some and had me brew 01:03:00them and then give a talk to the group of brewers. And I thought, that was big. But I had gone there the year before for the hop school. And I got in the way they're processed and all that. It was just interesting. It made me really think about it. And then the people working in the fields, and then talking to hops' 01:04:00farmers and their migrant workers, and then seeing some of them-I believe-maybe struggling a little, because they may have been a little redder. But then having it effect their actual business, seeing things from a different light, it's just interesting. You know, I don't know if they're still red or not. But it was different. And then some, that are just now breweries that are out there that celebrate the worker, ma ke special beers to fund programs, farm and education, a lot of that. It makes me think differently. And then meeting maltsters that have small facilities, the growers going around themselves like "Annie, You try this malt from me and tell me what you think."

I never really thought about that cuz it's out of phase. "Yo, go get it." "Go get it, you'll use it"-because all that's growing around here is rice and tomatoes, and almonds, and other walnuts and things. There's nobody growing barley really, in the Sacramento Valley, or hops anymore. They're slowing starting to change.

But here, it's about that. So it really did change the way I think about 01:05:00ingredients. And then the yeast companies-White Yeast is close and some of the other smaller ones, and then really starting to think about that. And then the beer. It's been interesting, but it's so much knowledge-it's so much-it's intense.

TEM: It's interesting too. I used to ask in interviews, a question that how the history of the place and influence-did it matter there's this depth of hops history in a place. I asked people who were early in craft brewing in Oregon. And it was like, "Well, yes, but also we were so small, we couldn't get anything." [Laughs] The history was great but also the accessibility was so different in 1985 to that kind of relationship, even at all, was different. I am 01:06:00curious though, did you feel like there was more emphasis on yeast in California? I had this crackpot idea that because White Labs was there, that they talked more about yeast.

AJ: White Labs is kind of everywhere. They've got a satellite in Davis, San Diego. They're in Nashville, Asheville.

TEM: Yeah.

AJ: I'd say in the last 10, maybe 6, 8 years, all these books coming out to make me think about specific things that I-I don't know if I-took it for granted before, but they helped me think about ingredients in a different way. I used to pay attention to water for Czech beers. But now I'm thinking about it with everything, which sounds kind of dumb. But sometimes you take water for granted. 01:07:00And I used to think, "Well, I got my water report and this and that." But now I know it'd change the taste. It's just different.

So it's a lot of established brewers and industry experts that are writing and putting that knowledge out there. But I'm taking advantage of it and reading it, cuz I don't think so many people do. You know, you'd go to a brewery, you'd drink but you guys need to read a book. [Laughs]

TEM: I hadn't actually thought about that. But now I will. I mean, I thought that maybe things could be different but-

AJ: Yeah. So it's not just like judging. It's like, you benefit by A, B and C book a lot. It's dedication too. You gotta have that, what are you brewing-is what I think about. Some people are brewing cuz there's that ribbon thing, or 01:08:00some that are brewing because they love it. You taste love in beer or you don't. There really is that passion.

TEM: Yeah.

AJ: It's like food. Same thing. You know whether it's-

TEM: When somebody cares-

AJ: When somebody cares or whether they're just pumping out the same stuff.

TEM: So what is the consumer capriciousness-the consumer want something different and new?

AJ: I don't know what's going on with the consumer these days. They're all over the map. And the breweries are trying to play catch up when they could be setting-it doesn't have to limit this is only what you get-but they could change some things and get back to things, the specializing the thing they like to brew. There's so much chasing trends now instead of true innovation. So that's what makes me think why somebody got into opening a brewery. Or, if they're just a hobby, it's just in it for a quick blip. Are you in it because you're chasing something, a trend or a little popularity blip? Or are you really passionate about beer? And they're running a business, and you have a bottom line. But I just get so sad when I walk into a brewery and it's just what I call abomination 01:09:00beer with just every kitchen sink beers.

TEM: Yeah.

AJ: Or gimmicks. They're bad. They're bad for the industry. And they're bad because they affect bigger breweries as well. Well this revolution that's on all these small breweries, which is fantastic. They're pulling away some of the other breweries. Say, a 3% drop at Sierra Nevada could wipe out thirty small breweries. They're pulling away. But then they're putting out crap. I think it's conservative to say at least one in three that's terrible.

TEM: It's probably a renown as the Sad November, or Sad October, in Oregon. I feel like they can't keep up.

AJ: Yeah, one after another. And I know that's happening in other places too, cuz I read it on some of the bigger mag publications and blogs that are really well done, about breweries closing in other parts of the country, and then older 01:10:00ones that just can't survive. And it's not because they're not putting out new things, but it's just people are going for something that has lactose, pineapple, and oregano, and with blue dye in it. And they're just like, "This is awesome."

I'm like, "That's swill." And I think of brewer who gets forced to get into that to survive. I know a little part of them just dies a bit, because they don't like it. It was such a hard thing for breweries in the Pacific Northwest get on that hazy train. It was really hard. And for me, personally, I thought, "I'll never have it, unless Sierra Nevada puts one out." And darn it, they put one out. I'm like, "No" and "Ok." And it's not nearly as hazy as some of the gravy-cuz that's my thing. If people know me going "You don't like that gravy beer"-no, I don't. Because it's so focused on the hop and it misses. And I love malts. I like both but I like them when they complement each other. It just doesn't happen that way. That is strict hop. Then I taste it for hours.


TEM: Does that influence how, what homebrewers are talking about or asking you about in your current position?

AJ: They know not to ask me about gravy. But I made a few. And there is a right way, and there is a definitely wrong way. But I know I can make this. It's not hard. I just don't have the appreciation for it like other people do. And I know some breweries now they've just shift that-that's to known for. And they're packed to tavern's back.

TEM: Who are some people that stand out to you as mentors from when you started until now? Who are some influencers for you?

AJ: I have two. Danny Khan-probably started reading about him and knowing him 01:12:00online personally, from 2004. And then Denise Jones. And she's a brewer from California, who I met-I think the first time was-about 2001. And there weren't a 01:13:00lot of breweries. There weren't a lot of females. And she's just really, really good. Her, she does classic styles. And she's a real innovator, so much so I think that her beers are so good that when some people try them, there's not the flaw and things. So a few people don't know, then, that's a perfect beer. So, she taught me a lot about making sure that malt and hops complement each other. Not to overuse balance or anything, but make sure that they complement each other. So, she's done a lot of beers. In the early 2000s, she was doing triple IPAs, which nobody was doing at that time. She was doing it in a brewery in the Bay A rea, and then beers with fruits and vegetables. And all the things that she won that coveted Golden Bear. And she's won a GABF. And then she left to be the master brewer in a distillery at Weyermann Malts, and getting and doing that for a couple of years. So she's just a tremendous voice, but very modest. And having survived as long as she has, since the early 90s till now, in the industry, she's seen a lot. So those two, quite a big influence for me.

And then, of course, there's all the other ones I love-Fal Allen from Anderson Valley. I'm a big fan of Pike Brewing, cuz so many people came out of that. I mean, the thing is the Finkels don't brew, but they always brought in brewers to 01:14:00have creativity. And then they would leave and go out and do things so that there's so much rich history that comes out of that, and so many brewers that are so good.

And then I love all my Czech masters. They're just-[pause]. That's when I can't talk. I get no problem talking my fellow brewers around here and bigger brewers, even meeting Charlie Papazian. Every time I meet him, he, "and you are-?"


"I won your awards. It's been years. I meet you every time." [Laughs] He's like, "And you are-?" Apparently, that's pretty common. But it's the Czechs-when I met the brew master for U Fleků which is the dark Czech lager. Meeting him, meeting master brewer for Budvar, and then, of course, Vastla at Urquell, that's a big deal. Then I'd get a little-cuz they were born into it, and they have such respect for all the water, the grain, the hop, everything, the yeast. They really respect the Germans, the Belgians, the ingredients. It's not just a 01:16:00barrel full of hops. It's dedication. And these breweries are pumping out one or two styles-that's it and that's the bread and butter. It's amazing.

TEM: The consistency.

AJ: Yeah. And even when I visit-I went to Amsterdam and visit-Heineken on this set of tour, the dedication at that brewery. People think of 'em here, they're like "Oh I can't..." But when you're there, it's very different. And their commitment to sustainability and recycling. All their boxes, I was just like, "They were throwing facts at me." I said, "Yeah, we use 60% of all the bottles that we put out there", in Europe. Well, that's amazing, cuz here they just go on the side of the road, or they get recycled. But they have that.

And even when I went down to Mazatlán, and Pacifico was down there, it's 01:17:00amazing to see the respect for the craft. It's just different than other places. So that's when I get really...

TEM: Do you think that's sort of depth of the uninterrupted by Prohibition industry, that they have that kind of generational-?

AJ: Yeah, probably, cuz it was some serious interruption here, which is always baffling when that happened. I don't get that at all. Yeah, it could be. And then the element of cheap adjunct. But it kinda goes a lot of beers here in the States in the earlier parts of the last century-it was a lot of junk. And then it was competing with Europeans, even when you had all the steam breweries around the Bay Area. It was a ton. And then you have the ones surviving. But there were so many of them. They just couldn't hang on. But it was cheap. The 01:18:00California Common was dirt-cheap beer. It's junk. They were using bread yeast and it was probably pretty nasty, pretty bad.

But yeah, I do get excited to meet the big icons of the brewing world. But the last time, I did a thing and it was SAVOR, a big thing they have in Washington D.C., a food, wine and beer extravaganza. I was doing a Google Hangout remote interview. And I was trying to have a conversation with Jim Koch. And he was wet. He was like, "Great question Annie!" and it was just a pause. And he was with the Brewer's Association, nice lady, she's a spokesperson there, she said, "Well you gotta answer it." [Laughs] It's just the same as the rest of everybody else. I sat on a panel with Dick Cantwell, and this is after Elysian's sold, and 01:19:00he got kinda. It was in Seattle and he got a cold shoulder, cuz he sold it. But he didn't want to sell.

And then there's the other one, "But he still took the money." I'm like, "Yeah, he did. But I don't know if I'd turn that down." But now he's got a great gig going, brewery in San Francisco.

TEM: Yeah, it's an interesting time, I think, to see that rabid fan-ness too, that people. I guess it's within the industry too.

AJ: I see him at Craft Brewers Conference. Every two years, they have the World Beer Cup and that's when the international brewers come. That's when I get super exited.

So this next year is in San Antonio. And it's a World Beer Cup. So then, the Czechs will be over, and these story brewers from Asia will be over, and other 01:20:00parts of the world. And note, that's a big deal for me. For everybody else, I'm not interested, I can talk to you any day. I wanna talk, see that and I wanna meet the hop queen. You know, it's a big deal to be the hop queen in Germany. She wears that crown and that sash, and has pins on her from every hop-growing region in all Germany.

TEM: Did she come then to-

AJ: She comes in her full honor sash and her hop reeds. And they have beer there that's all done with German hops and it's the cleanest, most beautiful German beers. And you can have your picture taken with her. To me, there should be a line around the whole trade flow, floor for that. But people are going gaga of 01:21:00the latest gravy, laden heavy IPA, junk that you won't remember in 2 years.

TEM: Yeah.

AJ: Because someone else will knock it off. But here you've got the celebrating hop-growing region, German beers, some of the breweries beers-breweries that have been around for hundreds of years. You'd get over there and pay your respect, learn your history. It's a great thing that it'd help grower with better history reading.

TEM: How do you pay it forward? How do you mentor the next generation?

AJ: There was a time-and I do it now, cuz I don't brew as much, cuz I do a lot at work, but-at home, I'll go, I'll judge competitions, and I'll talk to homebrew clubs. If someone asks me, I'll show up. I don't need anybody to pay me cuz I can do that myself. I can get there, I can go. And then work is good because there's regional conference or club wants me to go out. And then they'll say, "Well, you just go. Spread the good word." And it's not the shill for the company, it's just to talk about beer. And then, I like spending time with homebrewers, and helping them improve processes, cuz I can taste it. I know the 01:22:00beer it wants to be, and I know what's wrong with it. So, I can help them go from here to great. If they want, it just takes a day, just hanging out. And I'd just sit in a chair and just let them do their thing, and make notes and help. And that's the most from me. So, when I'm not brewing a lot, then I'll take time off and do that for months and months. Just judge more competitions.

And then there's some very respected homebrewers in the history. It's important to know about Fred Eckhardt and Glen Falconer, and Greg Noonan. It's important for me that people would know about that. Not just to professionals, also in 01:23:00homebrewing, you need to learn about these people, cuz this is why you have a hobby. This is why you have it. And getting them to support their local homebrews place cuz they're always upset when it closes.

"Were you going there?"

"Well, I was getting them on Amazon. I went online."

Get it at that store. You got the experts in there. They have all the stuff that you need. And they brew using the stuff all the time. Just to them about that. And they're carrying the local malts. And they're carry this hop selection and all the different kinds of yeast for you. Go get it online? If you can, get to 01:24:00the store.

TEM: It can feel like a short memory.

AJ: It can! Yeah, "what have you done for me lately." Like in Portland was Steinbarts, and that's the oldest surviving store. Homebrewers should know that. And they should join the AHA, and they should go to the homebrewers conference, if they can. Or, go to a regional one. Or try doing a competition. And I'm really big on competitions. If you're entering, then you need to go do the judge program. And you have to give back, or be a bear hog. And just help someone.


TEM: Yeah, that kind of feedback is good, the feedback loop.

AJ: And to accept, cuz I accept criticism to my beer all the time. And I'd know when something is not so good. I know it's not that good. Sometime they'll make it sound like a whole lot. But then I'll serve it. And I want people to say, "Well..." And they know be enough in my homebrew club to go, "Hm not your best one, Annie." And, "Yes, kind of dull."

TEM: There certainly is a lot about you on the internet after you won the 2013 Homebrewer of the Year.

AJ: Yeah, and it started to be more about me being black [Laughs] than it was about beer.

"What's it like to be black?" I'm like, "I don't, what's is like to be white, or Asian, or Chinese?" That's all I've ever been. I don't know.

"What's it like to be a female?" [Laughs] You know?


TEM: Yeah, yeah.

AJ: There's a brewer in Seattle, she's awesome. And we talk about that all the time, cuz they'd ask her, "what's it like to be a female in a male domination?" She's like, "I don't know what it's like to be anything but a female." I mean, I know but the thing is, there is never a right answer.

TEM: And it's like a question that I struggle with as a documentarian. [Laughs] That I don't, it can feel reductive to only ask women what does it feel like to 01:28:00be this gender, or why is it then to not ask men? What does gender mean?

AJ: Yeah. I think I'm the ultimate unicorn. I talk about this at home, like, I'm the unicorn. My mother is Irish. I became an American citizen. I got my 01:29:00immigrant stuff, I talk about. I was adopted. Can't beat me there. And there's the Irish, the white. And then there's the, my father's from North Carolina, police officer in Philly. Don't talk to me about being a cop's daughter, you know. [Laughs] And then I would look at that family tree and they're full descents of slaves. So I got that. And then I'm gay. So I got that. So I got it all. [Laughs]

It's kind of funny. So I got all up in the Middle East. So don't start talking down about Muslims around me, or Arabs, cuz I've been there, I speak the language.

I've got this unicorn thing, it's too much, sometimes people-they just focus on "what's it like to be a female-we'll just go with female and black, what I can 01:30:00see..." I'm like, "ok."

TEM: I'm laughing but I know that was not funny. [Laughs]

AJ: Oh yeah, now that I'm 54, I'm gettin' older so I got that. So I got it all. I'm the unicorn.

TEM: Wait until you're a senior citizen.

AJ: Exactly.

TEM: And then-

AJ: Oh, it's on.

TEM: So I'm gonna try to ask this in a way that's not that-

AJ: Oh, it's okay.

TEM: But I am curious, though, about this idea of getting different people from different backgrounds with different tastes and different experiences into brewing. But there is richness. It's important for all the reasons we were talking about earlier for food.

AJ: Yeah.

TEM: So, I'm curious about how you, being who you are and how you look-do you 01:31:00see that kind of representation as important? [Coughs] Hold on, let me get a cough drop.

AJ: I used to... Sure.

TEM: I asked an interesting question, and then I coughed.

AJ: It's ok. [Laughs]

TEM: This idea of being able to see different, and then see yourself in a situation. Does that make sense?

AJ: Yeah, it does. I used to not really think about it a lot. But when I did win that, then I was asked about it a lot. I had to really think about it cuz I think I was putting out different answers as I didn't know how to the question before, cuz I've never been asked that before. I never thought about it, cuz like growing up, the way my parents raised us, we didn't think about that. And 01:32:00in California, it's very diverse. We just didn't think about these things. And then now, it's really different. I have to watch what I say now. But there's this, it's interesting cuz there's this-I'm not very hip-the young people really care about it a lot, way more. They're very sensitive to it. And they love inclusion, diversity. I do too. But I never thought about it because I always just have to-like probably every other black person-worry about surviving, getting through the day, because you know I'm so used to people picking out on it that I don't ever think about it anymore. I don't know if I'm making sense.


TEM: You are.

AJ: Cuz it's just something that you live with if you're a minority. You know someone's gonna hate you for no reason, call you name, or whatever. But now the beer, and then winning the award, and then I'm getting a lot of attention because of, the female and being the first African American. I didn't think about responsibility as much as I do now, because I've been approached by women and minorities coming to conferences, and professional brewers as well, saying "I think it's so cool that you won. And I love what you say and what you bring to the light." And then also the styles I make, that "You bring attention to 01:34:00those." So I feel, I don't know, validated or what. Makes me feel good that there's that recognition and that. But it's weird. There'll always be that element of the [unclear] black lady. It just is.

TEM: When I first heard about you was in an interview I did with Lee Hedgmon.

AJ: Did she tell you what happens with us? When I'm down around in Oregon, I get called Lee all the time. And she gets mistaken for Annie. We don't look anything alike at all. But that's something that happens to most of us all minorities usually. They get mistaken for. If you're black and you're are brewer, well, 01:35:00you're either Lee or you're Annie. But now, thank you Lee, for going into doing your barrel honey, and distilling so. And I'm like, we just started manufacturing stills "Now I got a family!" But it's good compliment, someone thinks I'm Lee.

TEM: That's exactly what she said about you.

AJ: Yeah. I love Lee, for we'd laugh.

TEM: I was very excited about meeting you and interviewing you. But the Lee story is a sort of famous one, and I said "So I'm gonna interview Annie. Hopefully we get the same story." [Laughs]

AJ: Yeah, we laugh about it.

TEM: Talking to her though, I think she expressed a certain level of feeling of responsibility of putting herself out there, and not in a dramatic, sacrificial 01:36:00way, that that has to be, if you see someone who looks like you, then it seems possible for you.

AJ: She's right. I didn't think about that before. But when I did, then I realize it. It was a big deal for others that look like me for that to happen. I mean, winning is great and all that. But then I started to really feel that this was kinda cool that I can bring in other people, even if I never mean to, that they get in and they get in the hobby, and they have a good time with it. Then there's more, and then there's more.

But there's of interesting element and I haven't figure out exactly how I feel 01:37:00about it. But there's a group that puts on festival on the East Coast in Pittsburg that's called Fresh Fest that they do. And it's all black brewers and things. And now I'm starting to see the haters come out. Now the ugliness, especially in this climate-is coming out. "Why do you have to have something celebrate, why can't you do this, why can't you do that." And I'm like, "Oh no. Two steps forward, five steps back." So, I worry about them.

TEM: Do people ask you less about being a woman in brewing now?

AJ: I think, yeah, they do. It's a little less. It's mostly being a minority 01:38:00female, both-because there's so many good females that are in the industry that have been there a long time. They're like of here and there. But bringing it to a popularity on homebrew level-

TEM: [Coughs] Excuse me. It's when I get hot. It's the joke that in the winter, all my oral history have me coughing.

AJ: Yeah. As soon as I get on an airplane, I keep coughing. And then it's not tactic, but nobody usually sits by me with that. They're like, "Ugh, she's coughing." I'm like, "It's tough."

TEM: "It's a tickle."

AJ: "That's a tickle." Yeah. And now I'd say more now it's about brewing some of the Czech styles and some of the historic styles, cuz I do a lot of the old 01:39:00beer, ancient beers that I'd like to do. So the word is out there, "Go talk to Annie because she knows how to do a Steinbrew. She knows how to do ancient Egyptian beers. Talk to her about Pilsners." So I'm getting more of that, and with the light lagers. So that's nice to just get the beer questions.

TEM: Do you get, so you also, after that-the next year, 2014-started working at PicoBrew.

AJ: I reached out to them after I won because I was so excited that I won. And I was on a plane. I had the Seattle Times. I don't read the paper usually, but I thought that, "Oh I'll check the sports page." And I coming back from Seattle. And I saw these guys cheersing themselves with this microwave-looking beer box. 01:40:00And "It's gonna revolution the brewing."

I'm like, I don't know about that because it's taking me this long to get here. And it's hard to get to a certain level. So I wrote them an email. I was talking to my brother and he goes, "Yeah, you just tell 'em who you are." I mean, I don't do that. We were laughing about it. "Yeah, they know who you are." And I'm like, "Yeah."

It was a weird time because my dad was pretty much-we were in his hospital with him. Any day, he was gonna die. So he was just laying there. And I'm like, "Dad, if you think it's a good idea, just lay there, don't say anything." [Laughs] We were laughing, you know, cuz we were having our High Life and Jameson's in a hospital room .

So by then, "Oh and here's some links to me." You know, you don't expect to here 01:41:00anything because I've written so many places, looking, before, to get in the beer industry and then just crickets. I'm not a "email back within two hours."

"Oh, do-do-do-dah, you're in Seattle, you gotta come in. You gotta check it out. Come in and see us." And this and that. And then I read it, and I showed it to my brother. And I go, "Well, I can't do anything. Because dad is about to die and I'm not gonna be able to do it." So I'm like, "I'll let you know when I got time." [Laughs]

And then they were like, "Well yes, please do and blah blah..." And then I went to see them about three weeks later.

And I went in, and they had all these. And I thought, "Hm, I'll just put on my 01:42:00judging hat. And I don't care how it was brewed, or whatever, and I'll take it 01:43:00from there."-cuz I wanted to hate everything. I mean, some of them are really good. They're really good. And I said, "Some of these are really, really good. But put them in some competitions, see how you do."

And then I didn't hear from them. Maybe it was a few weeks, a month later, and they had won some competitions around the area. And it was just their lab techs. It was UW students that were just testing the machine and getting recipes off the internet and brewing them. And they were winning IPA, they were winning all these different competitions. I said, "Well, there you go. You got a good product." And then they said, "Would you like to sell us some recipes?" And I thought, recipes are free. It's kind of bad if you sell a recipe. But then I was thinking, "Well, it's almost Christmas. I gotta buy all the Christmas presents." And they were gonna offer me this stupid amount of money for a recipe, when they were getting them all free anyway. And then he said, "Well, how about we just give you machines?" I was like, "Sure you can't just tell someone 'no'." I was like, "Oh yeah, machines huh...I'd rather get to have that money." Then they said, "Would you like to come work here?" And I had a chat with my boss. And she said, "If not now, probably never."

And then it's different. I mean, I'm in the beer industry and product manufacturing-it's a very different business theme-supplier, but still doing R&D work and brewing. Then I've learned so much. But it's hard. It's really hard work. Sometimes I think about the days of sitting on the assembly floor, half awake, listening to drawl speeches. And I'm like, "I never took the job home then. And now it's just constant." But it's been really good.

TEM: Well the other question that I think people probably always ask you is-so you started, you are part of Bluebird-

AJ: Yeah I did a little. Bluebird is in my neighborhood. It's about 6 blocks from where I live. And this awesome brewer, Kevin Forhan who came out of Pike and is brewing around the world, and he brews in Seattle now, recommended me to Bluebird. But when I got into Bluebird, their ice-cream was awesome. But it was working full-time and then trying to do that for them. It was back-breaking, cuz 01:44:00it wasn't as automated as some breweries. It was a small brewery, probably just three barrels. I liked it, but I just didn't have the time. You know, it was a few years ago. But I have more time now cuz now I have people I can push my job off to. [Laughs]

TEM: Delegate. [Laughs]

AJ: Delegate. And as the company grew, now we have more people, cuz I was only the 5th person. And now we have almost 50. So now I can kind of do the napping in the office.

TEM: I'm sure.

AJ: Yeah, no. [Laughs] But I loved it at Bluebird.

TEM: So the question that I think people would ask you is-did you, or do you, want to then go into commercial brewing?

AJ: I thought at one point that I could do that. But I don't have the energy for it. It's a lot of physical work. It's a lot of money. And there's so many now. 01:45:00If I was going to do it, I know I can get backing. But it's a commitment. And I like doing this manufacturing, and I like being on homebrew level. There's always those dreams. And I think about it sometimes. But then, I'm reminded of how much work to do it on that scale is. Maybe if I was 10, 15 years younger, I would consider. But no, not now. That's ok, I'm fine with it. I'll have no regrets.


TEM: What is a question that people don't ever ask you that you wish they would ask you in interviews? Cuz I feel like this when I read interviews, that people have given-and I'm sure that you'd feel like this if you do get asked-a lot of the same questions of variations of the same things.

AJ: Usually I don't get asked what beer means to me. See, almost asking that question, I'm getting weepy. Cuz it means a lot. I've had some ups and downs. And that was my one constant. So I've always had it. It's been a saving grace at times. I went through a period where I got really sick and they didn't have a diagnosis. And I figure, if this is the way it's gonna be for the rest of my 01:47:00life, then I'm driving my van, cuz I own a VW van, still, I'm driving it off a bridge. Cuz I know with people, and how expensive it is with sick in this country, it's horrible-and the only thing I could do was brew. But I had lost all my taste for alcohol. And I thought, "Oh god." And I was starting to lose my eyesight. I was having trouble walking. It was horrible. So I brewed one beer. I just brewed it and it was exhausting. It'd wipe me out. And it was the Pilsner Urquell beer.

So I put it in a competition and I didn't know if I can get to San Francisco for the judging, cuz I could barely get on a plane. So I got on the plane, and I was 01:48:00sitting there. I'm like, "I wanna win so bad, but if I win, I have to get up out of this chair. I don't know how I'm gonna get out of this chair." [Laughs] It was really weird. And so then I won. But I got up and I was all "ah", standing there key to the brewery. And I thought, wow. And then I still didn't have a diagnosis. And then I brewed that spring. The next spring, I brewed the beer. I almost didn't put it in the competition for the home brewers because I waited till the last day. And I went to FedEx. And they said, "Oh, shipment to Philadelphia would be 100 dollars." I thought, "Is it worth it?" I put it in and 01:49:00won. Someone's telling me that you're doing-so I was like, "What?!"-I don't know how to explain it. Then I won. I was like, I couldn't believe it.

And I didn't go to the conference. I had my ticket and everything, and hotel. But my dad was so sick then that I decided to stay.

TEM: In Philadelphia then?

AJ: This was in Philly, but this was my adopted father. But this was in California. So I was out west. And then I was like, "OK, things are happening." And then the machine came about and all that, and that little push from my boss. And it's been great. It's been really good. It's been fantastic.

But I really feel passionate about beer. I know it's a hobby and you have fun. I 01:50:00like that. But then when I get into breweries and I taste at this turning out and making something that maybe they're in there for a buck and all the wrong reasons, it just makes me very sad. It's shame. It feels disrespectful. And then when I think about the Czechs and the Germans, and the people out in the country, and Belgium, and why they're brewing and how it is so into their culture. And there's just this total lack of respect. That's probably why they don't get invited to a lot parties. [Laughs] I had fun at parties. "Take it easy, Annie." I've talked to one guy, "You stinkers!" Cuz I was ranting at lunch 01:51:00one day, and I was holding a challis of alcohol, "Blah blah blah..." It was like, "Calm down! We're on your side." [Laughs] It's very funny.

TEM: Again, I think it goes back to that creativity too. That's an important-

AJ: Yeah. And it's why I also get along so well with people like Dr. Bamforth because people's gonna draw short and starch on their thumb, and this and that. Eek! But I think he knows what he's talking about. Pay attention. Like, "Well, I can just dump a ton of hops in this beer and cover up all my flaws, and pump a little gas and serve it." The consumers are drinking that. And I think that's that. And then when they go overseas, they're like, "Wait a minute." For the 01:52:00ones that get out, they're like, "Well, there's whole other bunch of beer out here." It's not just-if they're thinking about international beer, then-Löwenbrau. That's another thing, my mom-it hit me-she's like, "It's /ˈløːvn̩bʁɔʏ/." I'm like, "Okay, the German people. She was a German teacher too. I'm like, "Okay!"

And that's another thing with me. When people mispronounce things or when they start to talk to me about beer being infected. I'd go back to the other professor, Louis, who would tell the class "If you say 'infection', I know you're not serious about beer" in his accent, cuz it's "contaminated." So he made this very big distinction-if you wanna be taken serious, be serious. So then I hear that "My beer's infected." I'm like, "I don't hear you. I can't help you." [Laughs] That's a little bit hardcore.


TEM: I think about the education, though. We were talking about that a little bit earlier in the exhibit hall, that UC Davis and Siebel are sort of it for a really, really long time. And there still aren't that many school. But there was this real need-and there is this real need-for this kind of...

AJ: Yeah. I see more and more beer styles and appreciation of styles, classes. But than I look at the instructor. I'm like, "I don't know if you should be teaching that." And not on a "I'm jealous" level, but I'm thinking, "Oh no. You're gonna give out some bad information."

TEM: Yeah.

AJ: But they're very popular. It's nice that people are getting into it. And hopefully, it makes 'em have a drive to learn more and appreciate all the styles 01:54:00of beer, not just one or two, just really appreciate it. And then if they want to make it, try to put on a hat where you think like a person from that area would make it. Don't put your American Ford F-350 spin on it.

TEM: And then don't be bossy and tell everyone about it.

AJ: Exactly. Pops fall where they may. It's so bossy

TEM: No bossies. [Laughs]

AJ: Bossies. I get a little bit of the "bossy Annie."-just on certain things. I think it goes back to what beer means to me. Yeah. It means a lot to me in it. You don't respect it-if you're in to have fun, I like to tailgate, I do have fun 01:55:00with beer all the time. But if I'm making it, or serving it, if gonna be a little different.

TEM: Well, and I think the different beverages for different times.

AJ: Exactly, cuz I like bourbon too. [Laughs] And I'm starting to really get into the appreciation of it. And it's an incredible amount. There's just so much out there. Maybe I'm just relaxed and wanna have an Old Fashioned or something. There's so much into it. Now I'm really getting into it. And there's this new historian revived Nathan Green's Tennessee Whiskey. He was the slave that taught-

TEM: Oh yeah.

AJ: Yeah Jack Daniel's. And it turns out that they were childhood friends and they grew up together. And then they started doing it. And Nathan was like, "How 01:56:00about doing it this way, Jack? And I'll do this and that." It's amazing. And then she found all those out. And then she brought people out of retirement and bought the old farm that they grew up on, and just opened this distillery. And it is fascinating.

TEM: Oh I don't know that I realize that they had actually open-

AJ: It just opened in September.

TEM: Oh, that's very cool.

AJ: I thought this is really cool. And it's a really good whiskey. So I love that story and appreciation for roots and history. And it's cool.

TEM: What do you see in your future? What are some things that you want to try out and experiment?

AJ: In brewing, or?

TEM: In life, in brewing. It can just be brewing. [Laughs] Or sprits, or beekeeping.


AJ: You know what, lately I feel like I want to get back and do art, the one that I love so much but then I stopped because I was told that it's not gonna take you anywhere. But I loved it so much. I loved two-dimensional art and drawing portraits. I really enjoy that creative aspect. So I really wanna do that. I really do.

And I like traveling. And then now, I'm starting thinking about retirement and what I'm gonna do. And then I'm thinking, I could have sort of a "BnBnB", with bed and breakfast, and brewing. So if you're a homebrewer, you can come and hang 01:58:00out and stay, and learn somethings and some techniques, and then enjoy good beer.

TEM: And then you could add bees and bourbon.

AJ: Yeah.

TEM: Cuz then you could just keep going with the B's.

AJ: Yeah. I just have to the right place because as much as I'd like to go back to sunnier climates, I'm not sure if I'm gonna afford my own state anymore. And you'll have to go back to New Mexico or something. You know, maybe I'll go back to the homeland, cuz I I have my dual citizenship. The Irish won't know what to do with me. They're even in more disbelieving. In all years, I tell people I'm Irish-they're like, "Boom." That's just very quiet Irish accent, "Boom." [Laughs] My cousins are like, "You should come here!" But they're also excited when they try craft beer, cuz they're so used to the same thing all the time, 01:59:00the pale international lagers and a lot of stouts. So when they get something, I'd get a picture. They're like, "We've got a pub that has Sierra Nevada fresh on draft now all the time. They love that, love that beer so much, pale ale. They just love it.

TEM: That's fabulous. I think it's that people even know about it, this kind of flip side too we're talking about the loud mouths on the podcast. But there is also this other levy with technology to learn so much.

AJ: It would be interesting to go to Ireland. And there are so many craft breweries, probably, up there to "Sure I'll help you out with hops and all the Yakima knowledge and this and that." But you show me how to make a true dry stout, cuz this is hard. And show me how to make some of your other pale ales 02:00:00and red ales. I would love that. I have no problem shipping you hops, helping you out with any of that. Sure, I'll show you how to make a gravy beer. [Laughs] Not as hard as you think. But to get that knowledge firsthand and how to make those thing, with the ingredient and probably the hops to get there, would be fascinating.

TEM: And I guess the question of history and place, and how that shapes what it is that you're making.

AJ: Yeah. I'd really like to go back to Czech Republic too and just hang out and travel. The first time I went with a friend, we had the good Czech Beer Guide. It's a great book. And it would rate by stars all 350 independent breweries in the Czech Republic. The country is smaller than King County. So we got there. And we went out to this one town. That's the one to see the famous bone church, but also because there was a five-star. And then we were in the church, I'm like "Good bones, yeah. Smells old in here. Let's go!" So it was like sleet. There's no language on the planet like Czech cuz it's nothing like German-only the Czechs speak Czech.

So we were charging through. And we were trying to find the street. We know there's a brewery in town but it's sleet and you can't smell it, cuz I can normally ferret it out by smell. And we were freezing, we were walking. And we had been walking about 30 minutes, 40 minutes. And we knew it was only in the 02:01:006-block vicinity. And we were about already to give up. And this lady was out walking her baby, cuz they're all about fresh air. She was like, "Are you Americans?" She goes, "My husband is American and I'm Czech." And I said, "We're looking for this brewery." [Laughs] And she goes, "Oh, please. Half a block down, and then up that alley." We didn't realize it was in between in this alley. And there's sign that's big that has the name. And then we're like, "ah" And then we realized we have the train to catch. So we were like "Let's go."

And we get in there, and we open this room. And it's smoke soaked, dark wood panels. Four Czech guys in there. And it said "Bar" that's attached to the brewery. So that's the brewery, has their beer and we go up. I'm like, "Where is 02:02:00this pointing?" And it turns out that it was about 50 cents for a half liter. And it was so good. And we're like, "We gotta catch our train." [Breathless] I think we managed to chug down four each. And then we get back to the train station. And the beer's right there at the train station. Of course, cuz the Czechs, they sell everything and all the beers. And you could buy them and we're like, "What." So we just grabbed some when we were on the train. We were so cold and frozen. I would literally walk through sleek snow for the best beer. But it was good. I wish I could make that.

TEM: And probably the experience of actually getting there too.

AJ: Yeah. We never knew, that day, it was gonna be like that. Everyone goes there to see the Ossuary bone church. I'm like, "Nice, creepy, let's go. Smells old."


TEM: Smells like old bone. [Laughs]

AJ: It was just-if you have seen it-good in a horror.

TEM: I have seen it.

AJ: It was just bones. And it was beautiful. But it was creepy. I'm like, "Let's get outta here." And it was January. Also it was late. There wasn't a lot of daylight. "Let's get back to town. We'll be fine", you know.

TEM: It's been a delight to talk to you.

AJ: You too.

TEM: Thank you.

AJ: Thank you so much. I hope I didn't talk too much.