Charlotte Feehan lived right around the corner from the Garage Project Brewery in Aro Valley, Wellington, when she graduated from Victoria University with a degree in Anthropology and Criminology.
In need of a job, Feehan applied for a position to be part of the brew team at Garage Project. This gave her a taste of the industry, where she is now the head brewer at Abandoned Brewery.
Beer and brewing allowed Feehan to work overseas and travel worldwide. With multiple brewing and beer-related qualifications, Feehan has developed a love for brewing and beer history and the vast impact different beer styles have had on society throughout history, keeping true to her anthropological roots.
Her introduction of beer and brewing through Garage Project gave Feehan an insight into how diverse beer can be.
"In my three years there, I can safely say that I put almost any edible adjunct into any beer style you can think of."
Cicerone certified, Feehan added that during the study for this qualification, she examined classic beer styles, where they came from, and how and why they were developed. During this process, she developed a love for old-school beer styles. She continued that beer education develops inwards from either end of the spectrum, with her brewing philosophy following the same formula.
"I am comfortable using adjuncts and pushing the bounds with beer, but I love simple, classic beer styles. Often, these styles are hard to come by in New Zealand unless you make them yourself. I enjoy being free to play with tradition and the constantly evolving New World of beer."
In her tenure at Abandoned Brewery, Feehan said the business's most significant impact had been its commitment to quality control.
Abandoned Brewery has begun running smaller batches of contract-brewed beer to ensure its beer in the market is as fresh as possible. It also runs quality control testing before the products enter the market and periodically during its market life.
Feehan emphasised that it was important to her to ensure that the beer Abandoned Brewery is producing could be relied on to be of the highest quality every time.
When describing what makes a great beer, Feehan said the most important thing was balance.
"Great beer sees all the flavour components coming together in harmony. That's not to say that one component won't be the standout aspect. However, the rest of the beer should complement and balance the drinking experience."
Feehan continued that being a brewer was less glamorous than most people thought, with much of her life spent cold and damp, hustling to put her creations in people's hands.
"Often, it can feel like we create things in a vacuum. I am a people person at heart. The most rewarding part of my job is seeing people enjoying my creations. Getting to engage with the customers and getting the opportunity to help people find the beers they like to drink."
Feehan shared some of her most significant accomplishments, including running a successful Certified Cicerone training program where out of six of her students, five passed the written portion of their exam on their first attempt and under extraordinary circumstances. She added that they were the first cohort to take their exams under the Covid online testing platform.
Becoming the head brewer of Abandoned Brewery was another significant achievement of her career. After six years of brewing other people's recipes, being able to write and brew her recipes has been a highlight. She continued that being head brewer also afforded her visibility as queer woman, giving her a platform to advocate for greater diversity within the brewing industry.
For the future, Feehan said she was excited about Abandoned Brewery relaunching its beer in cans.
"After two years with little to no pack stock, Abandoned Brewery is bringing back cans. I am very excited about making it easier for people to get their hands on our beers."