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9. Interviewing the Interviewer: A Q&A with "Brews with Broads" Host Hannah Kiem
Asking one of my favorite beer podcasters basically all the things; plus what the Temperance tarot card means for this week's beer rec.
Not Just Talking to Myself This Week: Getting to Know “Brews with Broads” Host Hannah Kiem
I am very excited about this week’s issue—hi!—because if I’m going to maintain the metaphor that this newsletter is like a virtual bar, well, this is like me welcoming the first other human being to that bar. And I couldn’t be more thrilled that that first person is Hannah Kiem.
I won’t ramble on too long here, because I’d rather let you get to the good stuff and hear from Hannah. But a quick intro: Hannah is a beam of light and all-around lovely, super fun person, who is a joy to run into when she’s working at beloved beer shop and bar St. Gambrinus or Brooklyn brewery Talea Beer Co. But that’s not all, folx. Hannah is also an actor/singer/dancer/star on the rise. Beer passion and star power merge on “Brews with Broads,” Hannah’s podcast where, each week, she interviews a different person from the world of beer who is female, female-identifying, or nonbinary. I love “Brews with Broads,” and eagerly await the episodes to drop, which they do every other Thursday on Apple Podcasts (you can also listen on Spotify). Actually, today, you can catch the just-released interview with Talea lead brewer Ariel Schwarz. And next episode, I’ll be on, which honestly felt like I won a contest; it was so exciting.
Anyway, here’s my chat with Hannah!
I’m going to steal a page from your “Brews with Broads” interview book and ask you: before the beer, who are ya, what’s your journey been?
I am from St. Louis, and I’m one of those theater kids who, like, there was never any other option for me. I started ballet class when I was two, which, what does that mean? I don’t know. What does a two-year-old do in ballet class?
[At home] we would put a VHS tape of “Annie” in the TV and I would stand in front of the TV and scream the songs. So, that’s been it, forever. I was really into that all growing up and in high school. I set my sights on NYU very early on and ended up getting in Early Decision. I studied—technically, I have a BFA in Drama—but I studied mainly musical theater, with a minor in Jewish History and Civilization because, why not? I had the credits and I thought, this is the most random thing I could possibly be doing. Obviously, I am Jewish and that’s a big part of who I am, so I thought, let’s learn about it.
I graduated and obviously like so many actors in New York City and around the country, I got a restaurant job because that’s kind of just what I thought you do, like you get a restaurant job or you babysit. And I love kids but that was a “no” for me. I won’t say it went from there—it was kind of a slow road—but I will say the sort of “aha moment” was that I was working for Blue Smoke, a barbecue restaurant in Battery Park City, part of Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group, and their beverage focus was American wines, bourbon, and craft beer. That was a slow journey to the “aha.” I remember once trying a Bell’s Two Hearted and being like, “This is bitter, I hate this, this is gross.” And somewhere, it shifted. I think it honestly was with wheat beers and things that felt a little more approachable to me and not so bitter.
From there, I took classes with a woman who’s now a general manager at Marta, the pizza restaurant in Manhattan. Her name’s Kate Amos, she’s awesome. I think she’s a Certified Cicerone at this point…but so she led this class called Understanding Beer for all USHG employees and that was where I was like, “Oh, okay, great, this is my thing.” It was like a six-week course and a lot of my Beer 101 minisodes for the podcast were inspired by that structure because the way she laid it out was so clear. She covered the history and styles by region, so we had Belgium and France, Germany and England, the United States—and then we had process and ingredients, too. Then, the following year, I helped with the class, so that was like a doubling down of absorbing all that information.
Were you then at the point working in hospitality where you wanted to look for beer jobs, specifically, or was it kind of a happy accident from there?
It was my goal to work more with beer in hospitality. The struggle was that at the time I was carrying health insurance for myself and my now-husband. As we know, a lot of beer operations are just small and don’t have that kind of thing. It was sort of a happy accident in that I went to St. Gambrinus, I want to say Labor Day of 2018, and was just at the bar, having a flight, talking to this really nice blonde woman, and it turned out it was Heather, one of the owners. So, it went from there, I started there as a cover, and then got put on Monday nights, and that is where I really felt like, “Oh, I am in the beer world.”
What are some of the different hats you’ve worn in beer since you really dove into the beer world?
It’s mostly been front of house—bartending, serving, dabbling in content creation for St. Gambrinus on Mondays. That was another happy accident where Heather was like, “Hey, I want you to have a good following on Monday nights, because, you, know it’s a Monday.” And because I’m a performer, and, well, doofus on my personal Instagram, she was like, “Why don’t you make these videos?” Which has turned into a whole thing. I continually get—even now that I’m at Talea [Beer Co.], as well—recognized for them. And as someone who as a child and still now dreams of performing on Broadway, never in a million years did I think that that would be the thing where people would say, “Hey, I know you from somewhere!” It’s amazing.
And so at Talea, I’ve started diving into sort of lower leadership, almost floor managing—shift lead, is what they call it. I have worked one packaging shift. Which, wow, I will tell you, after that? I will never, ever take for granted a four-pack of craft beer. It’s hard—I probably sound wimpy, but wow.
You talk a lot about not being afraid to ask questions on the podcast, and with you taking on these different roles, are you sort of in perpetual learning mode every day?
I would like to think so. I think it’s all kind of born out of my own…impostor syndrome in a way. I had the idea for the podcast for such a long time, but part of my hesitation in starting it was thinking, “Well, I’m not really in the beer world, I’m not really a part of this, I don’t know if I’m allowed to be here.” I’ve tried to embrace the idea of coming at things—when I’m doing podcast-related stuff—from the listener’s perspective, and never taking for granted that they know something, and I feel like I owe it to them to not pretend that I know things that I really don’t or to not pretend I have a better understanding of a technical process or a term. Because ultimately, if I’m just sitting here like “Uh huh, yeah,” then we’re really not getting anywhere, and what service am I providing?
I relate to you and that kind of impostor syndrome in beer—it’s often like, “I’m not a brewer and I don’t work in distro, so am I…in this?” But on “Brews with Broads,” you continue to interview people who have these different roles in the beer world that maybe many of us didn’t even realize were so vital before. I’m curious throughout recording the podcast so far—plus your own experience in the industry—how has your understanding of how diverse this industry can be maybe grown or changed?
While the beer industry is, as we know, by and large cishet white men—and that’s just a fact, if you look back of house at a brewery—it’s easy to get a little bit reductive about that, and a little chip-on-the-shoulder-y. Because I do think working in the industry and doing the podcast and being involved in New York City Women in Beer and now the Pink Boots Society, I’ve met so many amazing different types of people who come at things like…for example, [executive director of the New York City Brewers Guild] Ann Reilly, who started in graphic design and then came into leadership, and she’s not brewing.
However…obviously the fact that the conversations of the past few months sparked by Brienne Allen have proven, we have a long way to go as it pertains to women feeling safe in the industry. But also, what I’m thinking a lot more about now is queer people, nonbinary people, and people of color. I’m a straight white woman, I’m trying to not make [the podcast] about me, and to focus on: how do we make people of color, specifically now, feel welcome? How do we make the space for them, too? Even though I am a woman, it’s a lot easier for me to carve out my space, and show up to a brewery or bar and feel like I can be there.
So, how did the podcast come about?
I was Beers With(out) Beards, the Hop Culture festival, and I think it was the first year [they hosted it], 2018. I was there by myself. Alex, my husband, was out of town. And not that you needed to be in beer to go, but I was still unsure…I thought, I really wanted to go to this thing, and I felt really drawn to it. So, I went, and I had an amazing time. I remember talking to Laura Ulrich of Stone, people from Troegs, people from Rhinegeist, and just feeling so inspired by all these women-led or women-owned breweries or breweries with women brewers. It started there, I think—I mean, I’ve always been a big podcast listener, even back in college. That was the only way I could motivate myself to run on the treadmill, was to put a podcast on.
But I was really busy, and working in a restaurant and auditioning, and—shockingly—I am tech-averse, like I am bad at technology. So, I was like, there is no way I would be able to figure out how to do that. But cut to the next [Beers With(out) Beers] festival in 2019 at The Well—R.I.P.—and I was like, “Okay, I am going to do this!” And I panicked and made all these business cards on Canva and was handing them out to people like, I didn’t have anything going on. I made the email address and then I kind of didn’t do anything with it. Then the pandemic happened and I was sitting inside my house; I couldn’t audition for anything. I thought, “You know what? If I’m not going to do this now, I’m literally never going to do it.”
I have to give a lot of credit to Lili Torre. She is part of an artistic community I’m part of, and she is a fantastic podcaster. She has a podcast called “The Dreaded Question.” She has been my mentor through all of this, and has encouraged me and given me tips and advice. She has a coaching program called Doing It Also, which is for actors. We’re going on a tangent but it’s important to credit her because I wouldn’t be doing this without her. But so actors are fed this narrative of, “If you can be doing anything else, you should be doing that.” But this program’s mission, and I’m paraphrasing it, is that that’s totally not true, and you should be pursuing your other passions because it will make you a better artist and a fuller person. So, through Lili’s program and her mentorship, that’s how I finally got [“Brews with Broads”] off the ground.
You know, when you have this little baby idea that lives in your heart, it’s safe there. It doesn’t suck there, it’s not bad. But when you make it, it might be bad.
Well, that did not happen for you. So, what was the main goal with the podcast?
As I say ad nauseam on the podcast, it was kind of selfish at first. I thought, I know I want to work in beer, but I’m not trying to be a brewer, that is not my bag; I don’t want to be a sales rep; and I’m not sure I want to be a bartender forever, so literally what are the other jobs? What are the things that people do? Where is my space?
It’s that, combined with that most of the people I’m seeing working at breweries are men. So—I don’t know if this is an Oprah-ism or where I got it, but—you gotta see it to be it. That’s kind of what I set out to do, inspire myself and thereby inspire other people who also don’t see themselves in the industry, but who want to.
You’ve already had so many incredible guests, who have truly all been so unique. I’m wondering if there are maybe any surprising key takeaways you’ve learned from them just so far?
The common denominator between every guest I’ve had, whether personal interviews or Beer 101 minisodes, is that everyone surprises me. Everyone surprises me with the wisdom they drop. What’s coming to mind is the most recent episode, with Alisa Bowens-Mercado, the founder of Rhythm Brewing. She was just so fun to talk to, it felt like I was talking to an old friend. It felt like a personal inspirational talk that she was giving to me through my computer screen.
Also Jen Blair—I had her on to talk about tasting techniques, and I thought it was going to be like, “Okay, so you want to eat more of this fruit if you want to better understand this flavor…” and no, we got into hardcore science, and it blew my mind. And, something that she said that has continued to stick with me months later is that if you wait to pursue a job or opportunity until you feel you are 100% ready or 100% qualified, you will never do anything. Especially as women, I think we feel like we always have to check every box on that job description or whatever the case might be, and you’re only holding yourself back. Dudes don’t really do that.
So, what does the future hold for “Brews with Broads”?
At least for season one, I’ve kind of been flying by the seat of my pants. It was just last fall when I was like, “Okay, I’m doing this, we’re doing it,” and just started recording all these interviews, and didn’t have a release date. And then I figured I had to pick a release date, so I said, “Okay, January 7th, great, let’s go.” So, I don’t really have a plan. But I’m going to be wrapping up season one in September, and I’m in the very early stages of that episode being a live show. I’m talking to a specific venue right now, nothing is set, but that is something I’m really excited about, and also have no idea what I’m doing [laughs], but I think it’s going to be a really fun way to combine my love of performing and being with an audience and my love of talking to these guests. I’m excited to share that experience with New York-based listeners and anyone who wants to hop on a train.
I think I’ll then use the time off to consider, what is next, and what are the goals? I would love to be able to make this podcast a job. It’s funny, I started this to figure out where my niche is, and I kind of think this might be it. So now I guess it’s a matter of figuring out how to make this not just something I do with my very few days off, but something that’s semi-full-time.
Okay, so now, inspired by the quickfire question round on “Brews with Broads” that I just love, a little lightning round.
Since you and your guest both have a beer every episode and you’ve gotten to run the gamut a bit on styles, have you come to any conclusions on ideal beers for recording a podcast with?
Oh, low-alcohol for sure. When I spoke to Megan Wilson of Torch & Crown, I got a Torch & Crown beer from Mekelburg’s, the Clinton Hill location because I live close. And it had a cat on it and I love cats but…it was a 13% barleywine—
Stupid is the word you’re looking for [laughs]. So low-alcohol, maybe like a nice crispy lager, something a little more thirst-quenching—you’re talking a lot—that’d be better than an IPA.
I grew up acting and I’m always excited to geek out about theater, because you don’t always meet people in beer you can do that with. So, if you can, I’m dying to know your all-time, top favorite shows?
I always have to say “Funny Girl” up top because that is my dream role, like I could cry right now, that’s why I’m on earth. Other than that… “Into the Woods”; I do love Sondheim. I’m an old-school gal—and I’m lucky because even though my husband is, as we theater people call them, a “Muggle,” he loves musicals, too, so we listen to a lot of “She Loves Me” in our house.
As an homage to your “cake or pie” quickfire question on the podcast, do you have a favorite dessert-inspired beer?
The one that comes to mind first is Noon Moon from Grimm. It tastes like I think banana and Nutella—it tastes like a crepe, like hazelnut-ty. So good.
And finally, what is your favorite podcast right now that has nothing at all to do with beer?
I have to give a plug. My best friend has a podcast that is actually amazing, not just because he’s my friend. It’s called, “That’s a Gay Ass Podcast,” and it’s a comedy podcast where he interviews he queer and allied comedians and people in entertainment, but he also gets into so many things like mental health and the creative process. It’s so much more than just like a fun kiki. It gets you thinking.
I pulled Temperance. LOL what a card for a beer newsletter, amirite?
In tarot, Temperance doesn’t mean we’re trying to bring about another Prohibition. It is about patience and balance. There are two main ways we can break this down.
For one, take from this a message to stay the course, whatever your course is. Be patient and resolute, and don’t let things get to you or distract you—this is how you’ll reach that goal. You might even want to level up the tranquility factor in your life, whether you’re the type who might like meditation or you just want to make sure you get to the park for some quiet reading time—this could really help you center yourself.
For another, Temperance speaks to a sort of alchemy. It’s telling you to mix things up, and that could mean anything from trying to make a new cocktail or a new meal to introducing friends from different parts of your life to thinking about how you can apply skills to some endeavor that you hadn’t realized could go together before.
For a beer recommendation, I am going to be a hack, though, and pick something that does play into the meaning we all associate with Temperance, but hear me out. I’m obsessed with Hoplark Sparkling Hop Teas. They’re booze-free, so yah, temperance and all that jazz, but I think they’re more in line with this card because there is a whole lineup of calming teas that are indeed calming! (And this is not an ad! Though I do hope they realize I will take their money.) You can take a break from actual beer and relax with one of these, and they will help you zero in on different hops and their characteristics, too. Finally, they make a great mixer if you want to get fancy and make a cocktail. I recommend trying The Relax Mixed Pack—my favorite is The Calm One, made with Citra hops and chamomile.
This Week’s Boozy Reading Rec
Perfect for this whole Temperance card vibe, why not take a little mental vacation this week? “From House to Home — Forest & Main Brewing Company, Ambler, Pennsylvania,” by Anne Wallentine, is a perfect example of why Pellicle is one of may favorite online magazines/virtual places to unwind and learn. Like all of Pellicle’s magical content, this piece on Forest & Main is told with love and care, and really makes you feel like you’re there. I’ve never been to F&M, but I feel like I know it a bit better now, and I definitely want to experience it in person soon.
Until next week, here is a photo of Darby and another dog keeping a very intense eye on each other during a recent visit to one of our favorite beer spots, The Moan & Dove, in Amherst, MA.