Few can say they got into craft beer while in Rome. But Ali Benetka, Renegade Brewing Company’s new head brewer – and the youngest female brewmaster in the state – discovered her love for fine suds at a brew/football pub, Ma Che Siete Venuti A Fà (Translation: ‘But what is it you came here to do’), while studying abroad.
“I was exposed to some really incredible beer there and I haven’t been able to turn back from craft beer since then,” says Benetka, age 24, who studied biology and history at Loyola in Chicago.
“I was homebrewing at the time too and realized I could do something really fun with my bio degree, so I decided I wanted to try to get into the beer industry.”
It didn’t take long for Ali to reach her goal. About a month after finishing school, she took a job in packaging at Finch’s Beer Co in Chicago and enrolled in a concise course in brewing technology at the Seibel Institute. After a two-month internship as brewer’s assistant, Ali returned to her hometown Denver in November and joined the bottling line at Left Hand.
While applying for jobs, however, Ali had also interviewed with Renegade and apparently knocked their socks off, as she soon was offered the assistant brewer’s position at the Denver microbrewery. When their former head brewer stepped down in June, Ali was the obvious replacement, and has easily taken the reigns as “Chairlady of the Brew.”
Ali’s first full 15-bbl recipe as head brewer, Alpha Maiden, a Hoppy American Wheat, was just released this past week, and is available both at the brewery and at Renegade Publik House.
Read on to find out more about Alpha Maiden and what makes this refreshingly modest head brewer tick. Oh, and of course we found out what the Chairlady of the Brew drinks.
Why did you choose to do a Hoppy American Wheat for your first full brew?
We needed a lower gravity beer to fill a tap and I thought a wheat beer would be a good addition to the line, but I don’t like the typical estery, banana wheat beers. I wanted something really different and I ended up with Alpha Maiden. It’s 30% wheat with lots of Cascade and Citra hops – it’s well balanced between the wheat, bitterness, and citrusy, grapefruit hop aromas. It has the hoppiness of a pale ale, but the body of a wheat beer.
What is your favorite part of brewing?
My favorite part is that every day is different. I like all parts of the process, from actually brewing to cleaning and packaging. I like Renegade’s size because I get to be involved in all parts of the process.
What is your favorite beer you’ve brewed at Renegade?
Alpha Maiden! Or Hammer and Sickle [Russian Imperial Stout]
What do you drink when you get off work?
Apostate [American IPA], Alpha Maiden, or King of Spain [Half Redacted Rye IPA, Half Una Mas Poblano Chili beer]
What is your favorite style of beer both to drink and brew?
I’m a big fan of session beers, but brewing high gravity beers is a little more fun. Elevation [Triple IPA], is really fun to brew.
Do you have a favorite beer in general?
Cantillon Fou’Foune or Telluride Face Down Brown
What are you hobbies outside of brewing? I heard wind of step-dancing?
Outside of work I like to hang out with my dog Wanda and spend time outside hiking, camping, skiing, gardening, all of those Colorado activities. I do Irish step dance, just for fun now… My competition days are long over.