Before starting Hey, Brewtiful, a website that serves up "a woman's view of brewing and beer," Jessica Miller wasn't actually a big beer drinker. That is until the Kennesaw resident tried some of her hometown brewery's product.
"Before Burnt Hickory, I didn't really pay much attention to beer," Miller says. "I spent plenty of time with wine, and made my rounds of the wineries in North Georgia. My husband had been brewing for about a year at home, so I was interested in the mechanics of it. We discovered Burnt Hickory Brewery, and the beers they were putting out really piqued my interest. Once I started reading, learning, and tasting more, I was hooked."
After falling for craft brew, Miller started Hey, Brewtiful as "a kind of research project and much-needed creative outlet." The middle-school-English-teacher-turned-stay-at-home-mom required something to complement her motherly duties. "I'm the kind of person who really thrives off work," Miller says. "I basically invented a job for myself to keep from losing my mind." Since then, the 33-year-old writer and photographer has parlayed her beer interests into design work for Red Brick while attending beer events and visiting breweries on the regular. Creative Loafing caught up with Miller somewhere between wrangling her train-obsessed 3-year-old and enjoying her husband's homebrew on the porch to ask about her passion's past, present, and future.
Describe your first beer experience.
My first beer experience was stealing a sip off my [grandfather] Pip's Budweiser. He taught all us grandkids how to fetch — and open — a can from the beer fridge. I remember feeling really important for being asked to get Pip his beer, like I was trustworthy, or electable, or something like that. I opened it while still standing in front of the open fridge — to get it ready, I suppose — before realizing I was going to have to carry it all the way back down to the lake. Problem-solver that I am, I took a sip rather than spill any on the way. I think I was probably 10 or 12 when I tasted that beer. I don't remember hating it.
Hey, Brewtiful, especially the "ladies who love beer" running feature, focuses on the female perspective of the craft-beer world. Why do you think there aren't more women in the industry?
I think there are more out there than people realize. It seems like a matter of exposure. I remember when I started writing HB it was in part motivated by this sense that there weren't a lot of women around me who shared the interest I had in learning about brewing and craft beer. Craft beer strikes me as quite the opposite of a "boy's club." The men I've interacted with are absolutely on board with more women participating in the craft-beer culture. Husbands and boyfriends seem to earnestly want their wives and girlfriends to take up the hobby. And single men interested in women and craft beer pretty much form a line to have a woman in their midst who knows what the hell she's talking about. It's sort of like when I was in middle school and the boys found out I liked to play D&D [Dungeons & Dragons]. The hotness factor went through the roof. Fortunately for me, nerds are kind of my type.
Where's your favorite place to have a beer?
My porch, by far. It's covered and somewhat wooded, which makes it perfect rain or shine. Plus, the kid can go barefoot and run in and out with his toys. And with a stash of homebrew in the basement, well, let's just say the tab has already been paid. But outside of that, I'm a big fan of Trackside in Kennesaw. I've heard a lot of locals refer to it as their Cheers. Good food. Good beer. Being next to the train tracks is a definite bonus because trains are like crack to 3-year-olds.
What do you hope for the future of Atlanta's — and its surrounding 'burbs, of course — beer scene?
I hope to see the legislation catch up to the public interest. Atlanta and its 'burbs are very insular in a lot of ways, and it shows. I'd love to see more overlap. Public transport outside the Perimeter would help. I'd like to see the craft-beer scene here catch up to other places where being a woman is a relative non-issue. It would be great to see more women being invited to the judging table and taking the reins behind the brew tank.