The job: New Belgium's wood cellar manager Lauren Woods Salazar is tasked with perfecting one of beer's trickiest styles: sours. These fickle barrel-aged brews are generally fermented with slow-moving, often unpredictable bacteria instead of brewer's yeast, making them notoriously difficult to control. But that's no biggie for Salazar, who spends her days planning, monitoring, testing, balancing, blending, and, most importantly, tasting New Belgium's award-winning fleet. "Right now, I'm working on the 2016 Le Terroir blend. I'll start by sampling all 25 foeders [giant oak barrels full of fermenting sours]," she explains. "In the middle of my tasting, we'll have our wood cellar meeting. Then I'll do a few passes at some new flavor combinations to see how they meld together -- are they complementary? Contrasting? Am I on to something, or is this just weird? After, I'll meet with one of our brewers to write a few recipes. That's just a little insight into a 'normal' day."
Her story: Salazar joined New Belgium back in 1997, but her first job had little to do with wild fermentables. "I was an assistant to the co-founders, Kim Jordan and Jeff Lebesch, as well as just about everyone else -- depositing the bank bag, filing paperwork, registering new distribution states, whatever," she recalls. "I started the sensory program in 1999 while I was taking online courses at UC Davis in sensory science and consumer testing and, to make a long story short, that led me to tasting barrels, blending sours, and creating new brands."