Laura Bryngelson, CEO of Calapooia Brewing in Albany, may not get all of the fame and glory normally associated with brewers in the industry, but her role is just as critical. In addition to running the business, Bryngelson works as a software programmer and is the primary caretaker of her family’s household. Photo by Erica Tiffany-Brown
By Erica Tiffany-Brown
Of the Oregon Beer Growler
It’s no secret that brewers are basically the rock stars of the beer industry. Just like meeting the musician who sings your favorite song, meeting the brewer who makes your favorite beer can be quite the pivotal moment for a beer fan. They’re the ones who, albeit with slightly less fabulous hair and a lack of leather pants, seem to gain most of the recognition at a brewery.
The owners, much like the manager of a band, don’t really get as much acknowledgment as they should for being the glue that holds it all together. However, at Calapooia Brewing in Albany, a true triple threat walks among us.
Laura Bryngelson co-owns Calapooia with her husband Mark Martin, but she holds the official title of CEO. She may not be one of the brewers, but combined with working at least 20 to 25 hours at Calapooia each week (not including festivals and special events), she works 20 hours as a software programmer, which is, ironically, another male-dominated industry. Bryngelson somehow manages to balance these two jobs while also being the primary caretaker of the house and the coach of her daughter’s volleyball team.
“Just being able to juggle all this … I don’t want to be sexist, but I know for sure my husband could not do it,” she says with a laugh.
While a woman running a business may not seem as glamorous as a woman who brews, both should be given admiration in their own right.
“The women who have worked up to be a brewer in this industry have really just done it against the odds, so I really respect that.”
Bryngelson thinks very highly of brewers, whether women or men, but is “envious as hell” of them for being the rock stars of the industry.
“No one wants to meet the person who filled out all the paperwork to make the OLCC and ATF happy. There are no "Meet the HR/accounts payable/accounts receivable/compliance/CEO/marketing director" nights down at the local pub!
Brewers work hard, I know, I see them at our place daily. But other than scheduling brewing/bottling/grain deliveries, etc. — when they punch that clock, their workday is over. I worry about taxes, payroll, the prices of malt, hops, yeast — what our distributors are doing, what our reps are doing, staffing special events, all that.”
Even the most independent stars need a support team, and Bryngelson says she couldn’t run the show without the help of general manager Paul Huppert and her husband Mark, who started out as brewmaster and secretary and also is in charge of sales and distribution. When you see this duo interact, it’s evident that they’re still going strong after nearly nine years of professionally performing together.
It turns out that Bryngelson isn’t the only female triple threat worthy of the spotlight in Albany — one of the women she admires most in the beer industry is quite literally the girl next door — or at least a few blocks over.
Jamie Howard co-owns Albany-based Deluxe Brewing and Sinister Distilling along with her husband Eric/“Howie.” Like Bryngelson, Howard has two young kids at home. However, on top of running not only a brewery but also a distillery, she still works full time at another job. “My outside job is only half time! She makes me feel lazy!” Bryngelson exclaims.
Bryngelson and Howard were invited to give a co-presentation at the Albany Regional Museum a little more than a year ago. “We’re two women in beer, let’s focus on the real history,” Bryngelson says. The pair spoke about the “origins of how it was all women (who started making beer) and that’s where the whole ‘brew-ha witch thing’ came from.”
Other female superstars Bryngelson admires include Pink Boots Society founder and “pioneer” Teri Fahrendorf and 10 Barrel Brewing’s Tonya Cornett, described as an “award-winning brewer who has earned a lot of respect, and because of her skill and experience, can work wherever and command whatever she wants. Just like the guys!” Women Enjoying Beer founder Ginger Johnson also made it on the list. Johnson actually used Calapooia’s Chili Beer for a cheese pairing at the Spring Beer and Wine Fest a few years ago, which helped the beer gain some extra recognition.
“I wish I was more involved in some of these women’s groups, I just have no real extra time. I should be, as a woman in beer, getting out more and getting more women (involved with) beer. I’m just busy trying to get the kids out the door.”
Bryngelson might not consider herself to be a rock star in the beer industry, but she definitely gained a fan out of me.
[a] 140 NE Hill St., Albany
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.