By David Sherman
It all started with a lavendar hefeweizen . . .
Whitney Burnside followed her dream of becoming a chef, attending culinary school at Johnson & Wales University in Denver. With degree in hand, she interned at The Herbfarm in Woodenville, Washington. She worked as the restaurant’s cheesemaker, then began small batches of homebrew.
The lavendar hef opened her eyes to the possibilities of beer. Like her favored baking processes, fermentation took time, effort and skill, and the results were so rewarding. And she was hooked.
She started knocking on doors at breweries throughout Washington and Oregon. At her pint-sized dimensions (pun intended) of 5’ and 95 lbs., Whitney mostly got shoo’ed away, with reactions of “who is this little girl wanting to brew beer?” Chad Kennedy of Laurelwood in Portland gave her an internship for three months, then a short stint at Upright. She took her new-brewery experience to Elysian Brewing in Seattle, where she worked for a year cellaring and helping startup the new production facility.
Whitney met Darron Welch of Pelican Brewing, who was visiting Elysian’s new facility. And a few months later, Pelican hired Whitney as lead cellar, where she has worked her brewing craft.
Later this year, after Pelican’s finishes its new production facility in Tillamook (see sidebar at right), Whitney will become the Pub Brewer at the Pacific City restaurant.
She looks forward to creating specialty and seasonal brews, taking advantage of the bigger space to pursue barrel-aging and lagers. And she has her eye on creating a rye pale ale.
Whitney says her small stature presents challenges, but she has created personal systems for moving heavy bags and bins around the brewery. “Lift with the legs,” she advises. Whitney recognizes that as part of a team, the tasks she cannot do will get done. Her guidance to others: persevere, don’t get discouraged and have confidence in your abilities. And find the accepting and open-minded people ready to see and use your talents.
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.