An Interview With Crooked Lane Brewmaster Teresa Psuty

Maria Hill

By Maria Hill

Auburn-based Crooked Lane Brewery has only been open a year, but their knowledge and passion for brewing extends well beyond that and they have the awards to prove it. Their Wobblor Doppelbock placed first in the Strong European Beer category and went on to win second best of show at this year’s California State Fair commercial brewing competition, beating out 1,488 total beer entries.

I caught up with Brewmaster Teresa Psuty to learn more about the history of Crooked lane, inspiration behind their award winning brew, and what it is like to be a woman working in the craft beer industry.

For people who may not be familiar with Crooked Lane could you give a brief history of how the brewery came to be and what styles of beer you are known for. 

My husband and I have been very serious home brewers for years, and a few years ago we were shooting the breeze over beers with our neighbor across the street, Paul Schilling. We started throwing around the idea of opening a brewery, and Paul was hooked as soon as we brewed a beer that he liked better than one of his favorites – Sierra Nevada Celebration. We brought Kirt Braun, a former colleague, on board, and after a couple of years and a lot of blood, sweat and tears, we opened the brewery in August 2016.

My involvement in Crooked Lane has grown exponentially over the year leading up to opening and the year we have been brewing. Today I’m the Brewmaster, handling the day-to-day operation of the production side of the brewery.

We have a large variety of styles we do at Crooked Lane, and we are known locally as a brewery where anyone can go to have a beer and find something they like. We have some very traditional German style beers such as our Klasse Vienna Lager, Veedels Brau Kolsch, along with our Wobblor Doppelbock. We also have traditional English styles, and West Coast IPAs and Pale Ales. For every style we do, we aim to create a world-class example of that style, and we keep pushing to improve the flavor and quality of the beers we produce every day. We love feedback and try to get our beers in the hands of anyone who can help us make it better.

What was the inspiration behind brewing the Wobbler beer? 

I’m a big fan of traditional German beers, and Doppelbock is one of my favorites. Ayinger Celebrator is a wonderful Doppelbock that is readily available, and if you haven’t had it, it will really knock your socks off. The richness and complexity is something to aspire to as a brewer. For our Wobblor, we targeted a pale Doppelbock. We found the beer rounded out and became richer as time passed, this style really benefits from aging.

In recent years the number of women working in the craft beer industry has increased. How has being a part of that community been valuable for you career? What advice would you give to younger women that are interested in working in craft beer? 

The craft beer industry is very supportive, and the people I’ve met through this endeavor have been really amazing and helpful. When I was faced with the proposition of getting our brewery off the ground, I humbly asked if I could come and brew with a number of commercial breweries, and they were kind enough to let me watch them do their thing. I’m certain that allowed us to hit the ground running and probably saved me from dumping some batches of beer!

The women I’ve met in the brewing industry have really embraced this spirit of cooperation. The Pink Boots Society, for women in brewery professions, has been a great way to connect with women locally and beyond. I’m committed to deepening my involvement as things get a little less hectic at the brewery. In the year since the local Sacramento Pink Boots chapter has been up and running, I already see that I have a network of talented women I can reach out to and they have my back, just as I have theirs.

With any industry, that first great job is hard to get and I believe craft beer is the same way. If you are interested in brewing, there are wonderful university brewing programs, but it can be tough to get in. I recommend a solid education in the sciences, and dig deep into homebrewing. Nothing will teach you more about what you need to know than learning the process by doing. Treat your homebrew batches like they are the most important thing in the world, learn about yeast, sanitation, and temperature control. Get a job in a brewery and express your desire to learn. Become invaluable by putting in the effort and developing competence in all the areas you wish to move into.

I have been in ‘men’s’ jobs all my working life, and the best way I’ve found to excel is to be confident, knowledgeable, and exacting in the way I do things. Now I finally have really delicious results!

What should we look forward to from Crooked Lane in the future? 

We are looking forward to our first year anniversary on September 15th-17th. We will be releasing bottles of The Gnarly Goat, a bourbon barrel aged version of the Doppelbock that won a silver medal in the Cal State Fair.

The Crooked Lane Brewery and tasting room is located at 536 Grass Valley Hwy. Auburn, CA 95603. For information on upcoming events visit their website.  

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