Professor’s inquiry points alumna towards dream job

Professor’s inquiry points alumna towards dream job

A nnaleigh Jackson, ’17, is one of very few women in the beer brewing industry. She is head cellarman/assistant brewer for Cherry Street Brewing in Alpharetta, Georgia. Dr. Ken McGill, professor of chemistry and physics at Georgia College sparked her interest in beer brewing during a study abroad field trip to the Berliner-Kindl-Schultheiss Brewery in Germany.

“I was standing near Dr. McGill when he asked, ‘Have you ever thought about brewing?’ I never thought about going into the brewing industry,” Jackson said. His question made me think of it as a possible career. I thought, ‘Wow, that’s like chemistry—fun.’”

Her study abroad with McGill’s class was during her last semester. The courses she took were called History of German Scientists and Reduceable and Renewable Energy. 

“The classes were interesting and even left time for us to explore Europe,” she said. “That was the best experience of my life. On the weekends we had Thursday night to Sunday free. So, we would take the trains to Amsterdam, Switzerland and Munich. I had this sense of becoming an adult.” 

Jackson graduated with a chemistry degree in three years, but it took her one and-a-half years to get into beer brewing, because she lacked experience. So, she became a hostess, server and bartender.

“I wanted to learn how to brew beer, but had no experience,” she said. “Being a bartender gave me some initial knowledge of beer.” 

Annaleigh Jackson enjoys a beer.
Annaleigh Jackson enjoys a beer.

Jackson took a job as an IT recruiter, but it wasn’t fulfilling.

“I had this chemistry degree I wasn’t using,’” she said. “Although I was making big-girl money, I wasn’t happy.”

After talking with her mom, who turned part of their farmhouse into a winery, Jackson decided to quit her desk job and learn how to make wine and brew beer. She started learning how to make wine both at her mom’s house and a winery in Dahlonega, Georgia. Her brother-in-law showed her how to culture beer. 

After completing a beer industry survey, Jackson discovered many of her friends had migrated over to a particular brewery. She joined them in attending a Friendsgiving last year at the brewer’s house and informed him that brewing is her dream job. A month later he contacted her to apply. So, Jackson applied at Cherry Street Brewing’s second and new location. 

“I brought my home brew to my interview and a bottle of wine that I helped create to at least throw it out there,” she said. “I thought I was only going to be interviewed by my boss. It turns out the owner of Cherry St. and the head brewer from both locations got us four glasses for us to try a sample of my beer.”

The interview panel said good things about her home brewed beer and her resume, which the Career Center at Georgia College helped her craft her resume. 
“I’ve been updating Dr. McGill as to how my career is progressing. Since I got this job, I emailed him and said, ‘It’s all thanks to you.’”
– Annaleigh Jackson

“During the interview, the owner said, ‘You have more on your resume than someone we would actually hire. You have an awesome resume. We want you,’” Jackson said. 

She was hired. Jackson mainly works on the top floor of the brewery, cleaning the tanks and transferring the beer, while the head brewer works on the bottom floor. 

“I take care of all the chemicals and make sure the brew bins are clean and ready to transport beer in them,” Jackson said. “I do all the beer transfer.” 

She also helps the head brewer downstairs brew the wort, which becomes beer. Then once that’s all finished, they add the hops, and send it upstairs to the first tank it’s going to sit in for a couple of weeks until the yeast starts fermenting in it, then it’ll become beer.

“Once we put the yeast in it and it becomes beer, we test the specific gravity of it which correlates with its alcohol content,” Jackson said. “We smell it. Sometimes we taste it. Once we feel it’s ready, we’ll transfer it over to a different tank. I’m in charge of getting it to the other tank and then tapping that tank to the bar.”

“This whole process took me about a month to learn,” she said. “It was a lot to take in. We take extra steps to make sure we have the perfect beer and not to mess it up.” 
She’s elated that she found her dream job. 

“I’m proud of being a girl in the industry, since you don’t see too many girls brewing beer,” she said.

Jackson appreciates her Georgia College education and McGill for giving her the idea of becoming a brewer. 

“I’ve been updating Dr. McGill as to how my career is progressing,” she said. “Since I got this job, I emailed him and said, ‘It’s all thanks to you.’”