GOTG Profile: Leia Ostermann, Managing Director for California Craft Brewers Association

Maria Hill
Maria Hill

By Maria Hill

As a craft beer lover I often feel spoiled to live in a region with close to 60 local breweries. It turns out you could spend a lot of time drinking local without ever having to leave the state because in  June California reached a beer milestone when it surpassed the 700 brewery mark.

While you may not be able to visit all 700 breweries, the California Craft Beer Summit is happening September 8-10 and offers the opportunity to taste your way through the craft beer landscape without ever having to leave Sacramento.

I recently sat down with Leia Ostermann, Managing Director of the California Craft Brewers Association, over a beer (duh) for an insider’s perspective on industry growth and preview of the event.

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Within the craft beer industry what is the function of the California Craft Brewers Association?

The California Craft Brewers Association (CCBA) was established in 1989 and is the oldest state-based association representing craft brewers in the nation. The primary function of the association is to monitor legislative activity at the state Capitol and provide a voice that represents the interests of our members. From taprooms to growlers, the beer drinking culture we know today was made possible in part by the work of the CCBA.

You are the Managing Director for the CCBA, what does your role entail?

My primary role is to really keep the trains running at the association.  I provide high-level oversight on all the initiatives and events that happen throughout the year and brainstorm ways we can better serve our members. I also work really closely with Tom McCormick, Executive Director of the CCBA, on our legislative advocacy agenda.  

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What makes the California Craft  Beer Summit so unique?

The summit is our signature event and brings the entire community of craft beer together. This type of event has been an association dream since before I started working here. In planning we talked about how the event could offer something for everyone and this year I think we accomplished that.

The summit expo hall is arranged around the four main ingredients in beer: yeast, water, grain and hops. This setup offers the unique experience of hands-on education with the ingredients and the opportunity to talk directly to industry experts in those fields. Additionally,  there will be tasting booths set up around the expo hall representing the regional brewers guilds from around the state that will be pouring beer tastings. Probably one of the biggest advantages to attending the summit is being able to brush shoulders with key figures in craft beer like Fritz Maytag (original owner, Anchor Brewing) and David Walker (Firestone Walker).

The summit culminates Saturday on Capitol Mall with our beer festival featuring 170 California breweries.  It will be organized by region with colored flags denoting beers from Northern California, San Francisco Bay Area, Central California, Los Angeles, and San Diego. It is your chance to literally taste your way through California and a lot of the breweries will be bringing beers they brewed specifically for this event. For a full list of beers being poured CLICK HERE 

Whether you are interested in food and beer pairings, homebrewing, or simply networking and connecting with industry professionals you will be able to create your perfect beer experience at the summit.

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The Brewers Association recently released a study saying that only 25% of weekly craft beer drinkers are women. What do you think could be done to bring more women into the fold?

We have seen the number of women craft beer drinkers grow every year and I think it is tied to the fact that with the rise of the craft brewing movement  there is access to so many new styles and varieties of beer. When someone tells me they don’t like beer I tell them they haven’t tried the right beer yet. My advice for a newbie craft beer drinker is ask the brewer questions, they are usually in the breweries and love talking about the styles they are brewing. Tell them what styles/flavors you like in other beverages and often times they can match your style with a beer they have on tap.

What was your gateway beer? (the beer that got you into craft beer)

It was a Racer 5 from Bear Republic and it was quite a while ago now. I remember tasting it and thinking “wow, this doesn’t taste like beer.” It was a really good entry point into the world of craft beer.

What beers have you been getting into lately? What styles are you excited about?

I have been really excited to see the rise of sour beers. They have always been there, Russian River has been brewing sour beers for a while, but we are seeing the demand increase from consumers and craft beer lovers for this style. Back to the summit, one of the educational seminars we are offering is all about the nuances of sour beers. It will cover what to expect when you order this style of beer and I think that educational piece will help people be braver when branching out to try new styles.

What kind of advice would you give to a woman who was considering getting into the craft-beer industry?

If you are trying to work in the craft beer industry I would say don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.  Brewing is a labor-intensive job and 90% of it is cleaning. When you look at the beer industry overall it doesn’t just include tap room staff or sales staff there are also production and brewing assistants that do a lot of work and it would be nice to see more women applying for those roles. Being in the beer industry doesn’t always mean you are working at a brewery; there are a lot of other roles that support the industry like distribution, sales, and roles like mine at association/advocacy organizations. I think it would be great to see more women in these careers.

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Looking to discover your new favorite Sacramento brewery? Check out the brewery map on the CCBA website. For more information or to purchase tickets to the California Craft Beer Summit click here, cheers!  

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