- Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
- Clara Walsh
For the last six months, Clara Walsh has been busy brewing up the revival of Vermont's chapter of the Pink Boots Society, an international organization that supports women and nonbinary folks in the alcoholic beverage industry. Now, she also spends her days clad in rain boots, brewing beer.
Walsh, 32, worked at Montpelier's Three Penny Taproom when she and Julie Smith relaunched the long-inactive local Pink Boots chapter in April. She'd spent years behind the bar, learning the ins and outs of beer styles and celebrating women-led breweries, but she'd never been on the production side.
"It's really hard to get into brewing if you have no experience, like me," Walsh said. "It's not an industry where you can go back to school."
With her twins starting kindergarten this year, Walsh felt it was the right time to make the leap. In the spring, she asked Scott Kerner, former co-owner of Three Penny and current co-owner of Northfield's Good Measure Pub & Brewery, if she could apprentice.
Good Measure was expanding; it opened a pub next to its small, seven-barrel brewery and tasting room in June. Kerner hired her that month as assistant brewer and director of sales.
Walsh splits her time between brewing and packaging beer with Good Measure co-owner/head brewer Andrew Leichthammer — "cleaning and watching and learning," she said. She's also the face of the Good Measure brand at its accounts around the state, including Burlington's Farmhouse Tap & Grill, Broken Hearts Burger in Fairlee and Three Penny.
Seven Days caught up with Walsh to see what she's learned in her first few months at the brewery and find out what's next for Pink Boots.
SEVEN DAYS: What lessons are you learning as a new brewer?
CLARA WALSH: You're constantly soaking wet. [Laughing] On production days, I get there and immediately put my rain boots on. Then it's a lot of turning valves, remembering perpendiculars and parallels, and fixing things. I've never had to do anything like that before.
Everything happens in a very specific order. Going into it, I kept thinking, If you screw anything up, the beer's done. You've wasted hundreds of dollars on grain. Actually, a lot of it's fixable.
And I have to tell you, this smell. I didn't realize how good it smells. That hot water when you're pouring in the grain — it's amazing. It's given me a better appreciation for styles of beer that I otherwise might have passed on, like our East Street Bitter. It's an English-style bitter, which has never been my thing whatsoever. But it's turned into my favorite beer.
- Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
- Clara Walsh at Good Measure Pub & Brewery
SD: If you're sitting down for a sandwich and a pint at the Good Measure pub, what's your order?
CW: Nashville hot chicken and an ESB or [a] Townie, which is our 100 percent Vermont grain lager. I definitely lean on the side of being a lager/pilsner drinker.
SD: You recently helped revive the long-defunct Vermont chapter of Pink Boots. How's that going?
CW: When we relaunched in April, it was on the tail end of when people [were] really excited about women [after Women's History Month]. March is like "Estrogen for everybody!"
We were able to gain membership, and people were super jazzed. It's fallen off a bit, but we're working on events and benefits. Our upcoming Brewer's Harvest dinner at Pearl Street Pizza [in Barre] will donate 10 percent of ticket sales to Pink Boots. The donations go toward women advancing themselves, whether they're getting a cicerone certification or taking a class on different styles of sours.
The beer industry in Vermont is so strong, but there's a gap. To change people's idea of who knows about beer, we need more women to be involved, particularly in brewing and sales. And it's nice to know you're not alone out there.
This interview was edited and condensed for clarity and length.