Woman Crush Wednesday: Jen Blair
It is not uncommon to hear someone say, "Studying for the Master Cicerone is comparable to studying for the Bar Exam," but few people can say they have done both, but Jen Blair is one of the few who can! She has used the education from each to work towards a better brewing industry.
Blair always had a strong sense of justice with a history of volunteering, working in public interest law, and providing legal aid. She gained essential skills in her training and time as an attorney; however, this didn't fill her cup, but homebrewing did, so maybe the brewing industry was the logical next step, so beer bar it is!
Beer slinger Blair wasn't seeing the opportunities she wanted evolving from her part-time position, so she did what every life coach tells someone to do but most never do: wrote down what she wanted to do. With goals in mind, she made some savvy moves like volunteering with her local homebrew club and helping put on beer events gave her experience which allowed her to apply for the Executive Director at the Craft Maltsters Guild. She questioned whether she should because one thing (grant writing) she didn't have experience in, but she still took the leap from writing down what she wanted to do and what the Guild would like to have. Those overlapped more than enough for her to be awarded the position! Going from contracts and terms to research and grant writing with a side of conference planning? Sure, she has those mad transferable skillz from volunteering, beertending, and lawyer-ing (that's a word, right? It Probably wouldn't hold up in court).
Getting hot-steeped in sensory was part of the job at the Craft Maltsters Guild and led Blair to a new focus on beer flavor and how we describe the experience. She already had achieved her Certified Cicerone and was striving for her Advanced, but talking with maltsters and brewers regularly helped her develop her palate, vocabulary, and discussion of how sensory can be more inclusive. Asking questions:
How do lived experiences impact description?
Where is this information coming from?
Who decided these are the acceptable words to describe this beer?
How does beer reflect the community?
Blair eventually moved to work with the Cicerone program, shifting from advocating to educating through classes and even a podcast (with Rachel Cardwell Hudson of Pilot Brewing). She didn't let that sense of justice linger on the sidelines either. She also played a critical role in the Brave Noise collaborative brew project following the outpouring of sexual harassment in May 2021. She recognizes this isn't a man vs. woman or white vs. BIPOC problem but a supremacy and patriarchy problem. We all drink beer, so how can we connect better through it and solve these issues in our communities? Blair puts it best:
"Yes, you belong, and let's build communities where we can support each other and we can help each other grow. And it doesn't have to be following the rules because that's how it's always been done, because that hasn't served us, and those rules weren't put in place with us in mind and much less for us to succeed."