If there is one thing the craft brewing industry needs, it’s more women. A recent study shows that women make up only 29% of brewery workers in the U.S. One pioneer who has set out to increase that number is Jessica Upchurch of Sparta, Tennessee. Upchurch has always entertained the idea of opening her own brewery, but it wasn’t until earlier this year that she set out to pursue her passion.
By day — a pre-k teacher of eight years. By night — a student mastering the art of craft beer. Upchurch successfully balanced the two and recently completed the Brewing Science and Operations program at Auburn University. “I’ve always loved teaching,” says Upchurch. “A few years ago, I made the decision that after I completed my Masters in Special Ed, I would not pursue any more formal education.” Inspired by some of her favorite local breweries, Calfkiller and Red Silo — she took the plunge and went straight to all grain.
Upchurch has nothing but great things to say about the education she received at Auburn University. “The program was phenomenal, to say the least. It offers insight into brewery operations, brewing science, as well as a detailed analysis of the brewing process.” All of Upchurch’s hard work and dedication paid off as she is now running her own brewery: Happy Trails Brewing Company.
Additionally, Upchurch encourages women to join brewery organizations. She was recently inducted into the Nashville chapter of the Pink Boots Society — an organization that aims to help women advance their careers in the beer industry. Currently, the organization has 1,035 members and continues to grow as more craft breweries open taprooms across the country.
Upchurch is also a member of the American Homebrewers Association, another wonderful organization to be a part of if you are serious about brewing your own beer. Upchurch sees programs like these as a sure way to stake a claim in the industry. “The ability to network with a group of individuals who share the same love for craft beer is beyond words.” Every time Upchurch sees a Tweet or a craft brewery newsletter out there on the web, she feels confident that nothing but success is in her future.
Along with being one of the few women to break through in this industry, Upchurch was recently awarded the prestigious Oskar Blues Fellowship. The fellowship included a partial scholarship for both her spring and summer semesters. Upchurch humbly stated what an honor it was to be recognized by one of the most prestigious craft breweries in the U.S. Upchurch and her husband were also able to visit Oskar Blues for four days, and she said that she learned nothing but valuable information that continued to fuel her passion.
Listen up ladies! The craft brewing industry isn’t just for men. Take it from Upchurch — who has officially opened Happy Trails Brewing Company in downtown Sparta, Tennessee. If you want to know more about Jessica’s brewing exploits, follow her on Twitter & Facebook.
*Information provided by Jessica & Oscar Upchurch*