Meet Sara Luchi, recently turned 29, one of 4 brewers at Black Raven Brewing, one of the fastest growing breweries emerging east of Seattle.
While the world of brewing is still largely dominated by men, Sara kicks that stereotype out the door. She’s been brewing almost as long as she’s been legal to drink, and she’s exceptionally good. While she has only been at Black Raven the last 8 months, her brewing expertise comes from years of being a master brewer at Silver City Brewing and Rock Bottom. She recently released her first full batch of beer, Frostbeak, at Black Raven and it gives winter ales a whole new space to contend in.
I may have been spending most of my time drinking whiskey these days, but what I remember from winter ales are the heaviness of the dark beer. Frostbeak, at 6.5% ABV, is dark in caramel color with a crisp, clean finish. You could drink it for days without realizing how much beer you drank!
When I asked Sara how she came up with the Frostbeak, she mentioned her favorite beer to drink was a lager. “The fermentation process is so delicate and many things can go wrong. if you’re a good brewer and know how to avoid those things, they can come out to be fantastic! Lagers come out clean and crisp and gives you the opportunity to really taste the malt and hops as opposed to ale yeast that can produce their fruity flavors,” Luchi said.
Whether it’s taking care of an exploding tank or taking care of her loved ones, this woman can do it all. I stopped by one day to snap some photos of her at work. I wanted to know some basics of the life of a brewer so she answered some questions too.
Q: What do you love most about your job?
A: “I don’t really know how to answer what I love most…there is so much about my job that rocks! The people I work with and the people I meet are awesome. It’s hard to find someone in this industry that sucks. I mean, how can you be a sucky person when you know there’s a beer waiting for you at the end of the day? I love that my job is hands on and that there is always something to do. You’re never bored in a brewery. I love the smell of beer being brewed and all the flavors that we get to test out. Mostly I love that there is always something new to think about and create. The possibilities are endless.”
Q: What is the best beer you’ve ever made?
A: “I like to think I’ve made some pretty good beers over the years. I’m super fond of the winter lager we have on. But I made a smoked scotch ale a couple years ago the won me a silver medal and I was really happy with the flavor profile. Dark caramel notes with a subtle smoky back ground. Mmm…”
Q: What is the most challenging part of being a brewer?
A: “Everyday there is a new challenge in any brewery. Our job is to take ingredients and make beer with them, but those ingredients aren’t always consistent. It’s up to us to figure out how to use inconsistent ingredients and make them a consistent product. Equipment can always fail on you as well, no matter how new your brewery is, you never know when your 8 hour day will turn into 10-12 because you had to fix it before you could use it. If you want to be a brewer, you have to be flexible. Just because my schedule says I’m off at 4 doesn’t mean I will be walking out the door at 4.”
Q: What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you at work?
A: “Craziest thing?…hmmm I don’t know about crazy, maybe to someone who doesn’t brew, things would be crazy but things are pretty normal to me. I mean, I’ve had quite a few beer showers, dumped out a full boot, yes boot of beer before, I’ve had yeast explode in my face, I’ve had a tank door blow out once. That was probably the craziest thing. A full tank of beer exploded out and flooded the whole bar at rock bottom. That was a rough day for sure.”
Q: Do you have any brewers you look up to?
A: “Yes!!!! Teri Fahrendorf! any women in this industry should feel the same. Teri founded the Pink Boots society which is an organization for women in beer. The PBS creates scholarships for beer school and we get together for meetings about beer and sometimes do a collaboration brew.”
Q: Do you have any advice for female brewers?
A: “If i were to have any advice it would probably have to be: Don’t be intimidated, if I can do it anyone can. Most people think that brewing is a man’s job. Don’t forget ladies, women originally did the brewing. it’s a fun industry and honestly, I still get excited when people are shocked that I’m a female brewer.”
Q: What’s your next favorite drink besides beer?
A: “Honestly I have mad love for all forms of fermentation. Most people look at me weird when I drink a cider or a glass of wine. But why should it matter. They all deserve respect and all time skill and knowledge to make a great product.”
It’ll be fun to see where Sara’s career will go. Maybe one day we’ll make our dream of a brewery/b&b abroad come true some day. 🙂
In the meantime, stop by and say to her at Black Raven!