What’s your current position at your brewery, and how did you get started in the craft brewing industry?
I am a partner and co-founder at our family-owned and -operated brewery [Benchmark Brewing Co. in San Diego, Calif.]. When our son, Matt Akin, had his professional brewer education, qualifications, and experience in order, my husband, Jim Akin, and I said, ‘It’s time to open our brewery.’ We have not looked back.
What’s new at Benchmark?
We’re just two years old, so what’s not new at our brewery? We’ve won awards each year. As of August 2015: bronze for our Blond Ale at the San Diego International Beer Festival; silver for our Table Beer at the San Diego International Beer Festival; and gold in the Session Beer category for our Oatmeal Stout at the Great American Beer Festival. The best session beer in America! How’s that for starters?
What’s the best part of being a part of the craft brewing community?
I feel like royalty. The brewers in San Diego know and like each other and work in friendly competition and collaboration. They extend this respect to all brewery employees and owners.
Name a favorite food and beer pairing.
Beer, cheese, pickled vegetables, and dried fruit. I turn to the experts to select the beer-cheese pairings. They have not failed me yet.
What’s your biggest accomplishment unrelated to your job?
I designed a program and wrote the winning grant to teach elementary school students how to create comic books about academic topics. The comic books became learning tools in place of essays, poems, 3-D models, and other more standard assignments. The student-created comic books showed what they had learned about Civil War history, math, plate tectonics, English, planetary science, and other subjects tied to the academic standards. The comics were vivid and the children were ecstatic.
What’s your favorite beer that your brewery does not produce?
I learned to drink craft beer when our brewmaster, Matt Akin, worked at AleSmith. I love AleSmith Wee Heavy.
What do you like to do in your time away from the brewery?
Camping, hiking, wilderness canoeing, long-distance walking, and reading.
What’s the most memorable travel destination at which you’ve had a chance to sample the local beer?
We love to go deep into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. We portage a growler of beer from local Duluth brewers, a growing population, into the wilderness and from lake to lake. We ration sips at the end of each day to make the beer last through the whole trip.