My favorite way to describe Tessa Rogers is that she is a warrior.
While at St. Olaf Tessa played on the rugby team. Last fall, legend has it, she separated her shoulder in an afternoon match, but still made it to the brewery that evening, on time, to work her shift.
If I separated my shoulder, not only would you not see me at the brewery that night, it might be a month before I showed up again. But that’s Tessa: this woman is as tough and determined as they come.
But she’s also much more than that. She’s a great bartender and an even better co-worker. Tessa has this uncanny ability to anticipate the mistakes I’m about to make before I make them. Once, when somebody gave me a $20 for a round of beers, I started making change for a $50. Tessa, standing right next to me, but talking with someone across the bar, stopped in mid-sentence looked at me, said “That was a twenty,” and went right back to the order she was taking.
She does things like this all the time.
She graduated from St. Olaf in May with a degree in Chemistry, and has been quickly scooped up by Randy to help with the quality control in the brewing process.
So, how has she enjoyed the transition from student with a part-time job to helping out in the brewhouse every day.
“I’m tired,” she said.
“I never hit a reset button. I just sort of eased from living on campus to living in town part time and on campus part time. This was while I was still in school. Then I graduated, so then my family was here (from her home town of Bellingham, Washington) and then Wyatt got here. And then I went straight to work. There was no summer. There was no break.
“I’ll do that later,” she said. “I thought I could totally pull this off and so far it’s fine.”
Wyatt, by the way, is her partner Wyatt Parks. “It’s been two years of long distance for us,” she said. He moved to Northfield as soon as Tessa graduated. With a strong background in farming operations, he quickly found a job as a manager with the Main Street Project.
“They’re expanding their operations and they needed someone with a commercial farming,” she said.
So, now she has her degree and is working as a chemist in the brewhouse. Her favorite person has come to Northfield to join her, and he’s found gainful employment in his field of choice. It all sounds pretty good. So what’s next?
“Uggh,” she said.
“Everyone always asks what the plan is. I don’t know. It’s still developing itself
“Figuring out my role in the brewhouse is still kind of a thing. Metabolically I understand what’s happening with the yeast; that’s my niche. But, I haven’t been exposed to too many different styles of beer; just what we have in the brewhouse. We have our flagships – our ales – versus using things like Wit yeast or Caisson yeast.”
That experience will come, however.
“Eventually I’m hoping to use this experience, either with the team here or with another team or, with my own team (who knows?) to branch out from the norm in terms of things like yeast and hops and temperature use.”
She mentions having her own team. One of her goals is to be a part of – if not operate – an all female brewing operation.
“Yeah, I do think that’s important. There’s lot’s of things like Pink Boots Society that are doing good things for females. But more can be done, on more of a ground level thing.”
The microbrewing/craft brewing industry is much more entrenched in Washington than it is in Minnesota. Part of the reason Tessa chose to stay in Minnesota after graduating is because she has found it isn’t easy for a woman to get involved in the beer industry out there.
“Because the industry is still growing here, there is still room for females. Back home, it’s so ingrained [that this is a male dominated thing.] You must have a beard. You’re a Beer Bro. That’s not to say your company isn’t doing awesome things; there are tons of breweries that donate and participate in the community and do wonderful things for LGTBQ youths and the homeless and whatnot, but getting my foot in the door is next to impossible.
“And here I can learn and grow with everyone else, which is awesome. It’s unlike anywhere else, and why go anywhere else and start over when I’ve already got everything I want to start with?”
It’s not always easy for a woman – particularly a woman of color – to make a lot of headway in this industry, or, let's face it, any industry. But, that warrior spirit she has seems to thrive on the challenge.
Minnesota, and Imminent in particular, she says, has embraced her and given her some opportunity that would have been harder to come by elsewhere.
“You guys are the only group of people I know who could get a Washingtonian to move permanently to Minnesota.
“Put that on your resumes, kids.”