Brewers Association

Jennifer Hansen

Jennifer Hansen

What’s your current position at your brewery, and how did you get started in the craft brewing industry?

I am co-founder and CEO of Wildcard Brewing Company [in Redding, Calif.]. My husband and I started the company just nine months ago and haven't come up for air since. I suppose my introduction to craft beer began just shortly out of college; my husband and I brewed and bottled two beers to give away as wedding favors. This served as a springboard for a hobby that prompted Jeff and me to leave the corporate world and pursue our dream of opening our own brewery. I wanted to remain on the marketing and sales side of the business and let Jeff pursue the production side. He earned a brewing degree and got four years of brewing experience before we took the leap into opening a microbrewery. My senior project in college at Cal Poly had been a business plan for an organic microbrewery in Tahoe. What was meant to be a fun way to tackle a daunting assignment planted the seed in my mind and my heart never gave up on the idea. I had always had a passion for craft and artisan goods. My background is in working with small family-owned farms and getting their products to mass markets. Entrepreneurship was a dream of mine and craft beer became a stronger and stronger interest the more I was exposed to the industry.

What’s new at Wildcard?

A chopped-up warehouse floor. Construction started in August on laying the foundation and infrastructure to support a 15-barrel brew system due to arrive the third week in September. We have been using a contract model to test the market and determine what size system we would need. We never could have anticipated the amount of demand locally for craft beer. The community support has been tremendous and encouraged us to take this next step forward.

What’s the best part of being a part of the craft brewing community?

There is a camaraderie that is unlike any other industry I have experienced. When jumping into such a large unknown it has been of comfort to know there is a community of people that want to see us succeed.

What do you like to do in your time away from the brewery?

We have a 2.5-year-old and one on the way. Anytime I can steal away from the brewery is spent with my family; usually finding a good swimming hole or taking a picnic on a hike.

What’s your favorite food and beer pairing?

A good sharp cheese and an IPA would hit the spot right about now.

What’s your biggest accomplishment unrelated to your job?

At 28 years old, opening Wildcard is certainly my biggest accomplishment. It was just an idea that was fueled by experience. It encouraged me to quit a job I loved, move abroad to the UK while Jeff studied, and after returning had us bouncing around California and Washington as we gained experience and knowledge. These are the accomplishments that inspired the name "Wildcard,” because that is truly what you would have to be to get where we are today. Unrelated to the business, my greatest accomplishment is being a mom to our daughter. Finding a balance has not been easy and I'm proud that amongst all the craziness we've made it work.

What’s your favorite beer that your brewery does not produce?

I'm a big fan of Lagunitas Little Sumpin' Sumpin'. We lived in Petaluma for a time and spent a lot of afternoons there. It carries good memories and is one tasty brew.

What’s the most memorable travel destination at which you’ve had a chance to sample the local beer?

My husband and I ventured to New Zealand to visit a friend of ours from brew school who was opening a brewery and in our travels discovered Sassy Red, an English Bitter from Mac's Brewery. We drove all over the country and that beer became a quick necessary staple for our backpacks.

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