Creature Captured: Erin Boydstun
You’ve probably heard the term, “it takes a village” to raise a child, and that is also the case for raising a up a craft brewery as well. As of right now, we have about 75 folks on our staff – full and part time – and each one of our employees performs a vital role for our company’s successful operation. Erin Boydstun, who started as Tasting Room staff and now works as a Brewer’s Assistant is just one of those vital people.
We have been so fortunate to build an incredible staff of people who work tirelessly together to create something bigger than themselves – an industry respected craft brewery. We often reflect on how we’ve done this and consider how we’ve gotten to this point with so many great people. We decided that capturing and sharing these Creature stories is something we would like to do more frequently. Recently, we sat down with Erin to discuss how and why she’d come to live in Athens and ultimately work at Creature Comforts.
CCBC: When did you first start working at Creature Comforts?
EB: I actually interviewed in December of 2015 or January of 2016 for an Assistant Brewer position but did not get. I had been homebrewing with my father my whole life and in the process of writing that cover letter is when I decided that this was the job I really wanted. During the process of writing that cover letter is when I realized ‘this is exactly what I want to be doing’.
I love teamwork, but being assigned to a certain role. I actually really like that it’s really hot in here in the summer and gets cold in the winter – it makes the year feel more real.
Of course I love beer and I love making beer, but one of the things that I love about this industry is the fact that there’s always an avenue for something you can learn. I get really bored, and then when I get bored I get frustrated and want to do something else.
And I’m such a newb – after I applied and got a phone call from Adam that I was getting an interview for the Assistant Brewer position and after I hung up I immediately freaked out a little bit and I had to go reread my cover letter and resume because I thought to myself ‘I must have blatantly lied. Did I say that I worked 10 years at Sierra Nevada or something?’ I was terrified. So I went into the interview with Katie and Adam and they were super nice, but at some point I was like ‘this is a joke, right?’ And, of course, I didn’t get the job because I was super underqualified, but I got this long, page-length letter from Adam that was really sweet asking if I was willing to start out on Tour Staff and that he really wanted me on their team. It took a few months to get officially started in the Tasting Room where I first started working as Tour Staff and I think I had been there about a month or so Drew (our Lead Cellarman) came up to me and said ‘Hey! Don’t get too excited, we don’t have anything yet, but if you’re interested we want to get you on packaging’. So for a bit I was still doing the books for a couple of businesses in Athens on top of working in the Tasting Room and then packaging. And then I sold my shares of the salon that I owned and people kind of assume that I have worked here for a really long time or since the beginning, but I always tell them ‘No actually, I, uh, owned a hair salon’, so it’s kind of funny and comes to a surprise to people.
CCBC: What kind of job experiences do you have?
EB: My resume basically looks like if you took a scatter shot at a piece of paper at all possible jobs…I have been searching for what I want to do my entire life. I’ve worked at horse farms, hair salons, tree farms, non-profits, childcare, the print industry for a long time, bookkeeping – I helped my friend start a bookkeeping business – just a wide gamut of different things. But usually in a year or two I’d say to myself ‘Ugh. Yeah, no, this isn’t it. This isn’t it.’ So, in my 20s I was super frustrated about not being able to settle down and stick with something, which now I know was the right decision because I’ve found myself here and this is exactly what I want to be doing.
The salon I helped open is called Washington Square and it’s doing really well, so that is exciting. They have two apprentices now and they’re really invested in giving young people opportunities without them having to go to cosmetology school which can be really expensive.
I have degrees from the New College of Florida in History, Philosophy, and Political Science, which have almost nothing to do with what I’m doing now.
I graduated college in 2007 right into the recession when there were no jobs. I sort of fluttered around because it was hard to find jobs at the time.
I went back to Gainesville to live after school and after a year of not finding a job I flipped a coin – best out of three – between Bend, OR, Austin, TX, and Athens, GA. I knew not a soul here when I moved here and found a place on Craigslist. I ended up moving to Athens with the idea that I’d be here for a couple years. And I had been here for a couple of years and really liked it and started creating a little community.
CCBC: You flipped a coin to figure out where to live?
EB: Yes! (laughs)
CCBC: What other things do you enjoy doing besides helping to make excellent beer?
EB: I’m pretty outdoors-y so I like backpacking and rock climbing. I always said to myself if I ever become a bajillionaire I’ll get a cabin out there [in Alaska] that I can fly to. The summers are so cool because there’s always sunlight.
I like learning all the time and like I said I get bored easily, so I have maybe a thousand hobbies – painting, crocheting, photography – I actually did photography for a really long time – and there are a lot of artistic crafts I really enjoy doing. Also, I love the outdoors and backpacking, camping, and hiking. I used to help train dogs and worked out of a training facility. I used to horseback ride and teach. And I’m an avid reader. I’m re-reading The Golden Compass. That book set the tone for me back in 1997 for what a good book was and I had not re-read it. It’s about this girl who’s very precocious who oversteps her bounds all the time, so I remember having dreams when I read in when I was in 7th grade about her world and it was the coolest thing. So, I’m re-reading that and it totally holds up! I also really enjoy traveling.
CCBC: Do you have a favorite trip or place you like to go?
EB: I did a 3-month road trip around the US with my best friend. We bought a 1977 Plymouth station wagon with the wood paneling. We took it all around the country. There were three rules though: no cell phone or technology, no interstates, and no chains, so we couldn’t go to any kind of chain establishment. And I remember we were in Seattle in the neighborhood called Ballard and it reminded me a lot of Athens and I said to myself ‘you know, I kind of miss Athens!’ Because the trip was kind of about finding the new place we wanted to move and I was realized I was excited to go back to Athens. And every time I’ve traveled I’ve always been excited to come back here, which I’ve never felt about any town ever. So, then I bought my house here and I’m not going anywhere anytime soon. Which was another exciting thing about finding the job here at Creature Comforts is that I didn’t have to leave Athens to do that.
I was a nanny for a family in Oconee County and the father was first generation Italian so they went back to see their extended family and I went with them so I broke off for two weeks and traveled through France and Austria by myself, which was awesome. And I lived in Alaska for about 9 months which was really cool.
CCBC: What’s your favorite CCBC beer?
EB: I drink by far the most of Bibo. I truly don’t have a favorite. Emergence is probably my favorite bottle that we’ve done that I have had, but it really depends on the time of day and what I’m doing. Reclaimed Rye is my favorite to pair with food. Tropicalia is my night cap. And Bibo and Athena are both super refreshing and quenching. I’m partial to light beers. I’ve gone through a long journey of different beers. One of my first favorite craft beers ever was Dogfish Head 60 Minute. I was a super hop-head and then that gave way to getting into dark beers and then I got really into saisons and farmhouse beers, which segued into sours and I have never really left the sour train. During that whole time though I was always partial to PBR. I mean, now that I have access to Bibo I will drink that instead. (Laughs)
CCBC: Do you have an especially memorable experience of working here?
EB: One of my favorite, sweet memories was the first time I dry-hopped with Drew he was up on the tank and he said ‘congratulations on being the first female dry-hopper in Creature Comforts history!’ and that was really sweet. Drew is definitely the default Dad of the production staff – he took a picture to send to me of my first dry-hopping, so that was pretty adorable. (Laughs) Brewing is really fun and interesting. As soon as you get something down you learn about this totally other thing you have to do and you think ‘I just got good at the other thing!’ But I really enjoy it. I’ve been doing sanitary connections between the tanks which is kind of terrifying because your moving all the beer so for me it’s very nerve racking because I’m such a perfectionist, so I can’t have any errors and also…you can’t have any errors! So, it’s difficult, but I really enjoy having something physically tangible where I can say ‘I accomplished that!’ That is something overall that I really enjoy.
And definitely when I was working on tour staff, there were several times when I remember sitting at the picnic tables and getting into conversations with other staff that just would get weirder and more personal and then the sun would start to come up and the birds would start chirping and everyone would say ‘Oh, we should go home! We have to be back here soon….’ (Laughs)
CCBC: Have you had any interesting interactions when you tell people that you work in brewing?
EB: The most I got that was when I was a tour guide in the Tasting Room and people would start asking me questions and I’d answer them and they’d say really surprised ‘Oh you sure know a lot!’ and start asking about my job or if I had other jobs and I would tell them I was also a brewer’s assistant and sometimes they’d get taken aback, but then would usually say ‘That’s awesome! Good for you!’
It’s cool because I’m physically stronger than I’ve ever been. I used to rock climb a lot and that was the strongest I ever was until I started working here and now I’m pretty sure this is the strongest I’ve ever been.
CCBC: You mentioned brewing with your father growing up. Is that where your love of beer originated?
EB: The whole reason I’m into beer is because of my father who homebrewed my entire childhood, so I’ve always been around it. And when I really started thinking about that I realized that that was not exactly normal. It had always been something I sort of took for granted. So, I’ve always been around beer and started homebrewing in college, which made me very popular. I’ve brewed some really bad beers and one of my first beers was so, so bitter – an unintentional double IPA. So, I homebrewed on and off for a long time. I’m not nearly as skilled at it as other people are. My dad was a scientist by trade and is now retired and he created a small woodshop which basically works as a little brewery.
CCBC: So, is it safe to say your father is proud of you working here?
EB: Yeah, my dad is super proud of me. And my mom as well and they’ve always supported me in my changing jobs. They always said “fine, whatever you want to do!” And every time my dad comes into town we always go to Trappeze (Pub) and spend way too much money and then walk home.
By: Shannon Vinson