Kristy Holsopple has a passion for many things — family, cooking, adventure … and alcoholic beverages. Beer, whiskey, tequila and other libations have played a significant role in Kristy’s life during the past 16 years. She’s worked for a number of breweries across the country, and she’s currently a senior scientist at Brown-Forman, where she’s been for eight years. Nearly three years ago she and her husband, Sam Gambill, took the plunge and decided to open their own place, Holsopple Brewery. Kristy is not only an owner, but she also holds the role of quality manager. The couple is very excited about bringing their liquid creations to the Louisville area. So, let’s pour a cold one and learn how their brewery is quenching the city’s thirst for great beer. Meet this week’s FACE of Louisville, Kristy Holsopple.
What is your educational background?
I attended the University of Pittsburgh, where I received my degree in biology. I originally had plans to go to dental school. When I finished, I wanted to take a break and not go on to do another six to eight years of school. I was trying to think about what I could do lab-wise. I knew I liked science, so I wanted to try to use my skills in some field, then decide later if I wanted to go back to dental school, which I did not.
How did you get your start in the alcohol beverage industry?
I moved to Cincinnati where I began my career in brewing, starting at Samuel Adams, in a microbiologist position. I was at Sam Adams for about two years when my boss moved to Miller Brewing north of Cincinnati. I transitioned to Miller where I worked in the quality control lab doing research projects and fermentation quality control testing. At that point, I met my future husband. He had attended Ohio State studying molecular genetics, and then he went on to get his master’s in food science, with an emphasis on brewing, from UC-Davis. He wanted to return to the west coast, so we moved. I got a job at Full Sail Brewing Company in Hood River, Oregon, and was there for five years. After that, I received a job offer from Brown-Forman, so we made the decision to move back this way.
Had you ever even had thoughts about going into this line of work?
It was definitely not on my radar. I didn’t even think about the yeast part of brewing or the science of brewing. I lucked into finding the opportunity at Sam Adams, and it was a good fit. I started on the ground floor there and have been working my way up ever since.
What do you enjoy about working in the alcoholic beverage industry?
I’m making products that people use to entertain and to have a good time with their friends and family. It’s a product you can be proud of. If I were working in a micro lab in a hospital doing routine testing, it would not be as enjoyable as making beer.
What made you and Sam decide to start your own brewery?
It’s been my husband’s passion since that’s what he went to school for. I was hesitant because we were starting a family, and we were in a new town, but it all kind of fell into place. We saw the brewing industry moving from Oregon to Louisville, but it’s drastically different between here and there. The brewing industry in Oregon was very well-established and defined at that time, and here in Louisville, there weren’t as many breweries. We saw that there was an opportunity to bring a new brewery into our part of town.
Tell us about the products your brewery offers.
We wanted to have a good variety of beers available because we understand that not everyone likes one style of beer, so we try to have a good range. All of our beers are made on-site. We have cider, a very light pilsner, and a fun thing that I’ve been a part of is creating the milkshake IPAs. It’s been fun coming up with different flavors. The most recent one was the raspberry milkshake IPA, which won the award for the best beer at the recent Craft Beer Throwdown.
What are the challenges of running your own business?
You’re in charge of everything. You need to understand the POS (point of sale) system, or if the toilet overflows on a Saturday night, you have to go in and take care of it. You’re in charge of marketing and sales. These are things that we’d never dealt with before.
Have you come across many women who work in this industry?
It’s definitely male-centric, but there are more and more women getting into it, which is nice to see. The percentage is still pretty low, but it’s more than it was 16 years ago when I first started.
What would you say to women who have an interest in entering into this field?
Depending upon what you want to do, there are positions that don’t require degrees, especially if you’re starting in a small place. I recommend doing home brewing to understand the process. I would say that the average person doesn’t understand how much goes into making a beer, how much science is involved. It’s definitely worth trying or shadowing someone to see how things are done, and then going from there.
Switching gears, what do you and your family like to do for fun?
We love Louisville — it’s kind of a hidden gem. It really wasn’t on our radar when we were thinking about moving back this way. But, when the job opportunity came up, we moved here and have loved it ever since. There’s so much to do with our kids. We go to the zoo, the Bats games, and the parks. We’re always out and about.
Do you have any hobbies?
I enjoy gardening and good food. We love to grow fruit, vegetables and herbs. We cook a lot at home. We’ve been perfecting our pizza dough recipe and make homemade pizzas.
Do you have any favorite restaurants in town?
Is there any advice you’ve been given that you treasure?
I had a boss who once told me, “Don’t ask someone to do something that you aren’t willing to do yourself.” It’s a good lesson to follow. He was always one who would lead by example.
Besides faith, family and friends, what are three things you can’t live without?
Travel, food and coffee, and music
Thank you, Kristy. And thank you to the fabulous Gretchen Bell of Gretchen Bell Photography for the great pictures.
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