Meet Amanda Little-Oaks, Hilary Robinson and Julie Lehenbauer.
Have Beer, Will Travel – Amanda
I am Amanda Little-Oaks, the Regional Sales Director for Red Lodge Ales and Last Chance PUB and Cider Mill. I am responsible for communicating and updating the wholesalers we work with in Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming. This includes, updating the beer and cider list and keeping them in the KNOW with our new products, availability and sizes. I also travel to each market to meet with sales reps from the distributors and the accounts that sell RLA products. I try to keep the retailers as happy as I can by promoting their bars and businesses. Tap takeovers, pint nights, charity events, give-a-ways, to name a few all with an AMAZING ATTIDUDE and PASSION for our beers. I’d like to think of myself as glorified Cheerleader for the brand, instead of pom-poms and cart wheels, I carry seasonal beers and ciders and average about 3000 miles in the car a month. It’s pretty awesome.
I work beside and with the Owner Sam, the Master Brewer, the GM Justin, and all of our brew crew – Jules, Will, Geno, Dylan, Mike, Madeline, Will, Tim, Andy, Cordus, Dale, and even our accountant Alan. I help generate conversations about a new canning line, new beers we could make, new territory we could take over, ideas of growth and development. I try as hard as I can to express passion and excitement about what we do in our brewery, and always thankful the men and women behind the scenes, for making my job a little easier, ensuring we are still making the most consistent and great tasting beer in Montana.
I work from the office a few days a month and from the road the rest of the time. I love meeting other people in the industry and always love asking questions about how they do this job. I think the best way of growing is by asking questions and never being afraid to say NO. Never think you know it all, always keep your promises, work together with other breweries and always SMILE!
I have worked in Retail my entire life, Shoes, Clothing etc. and Craft beer is the most competitive market I have ever had the pleasure of being in. I love the challenge of every day operations and the joy I get when people walk up to me and say “BENT NAIL IS THE ONLY BEER I DRINK” or “RED LODGE ALES MAKES SOME AMAZING BEERS, WHY DON’T YOU HAVE MORE BEER IN MT TOWN?” Trust me folks, I am working as hard as I can to get you the beer you want. Just keep asking your local bars to get it, and I will be there to bring it!
Brew Master to Cider Master – Hilary
BILLINGS – Last Chance Pub & Cider Mill’s new “fresh from the Flathead” cider maker is excited to go to press! Hilary Kaye Robinson recently made her way here from Flathead Lake Woods Bay Brewery where she was the brewer, to press apples for cider for this year’s offerings at LCPCM.
World traveler. Why in the heck does one leave the Flathead Valley for Billings, we asked? Well, Hilary was born in Germany to military parents originally from Kansas. After living in a few other military locales, the family relocated back to Kansas to settle permanently. At age 19, in college with no idea what education path to follow, Hillary realized that she wanted the adventure of various cultures. First, she experienced New Zealand. Her thought was to travel for a year then return to K.U. She realized she was hooked on recreation and the adventure of world travel. Australia and New Zealand, followed! Next, back to the states, Colorado maybe? “Nah, I can’t go back to Kansas”.
From oceans to mountains. After working her way through various continents in the hospitality industry, she chose Big Fork, trading ocean views of past travels to the beautiful lakes and mountain ranges of Montana. She worked various positions at a couple resorts and inns in Big Fork and Whitefish, then gained employment waitressing at the new Big Fork location of Flathead Lake Brewing Company. Hilary was soon assisting the brewing crew with anything and everything- from washing kegs to the canning line. Not only did she find the crew fun to work with, she truly was interested in the whole process. What about waitressing? Not so much!
The excitement of returning to school. By 2014 Flathead Community College debuted the 2-year Brewing Science and Brewery Operation Course. Tim Jacoby, xxbrewer at FLBC at the time, was an adjunct instructor for the program. He recognized Hilary’s willingness to work hard and learn and encouraged her to enroll. While attending the program’s first year course ever, she interned at the FHLB Woods Bay location, assisting the brewer by cellaring and serving. After graduating, she permanently became the brewer!
Fresh Beginning. Fast Forward to the present. I loved working for Flathead Lake Brewing Company but I needed a change. Experiencing “cabin fever” again, I happened to meet Amanda Little- Oakes of Red Lodge Ales at a brew-fest. She was telling me that Red Lodge Ales was looking to hire a brewer AND a cider master. My interest was piqued. I interviewed for both, ultimately the cider master intrigued me more.
Show time. At the time of press Hilary and the crew is readying for production. Although there are many similarities between brewing beer and cider, cider is seasonal with higher PH levels and alcohol volume, meaning it can be stored and served much longer. The equipment is a bit different too! No more standing over HOT boiling brew! Hilary will be cold pressing apples from orchards throughout Montana and Washington then will be continually cleaning, monitoring and cellaring.
More to come. Spending the morning with Hilary proved to be not only educational but great fun. She is gregarious, witty and eager to jump right in her latest career endeavor. As we at 406 HOPSBN are new to Cider, we will be learning more about the ensuing process. Watch for our Blogs, not only will we educate about Cider, but we think Hilary herself is newsworthy too!
Find Me Where the Wild Things Are – Julie
RED LODGE – Meet Julie Lehenbauer of Red Lodge Ales. Born and raised in Iowa with an older sister and older brother, Julie comes from solid Midwestern stock. She attended college at the Kansas City Art Institute, where she gained an appreciation for everything crafted by hand.
During school, she made a friend that offered the opportunity to spend a summer working in Alaska. Yearning for the mountains and all of the recreation available, she decided to go! This is where she was introduced to the hobby popular with many Alaskans- Homebrewing. She fell in love with the process of handcrafting brews that she could call her own.
After three years of playing hard and working harder up north, she returned to Iowa. Julie cherished the time spent with her family, and gained a deeper appreciation of home. While rediscovering her childhood town, Julie worked behind the tap room bar at Great River Brewing. Quickly she jumped right into conducting the brewery tours and shortly thereafter, she was promoted to canning and cellaring. For two years Julie worked long hours. On days off she enjoyed trail running, mountain biking, and boating on the Mississippi. Again, a whole new perspective of Iowa and home.
But, the inevitable yearn for the mountains was mightier than her Iowa Mississippi river. The wilderness was calling.
She found an advertisement on Probrewer.com for a cellaring position posted by Sam Hoffman of Red Lodge Ales. Julie had never been to Montana but was certain it would be a perfect fit offering backpacking, snowboarding, and the mountain town lifestyle! She applied and was awarded the position. The whole experience was daunting at first, she had never encountered Red Lodge Ales. Her first reaction- Wow! Solid beer. Starting from the ground up and having the home brewing and cellaring experience was helpful, but it was important to Julie to learn every aspect of Red Lodge Ales’ operation! Julie’s Mantra; When one knows the entire process, one can understand the science and nuances of the beer.
When Julie was asked about brewing challenges she talked of the rye styles, particularly the 1891 Summer Ale- a beer with a hefty rye bill. When a recipe includes a high percentage of rye (or any hull-less grain), rice hulls are used to aid in a smooth lauter, without the hulls, the mash will become stuck. The science of the process is different from other styles – it’s not so much a challenge but a different step needed, which made for a great trial and error. Also, the recent Hop Harvest warrants a wet hop process. In early September breweries invite the community to gather for a harvest celebration. Hops are gathered from backyards, picked from the vine, dried and added whole to the wort, the end result is different every time!
Julie’s favorite part of working at Red Lodge Ales is everyone is family. At this time, the brewing is performed by her and one other brewer. Soon though, others will be added and any employee showing interest and potential can certainly be promoted within. If an employee shows talent in any aspect of the operation, they are recognized for their particular talents. Take, for instance, Amanda Little-Oaks. Amanda was a server with an impressive knack for retail, they even joked that Amanda could sell popsicles to a woman wearing white gloves. Amanda is now and has been for quite some time, their enthusiastic outside sales representative. She travels extensively and executes sales to retail accounts and distributors, all the while knowing Red Lodge Ales products and the equipment’s inner workings, backward and forward!
Sam’s team has one another’s backs and are proud to be part of the Red Lodge community. In the calmer months, they go as a group to visit local establishments and accounts to show their support, express gratitude and have a great time together. As for Sam and his family, they also have strong ties to the community and the many other surrounding towns. From various fundraisers and Pint Nights benefiting the Red Lodge Women’s Shelter, for example, Sam and Red Lodge Ales can be counted on!
We had a fantastic time visiting with Julie, one can tell she fits right into Red Lodge Ales company, she appreciates and takes seriously her responsibilities, the comradery, and loves the area! Stop in and say hello as everyone is made to feel part of the community!
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