Alexa Long is killing it in a traditionally male-dominated industry as Head Brewer at Legion Brewing. She hasn’t let other people’s dismissiveness slow her down from proving herself and brewing some of Charlotte’s most popular craft beer. We sat down to find out how Alexa got into brewing, what a typical day looks like for her and how she comes up with recipes and beer names. We’re happy to introduce today’s FACE of Charlotte, Alexa Long!
We’re sure you get this all the time but how’d you get into brewing craft beer?
I developed a serious passion for craft beer in my early 20s while working at various local beer-oriented restaurants and frequenting the Flying Saucer. Not long after this passion for exploring different styles and sampling different breweries developed, I began home-brewing. This hobby led to a management position at the local home-brew store and, eventually, to my first professional brewing job at Heist Brewery.
What does a typical day look like for you?
We’re currently brewing about three days a week. A brew day takes almost the entire day and involves mashing in, sparking/lautering, boiling, knocking out, pitching yeast and, most of all, lots of cleaning. Mondays are full of meetings, managing inventory and ordering supplies. The fourth day varies but usually involves some blend of cleaning, cellar work and computer time.
When did you know you wanted to make it a career?
While I was finishing up my finance degree at UNC Charlotte, I knew that I did not want a job in finance or any traditional desk job, for that matter. I knew a handful of people in the restaurant industry that transitioned into careers as sales representatives for local distributors, breweries and food service suppliers. This is when I decided that was the route I wanted to take, as well. It wasn’t until I started home-brewing that I realized a career in brewing suited my personality and my needs much better.
What do you love most about your job?
Besides doing something every day that I’m extremely passionate about? The culture of Legion and the brewing industry as a whole. Watching others enjoy a product that we’re proud of and work so hard to create is rewarding, as well.
What’s it like being a female in a typically male-dominated industry? Any role models that have really taken you under their wings?
There have been plenty of instances where I’ve been dismissed or talked down to. I’ve noticed personally that you have to prove yourself a little more as a female in the industry than men do. Overall, I feel like an equal to other brewers, especially here in Charlotte, where a lot of us have kind of grown up together (professionally) considering the CLT beer scene is still so young.
How do you come up with the recipes and names for the beer?
For recipes, it’s a collaborative effort between all members of the brew staff. We all have a database of recipes that we’ve brewed in the past. We pull a lot from that and also take into consideration what is available locally and seasonally and what’s missing from our lineup at the time. We’re always drawing inspiration from other beers and even from food items, as well.
For names, we hold a “naming committee” before each new beer is released. Any Legion employee is welcome. We sit around a long table and drink the beer for inspiration while throwing anonymous name ideas into a hat. The names are read aloud and narrowed down to a handful before being voted on. It’s a fun time for the whole staff and very helpful for myself, as I sadly lack creativity when it comes to naming.
What’s your favorite brand of beer — besides Legion, of course?
Avery. They are one of the first breweries to introduce me to craft beer and are still one of my favorites,today. Shout Out to Fonta Flora, Wicked Weed, J Wakefield, and Tired Hands, as well. There are really too many good ones to name!
What do you like to do to relax and unwind on your days off?
I wouldn’t say I do a whole lot of relaxing, other than a weekly yoga class (typically at a brewery). Rock climbing is my main passion (other than brewing). I drink a lot of beer that I need to work off! Thus, I can typically be found climbing at the New River Gorge in West Virginia every weekend.
What’s something that people might be surprised to know about you?
Usually, it’s that I’m a brewer. That always seems to throw people off.
Favorite thing about Charlotte?
Charlotte is an awesome city. Shout Out to the continuing growth of craft beer, the brewery/fitness combo scene and affordable living. I also love its proximity to other diverse locations — the mountains are less than two hours and the beach is less than four hours. Not to mention the beautiful lakes nearby and easy access to the airport.
Best piece of advice?
Do what you love. I’m thankful to have a job that I love where I work with awesome people, have a lot of flexibility, express creativity through brewing and create a product that makes people happy. If you’re not happy with your job, find one where you are. The pay cut is priceless, if that even makes sense.
What are three things you can’t live without, aside from faith, family and friends?
Climbing, beer and ice cream.
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