Melissa Rose holds up a bag of Challenger hops that will be boiled in making a batch of wit beer Monday at Jokers And Rogues in Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

GARDINER — Melissa Rose likes beer, and she’s not alone.

Her job as taproom manager for Jokers & Rogues Brewing gives her unique access to the world of beer, but on Monday, she stepped up her game.

Along with Jokers & Rogues brew mates Angela Grondin, 38, and Kristen Fike, 24, she spent the day in Jokers & Rogues’ brewing facility making a wheat beer that will be for sale at Jokers & Rogues in about a month.

Their work Monday was part of Pink Boots Collaboration Brew Day 2021, an event that coincides with International Women’s Day and is designed to raise the profile of women in the beer industry. Part of the proceeds from the sale of that beer will fund the Pink Boots Society’s efforts for scholarship and education for women in the fermented/alcoholic beverage field.

“We’re beer drinkers,” Rose, 40, said. “We’ve never been brew makers.”

But that changed Monday. When working with Jokers & Rogues brewer Rick McCormick, the three spent their day crafting a witbier, or wheat beer, based on a recipe developed by Rose’s fiancé, a home brewer.

“Rick hasn’t put out a witbier yet, so we haven’t had it on tap,” she said, noting that like other women she knows, she really likes wheat beers.

Angela Grondin pours grains into the mash tub Monday at Jokers And Rogues in Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Rose, Grondin and Fike, who all live in Gardiner, work in an industry that’s dominated by men. In 2019, the Brewers Association — an organization for small and independent craft brewers — released a brewery operations benchmarking survey that showed that the majority of breweries are owned by men and men dominate the ranks of brewing staff. For the most part, serving staff tends to be more balanced between men and women.

The process of making beer goes back centuries, when it was the province of women, Rose said.

All of the staff at Jokers & Rogues is required to understand how beer is made and the differences between the types of beers to be able to answer questions from customers. But Monday’s project took Rose, Grondin and Fike beyond understanding and into doing. Under McCormick’s supervision, they were measuring grains and spices to be used in the brewing process.

“The way that you measure and weigh out the ingredients you put in beer is very precise,” Grondin said, over the din of the equipment and the music playing in the background.

Everything is also very clean and sanitized, said Fike, who moved to Gardiner from West Virginia.

“We’re learning good habits from Rick,” Rose said.

Among their most complicated tasks Monday was transferring the beer from the boiler to the fermenter while keeping it at the correct temperature.

“Scooping the grains was a fun part,” Rose said. “It’s hard work but it smells really good and feels really good.”

Angela Grondin, left, Kristin Fike, and Melissa Rose work in the basement brew room making a wit beer Monday at Jokers And Rogues in Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

The beer will stay in the fermenter for about a month, when it will be carbonated and ready to serve. The batch will be a barrel or about 31 gallons.

By the time it’s ready, not only will the weather be warmer, the restrictions imposed on taprooms by public health concerns over COVID-19 are expected to be relaxed.

John Callinan, who with McCormick is a partner is Jokers & Rogues, said the work to open the craft brewery on Water Street was well underway when the COVID-19 pandemic was declared a year ago. While public health regulations has curtailed restaurant and tasting room operations, they decided to push forward and have been selling growlers on a takeout basis during limited hours Thursdays through Saturdays.

Callinan said the brewery collaborates with home brewers to produce their beers for sale at Jokers & Rogues, with a share going to the creator.

Jokers & Rogues is currently seeking its food license from Gardiner and plans to open on a broader scale March 26, if not before.

Rather than inviting a food truck to provide food, Callinan said his craft brewery plans to prepare food on site that doesn’t compete with the existing food options available on the street.

He had enjoyed stepping back and seeing a group of people enjoying making beer.

“There’s so much stress with this COVID thing, to see a group of people having fun is wonderful,” he said.

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