Kathryn Takats spends much of her workday at the Pearl Street Grill and Brewery behind a glass wall, clambering over the huge metal brewing vats in rubber boots and jeans.
That doesn't stop customers from telling her that she doesn't look like a beer maker. "I don't fit the description, in any way, shape or form," said Takats, Pearl Street's assistant brewer.
What you can't see is her passion for craft beer, which started as a college student but really kicked off a couple of years ago. She spent an hour talking beer with a stranger at a party. He turned out to be Earl Ketry, Pearl Street owner, who ended up inviting her to apply for a job.
He warned her repeatedly it was tough, physical work. Takats, a former rower for Buffalo Seminary, wasn't intimidated.
"I could get an easier job and make the same money. But I'm passionate about this," she said. "I've become essentially addicted to it. I love it."
You have a degree in studio art and ceramics?
"I knew, going into it, it was going to be my side work, it was never going to be my career. I own my own kiln, and when I have free time I get to play around a little bit."
Do people still see beer as a guy thing?
"There's something fantastic about being able to use the judgments put on me. People assume that most girls don't like beer. Or we're not interested in a dark beer, or a hoppy beer. It's been great to talk to women in the brewery and find them the beer that they're really interested in, to find a beer that's right for them."
How much heavy lifting is involved in one 500-gallon batch?
"You start by loading your grains, so you're moving bagged specialty malts early in the morning, probably a couple hundred pounds there. Later on in the day I empty out the mash tub, and that mash is a thousand pounds of grain that have been soaked."
You empty that one shovel at a time? Ouch.
"In reality I am moving a few thousand pounds in a day."
Ketry wasn't kidding [about the hard work].
"When I tell people I'm a brewer, they don't know really what I'm talking about, they think that I'm making it up. I don't fit the description, in any way, shape, or form. Until I flex, people have no idea I even lift the weight, much less anything."
You've developed arm muscles?
"I definitely have some guns."
Second career: arm-wrestling.
"That's hilarious. When I met Earl and he was telling me it was very physical, me, being the personality that I am, offered to arm-wrestle him. I said, 'Do you want to see what I can do?' He just laughed and had me come in."