Erin Kloos; Collingwood, Ont.
Let’s say we’ve just met at a cocktail party. How would you describe, in a nutshell, what you do?
I’m sure it would almost describe itself. In the fact, I’d be the only one at a cocktail party who brought her own beer [laughs]. Usually I generalize, and start off by saying I’m in craft beer. Regardless of projects, and titles, the majority of my community never performs one role in our process in a single day. I’ve been a head brewer, production supervisor and director and all of that experience comes together in my role as a creator of craft beer.
Where did you go to school and what did you study?
I had a hard start to life towards the end of high school, which forced me to defer my acceptance to university and begin working immediately. Over my decade in craft beer, I learned from the machine operators, who are such an intimate and important part of our entire community, and obtained a long list of specified certifications relating to tasting, brewing, the cellar and the laboratory. I basically grew up in the cellar.
What was your first paying gig out of school? (In your field, or not.)
The only thing I’ve ever been paid to do, that isn’t create beer, is play drums. Jazz percussion paid the bills for a long time.
What was your BIG break? How did you land it?
My big break was merely the opportunity of being given a platform to show off my talents and intellect to some of the original men and women who built craft beer in Ontario. They helped me make the most of my talents and focus my energies—and also became my mentors, my teachers and my best friends.
Describe the moment in which you first realized, I think this is actually going to work out?
A couple months into my career, I had to do a manual distillation, which isolates a beer’s alcohol from its other components (water and barley) to analyze it. In itself, the process is quite basic, but in that same day, I had to take apart a piece of equipment, figure it out, and put it back together, all while slugging thousands of cases of beer, and finishing my day off as a key member of our taste panel. The marriage of such intimate parts of pallet, brain, and brawn, is absolutely what sold this field as being something I could never walk away from.
What would you say has been your biggest failure or shortcoming, career-wise, to date? How did you bounce back?
My biggest failure, by far, has been the seduction of social media and allowing it to dictate the organizations I’ve been drawn to, based on popularity or appeal, and not the people behind them. Aesthetically I did quite well on those platforms, but you cannot taste what’s created on social media, you can only see it, and that is not an essential part of the skill set I’ve worked a decade on creating. For most, these platforms are so essential to their careers, but I truly believe I’ve done better without them, and have recently gone back to allowing e-mail to be my only form of internet-based communication.
Name one piece of career advice you always give.
Observe, listen and question.
What’s the worst career advice you’ve ever gotten?
These is no bad advice, to be honest. It’s up to your ability and skill set to determine whether a piece of knowledge given to you will help or hinder your performance. All advice seems like good advice when you receive it from someone who has been at the game longer than you. But when you get older, you realize that that advice may have led to some questionable decisions, but you’ve learned from them.
Did you deal with barriers in your field because you are a woman? If so, what were they?
If anything, I’ve been celebrated for my womanhood in this entire process. The reason I’ve done well in a relatively short period of time is because of people who haven’t been afraid to share their knowledge with a woman. I’ve learned from great men, and I’ve learned from great women, but more importantly, I’ve learned from great people.
Are you making a fair income for your work? Why or why not? Do you have a side hustle for extra cash? If so, what is it?
I’ve watched my salaries increase as I’ve grown into my field. It’s hard to gauge fair wage without thinking about environmental factors—like if I was terrible at my job [laughs]—but clearly my experience is being rewarded. I live on the water, drive a nice car and the beer fridge is always stocked. I’m comfortable.
What’s the worst stereotype you’ve heard about millennials at work?
Stereotypes are a challenge I’ve encountered beyond the brew house. Some people think that because I live my life as an androgynous, tattooed and well-dressed woman, that I’ve had my life handed to me on a silver platter. As a millennial, you have to work often and pretty damn hard to enjoy these luxuries—I don’t think everyone sees that, though.