One of the products of the Craft Maltsters Guild’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force, launched in 2021, was the Craft Malt Con Online Scholarship. Offered alongside the 2022 Craft Malt Conference, held virtually in February, the scholarship program gave three individuals from underrepresented communities the opportunity to attend the online conference and receive a one-year individual membership with the Guild. The applicants spanned industries and experience levels, and all demonstrated passion for learning more about craft malt– choosing just three was a challenge.

Jen Ireland was one of the scholarship recipients. She was drawn to malting and brewing because of her interest in the science of the brewing process. She’s currently working as a brewer’s assistant and diving in head-on to opportunities to learn more. 

Before Ireland’s professional plunge into brewing, she was working in the costume department for film and television. She found herself drawn to the brewing industry because of the “magic” in the “ability to create something so many people enjoy.” 

She’s equally interested in the ability to create something unique in flavor profile. “At the craft level, there is still an opportunity for putting your stamp on the product [through terroir] and adding a little bit of individualism,” she says. 

Another aspect of the brewing industry that attracted Ireland is its supportive and cohesive community. She reflects on the generosity of information shared at the Craft Malt Conference and admires how companies across the industry work together on common goals. “In the ‘Malt Meets Distilling’ seminar, four distillers in different parts of the country demonstrated camaraderie in establishing American Single Malt whiskey,” she says. “All these folks illustrated some of the unique ways to engage and contribute to the craft malt community and all the people and roles it takes to keep it going.” 

Aspiring professional brewers, distillers, and maltsters face the conundrum of needing experience to get hired; and needing to get hired to earn experience. Receiving the Craft Malt Conference scholarship provided an opportunity Ireland says helps differentiate her professional development. 

Ireland is constantly consuming information about the brewing process, which includes internships, classes, YouTube videos, and asking lots of questions at work in the brewhouse. “I keep learning to become a confident member of the brew team. Each new experience like the Craft Malt Conference adds to that.” 

The 2023 Craft Malt Conference will be March 17-18 in Portland, Maine. Two scholarship applicants will be selected to attend the in-person conference with a travel stipend. Stay tuned for an announcement later this year about when the scholarship application period opens, and contact [email protected] for more information.