By Stevi Cameron at RadCraft 

Meet our 2022 Craft Malt Con Online scholarship recipients! First up, introducing Maany Ramanan.

Maany Ramanan is a doctoral candidate at the University of California, Davis studying brewing and craft malting. She’s a problem-solver, a trailblazer, and a risk-taker dedicated both to malt quality and to creating a future for women and people of color in the industry. 

Born in South India and growing up in a conservative farming family, Ramanan faced an arranged marriage and a very different future before she defied the wishes of her family and moved to Australia. While the sacrifice of estrangement from her family was immense, she says she has been driven to preserve her freedom, and the freedom of all women, to be successful in their careers. This incredible resilience motivates her aspirations in the malt industry. 

Part of Ramanan’s calling to work in craft malt came from listening to a talk on diversity and inclusion led by two successful women speaking in a UC Davis brewing class. “I was shocked to discover the vast under-representation of women (7 percent) and women of color (2 percent) in management,” she says. “As a woman of color, I am keen to promote women’s leadership within the craft malt industry, by creating awareness and being vocal about my observations within the workplace.” 

Ramanan wants to promote this awareness, not only through her involvement in conferences such as the Craft Malt Conference, but also by helping fellow women of color into leadership positions, speaking up for diversity in the workplace, and guiding the industry to be more inclusive to its customers. “I am currently homebrewing novel malt beverages which are targeted at women, who are looking for a refreshing and fun alternative to traditional craft beer, wine, and cocktails” explains Ramanan. She hopes that the work she is doing now will help promote products that include a larger range of tastes in the future of brewing.

“There is no typical day when it comes to my research, which keeps me motivated and curious,” explains Ramanan. Much of her day-to-day focus is on quality ingredients and flavor, which sometimes entails field and lab work, and every so often looks like meeting with local brewers in the Berkeley area to discuss malt flavor, extraction, and more. “The flavor of any recipe (be it beer, yogurt, or a muffin!) predominantly comes from the base ingredient. Hence the provenance and quality of the base ingredient (malt being the case for beer), is of utmost importance,” she adds. 

Another of Ramanan’s key areas of study is climate change.  In her research, Ramanan explores the changing flavor of malt and how she can predict the quality of grain as the climate changes. This research could help her find better solutions to the impacts that climate change is having and provide these answers to the malting industry, not just in the United States, but across the world. “The opportunity for the craft malt industry to grow and support the craft brewing industry can be at risk due to decreased production and quality as a result of climate change,” she explains. She elucidates how, in the future, the quality of the grain vital to the craft beer that follows is at risk from global warming. 

Dr. Glen Fox, who we profiled in our Field to Bench series, is the Anheuser-Busch Endowed Professor of Malting and Brewing Sciences at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) and one of Maany’s professors in the program. The two worked closely to explore interdisciplinary approaches to problem-solving in the malting industry, including research on how the environment and genotypes can impact the quality of malt. “He has challenged me to think outside the box when it comes to malt quality, and to connect the learnings from agronomy into food chemistry to assess barley quality more effectively,” she says. 

Ramanan brings much insight on climate change to the craft malting industry, and her passion for diversification within the community shines. “One of the core values I was taught to pursue no matter where I am was ‘dare to disrupt,’” she says. “I want women of color involved in leadership roles in this industry, I’m speaking up for an inclusive work culture in malthouses and brewhouses, and I want to create product offerings that are appealing to all. In these uncertain times that we live in now, disrupting paradigms is not just ideal, but essential.”