Some people love beer, and then there’s Averie Swanson. A life long love of science led Swanson down a path packed with hopps and malt. What started out as a hobby eventually turned into a job at world-renowned Jester King Brewery, where she would rise the ranks to become head brewer, and then part owner. After numerous rewards, accolades, and years spent traveling for Jester King, Swanson decided head out to Chicago and brew her own private beer label, Keeping Together. Now, she combines her expertise to create a culinary-inspired mixed fermentation saison. Her dedication, creativity, out-right grit makes us proud to raise a glass and call her a part of the YETI team.
What goes through your head when you first wake up in the morning to brew?
Gratitude for the opportunity to put on my boots and do what I love. Brewing is a labor-intensive job, and I am grateful every day that I have the physical and mental strength to not just get it done, but to do it well and to make beer that I am really proud to share with the world. As both an art and a science, brewing offers intellectual and creative fulfilment for me in a way that I have not experienced in other parts of my life, and I think about that every day I am in the brewhouse.
Where is your favourite place to brew?
Of course, I love brewing here in Chicago, and I have been fortunate to brew collaboratively with people all over the world. My favorite place to brew (or do anything beer-related) is anywhere where folks are excited to learn, share, and be a part of the process. Beer is incredibly social--it is a common denominator across so many different cultures and places and it really does have the power to bring people together.
What's one of your favourite stories from a day out brewing?
A few years back, I was able to collaborate with the brilliant beermakers at Scratch Brewing in Ava, Illinois. We made a “stein beer”--a style of beer made using superheated rocks to boil your wort. The rocks were placed in a fire for an extended period of time and pulled out one at a time to be carefully placed into the boil vessel. It is a pretty uncommon (and relatively dangerous) process and I learned a ton; it was one of the most awesome beer-making experiences I can remember.
How do you up your game year after year?
By staying curious and constantly learning. The basic process of beer making has stayed fairly static through history, but there are endless opportunities to fold in different approaches or philosophies. There is so much more to what we do as producers than just making and serving beverages--we are facilitating engagement and holding space for people to connect with each other on a personal and sensorial level. I think that the more I learn about people in a very broad and general sense, the better I become at making beverages or creating experiences that excite people on a deeper level.
If you could do anything better, what would it be?
So many things! I think at the core of it, I wish I was better at being patient... I am passionate about so many things (especially in the world of beer and brewing), and I regularly find myself itching to take on new ideas or projects, or experiences.
Who are your heroes? Who do you look up to?
I think it is possible to be inspired by just about anyone. If you pay attention, there are always lessons to be learned and inspiration to be had. I think my Dad and my Grandfather both taught me to see the world this way, and I certainly consider them to be my heroes.
What haven’t you accomplished that you aspire to do in your lifetime?
Making it to every country in the world is definitely high on my list.
What part of you, or what you do, reflects a spirit of restlessness?
Beer exists as a part of human presence and history in so many cultures and regions around the world. As a student of beer, I have been very fortunate to travel to many of these places to experience beers at the source and learn from others in the industry. The richness of experience in those travels has certainly fueled my sense of restless wanderlust and has been a huge source of creative inspiration for me. Many of the beers that I make are experiments in flavor or ingredients that I don’t necessarily plan on making more than once. I love the idea that each beer represents a memory or a moment in time--the original experience is transitory or fleeting, but the beer can take you back. Though I definitely have mainstay beers that I enjoy drinking regularly, as a maker, I tend to explore outside the familiar or the comfortable more often than not. I think I definitely carry a spirit of restlessness through that approach to making beer.
If there is any love-hate relationship with any aspect of what you do, can you describe what that is?
I don't think there is; I pretty much love all of it...
What sound or noise do you love?
I think most brewers would answer this way, but my favorite sound is the bubbling of a blow-off bucket early in fermentation. Few things are more magical than walking into the brewery early morning and all you hear is the bubbling of CO2 off-gassing from the tanks.
I am happiest when I am _____ with ___.
I am happiest when I am exploring new places with people I love.
What are the 3 most essential things you need for your category?
Happy and healthy yeast, a good pair of boots, and something to keep my beer cold. ;-)
What would be your day job if you weren’t doing what you are currently doing?
Yoga instructor. I have been practicing yoga for over a decade and it is the practice that allows me to have the energy and fortitude to do everything else I do.
If you could bring anybody in the world with you to do what you love (dead or alive), who would it be?
My dad. He passed away before I made the move into the brewing industry and I know that he would be extremely proud to see how far I have come as a creative maker and as a professional.
What does YETI mean to you?
To me, YETI means being able to trust my tools to preserve and protect the integrity of the work I have done, so I can focus on doing more of what I love.
What does it mean to be built for the wild?
Being built for the wild means being adaptable and taking challenges head on, persevering no matter what. It means trusting yourself and being unapologetic in following your truth.
How would you explain what YETI is to someone who didn’t know?
YETI is the brand that creates the highest quality coolers on the planet--they make products that do not quit, that are perfect in form and function.
What is the YETI that you cannot do without?
My 36oz Rambler Bottle. Keeps me hydrated!
What, if any, other YETI products do you use? How do you use a specific YETI product in your market? What is your one favourite aspect or feature of your YETI?
The Roadie 24 Cooler is the perfect size for the large-format bottles I use to package my beer. It keeps the beer cold and is conveniently sized for transporting.