A place like Salt Lake City, Utah, where alcohol restrictions are set by non-drinkers, does not come by its craft beer scene with ease. What we have today is thanks to a tightly knit community of homebrewers, beer enthusiasts, and professional brewers alike that did not allow local laws to smother their love for the craft. I’ve had the honor of getting to know a handful of these beer pioneers during my four years of residency, and it is my pleasure to feature one of them here!
Jamie Burnham of Kiitos Brewing has been fostering the Utah craft beer scene for over a decade, and she’s not slowing down. This humble, unsung hero has been long overdue for some time in the spotlight. Without further ado, here are Nine Questions With Jamie Burnham.
Lauren (Q): How long have you been in the beer industry, and where do you work currently? In the past?
Jamie (A): I guess I’ve been involved in the beer industry in some form or fashion for 13 years. I started working as the store manager at The Beer Nut in 2005. I work at Kiitos Brewing and before that I spent a year at RoHa Brewing Project as the Operations Manager.
Lauren (Q): Was there a beer or moment that made you realize the beer industry was for you?
Jamie (A): Once I got my feet under me at The Beer Nut, which was about 6 months in, I knew that the beer industry was where I wanted to stay.
Lauren (Q): Who are your beer idols or inspirations?
Jamie (A): Jenny Talley was the brewer at Squatters when I started at The Beer Nut and I looked up to her a lot. I wanted to be “the next Jenny Talley”. I also really look up to Erika Palmer [Utah Brewers Cooperative], Jacquie King Wright [Rooster’s Brewing Company], YOU [Red Rock Brewing Company], and pretty much any woman working in the brewing industry. I’m not brewing beer for anyone but being a part of the beer industry in any capacity makes me feel pretty lucky.
Lauren (Q): You are one of the founding members of the Hop Bombshells Homebrew Club consisting entirely of female members – what inspired you to found this club? What were your most profound struggles and successes?
Jamie (A): I was working at The Beer Nut and Dave Watson was my Assistant Manager at the time. (The only honorary male member of our club.) We talked about the growing number of women who were homebrewing and how cool that was. He and I approached every woman that came in if they were interested in forming a home brew club. It was important to us as a club to foster growth and confidence in brewing beer. Education has always been a key component of the club. I think our struggles with the club have come later. We took off like gangbusters and were drawing new membership pretty regularly. The struggles of keeping members engaged was and has been our biggest struggle. Homebrewing is a hobby that ebbs and flows with interest. Our biggest successes are how big we’ve grown, that we’ve managed to keep the club afloat, and how successful our membership has been in homebrew competitions. Nothing gives me greater joy in our club than hearing our ladies win medals in competitions all over the country.
Lauren (Q): You also founded Utah’s biggest homebrew competition, The Beehive Brew Off. How many years has this been running for, and what were your resources for creating it?
Jamie (A): This year marks the 10th year. How crazy is that?!?! As soon as Utah legalized homebrewing in Utah, I knew we needed to commemorate it by holding Utah’s first homebrew comp. That first year, we had over 300 entries, which for a first year competition, was an incredible turnout. It grew by nearly 40% for about four years and then started to come back down a bit. I think the largest amount of entries we had was 800. Last year, I think the entries were around 500. I relied heavily on the BJCP for guidance. They have a manual on their website that helps organize competitions.
Lauren (Q): Every woman in the beer industry has struggled with sexism. What’s your advice for ladies seeking to break into the industry and/or work their way up the ladder?
Jamie (A): I would say to stay confident and don’t take any shit. Don’t internalize any negativity that comes your way. The beer industry is a better place with women involved in it.
Lauren (Q): What trends in the beer industry would you like to see die and never return?
Jamie (A): Sexist labels/Commercials. I think beer style trends, whether you like them or not, get people excited about new or revamped styles, ultimately a positive thing. Anything that gets people excited about craft beer is a good thing.
Lauren (Q): What do you think will be the next big thing in beer? Or what would you like to be the next big thing?
Jamie (A): Hmmm….. I’m not sure. I would just like to see more women joining the craft beer scene.
Lauren (Q): What are your goals in the beer industry? Where do you want to see yourself in ten years?
Jamie (A): My goals are to continue my education, sell a lot of beer, become an ambassador of sorts for beer, and I guess we’ll see where the future takes us?
If Jamie’s not selling Kiitos beer to local bars and restaurants, she’s probably slinging it at a beer festival or event. When you see her, give her a high five and buy her a beer! I’d say she’s earned it.
To Jamie Burnham!