A mash-tun-hugging, sourdough-loving, pickling, knitting, chain-mail-crafting brewer.
“I’m notorious for always hugging the mash tun.”
It was a chilly day in Newport, Ore., and Kirsten Phillips, the newest brewer to join Rogue Ales & Spirits, explained how she sometimes keeps warm in a cold brewhouse.
Sitting in the heated offices, Kirsten was taking a short break from training on John Maier’s 5-barrel pilot system (nicknamed Mojo). She’d be spending just a few days in Newport with the Rogue Brewmaster, before heading north and taking over brewing on a similar system at Rogue’s Issaquah Brewhouse in Issaquah, Wash.
Hired to craft small-batch and experimental brews at our only Washington Meeting Hall, Kirsten has the perfect background for the job.
“I grew up with a love for sourdough,” she confessed. In fact, it was the genesis of her love for crafts, including crafting good beer. “My mom tried to explain to me the beautiful symbiotic relationship that these bacteria and yeasts have that creates these flavors that I love so much [in sourdough]. I thought that was fascinating.”
Eventually Kirsten would come to be passionate about not only sourdough but pickling too. She’d pick up crafting, knitting sweaters or designing jewelry out of chainmail.
But it would be a trip to Germany in high school that would help her find that passion that would later become her career: beer. She was homebrewing by the time she was in college, where she was on track to get a doctorate. But that didn’t last long.
“I got hit by a car,” she explained, very matter-of-fact. “So I had a lot of time to sit around and think about what was important to me. And it wasn’t academia.” It took a little push from her mom for her to realize that she should go into brewing — because it was what she loved.
Soon after, she was visiting local breweries, asking to simply lend a hand in exchange for some training. But no one really took her seriously. At least not until she met Dan Lee from Odin Brewing Company.
“He took me very seriously,” Kirsten said. “He’s like ‘yeah, I’ll give you a shot.’” Kirsten spent a year and a half there learning the industry and how to brew from Odin’s brewer Nick Heppenstall before going to Berlin to earn her Brewmaster Certificate at VLB, a well-respected German brewing institution.
“So here I am back in the Pacific Northwest.” And she’s about to inaugurate a brand new brewing system in Issaquah. She’ll be the first brewer to use it when she brews her first batch of Contraband IPA on February 28.
Brewing for Rogue in Issaquah is “kind of a wet dream for most brewers,” Kirsten admitted. “I get to interact with great people in a good company but I’ll get a lot of freedom to experiment.”
Kirsten also sees herself as very much a Rogue.
“I’m a female in a male dominated industry. I’ve got to sort of blaze my own way. And ruffle some feathers.”
We’re pretty sure she’s going to fit in well here.