Things we learned:
- Georgia has some archaic beer laws.
- @CraftyBeerMaven drives a Toyota Tundra named Brienne.
- Pink hair is a good way to get someone’s attention.
- Sprayberry Bottle Shop is one of Atlanta’s hidden gems.
- The Pink Boots Society is celebrating their 10th Anniversary.
You can’t miss Mikaelaa Crist. Over the past several years, the tattooed, pink-haired beer aficionado has built a name for herself on Instagram as @CraftyBeerMaven, posting photos of herself rock climbing, at beer festivals, or—in one of her most popular pictures—dressed in an all-pink Storm Trooper costume, a bandolier of beers around her waist. Most recently, Crist is a finalist for the World of Beer Drink It Internship, which would pay her $12,000 to fly around the world and write about beer. We hopped on the phone with the now Atlanta resident to talk dogs, trucks, and Georgia beer laws.
Mikaelaa Crist: I’m allergic to Georgia and I can’t stop coughing so sorry about that. There’s pollen everywhere.
Kenny Gould: That’s okay. Give us some context for how you became @CraftyBeerMaven.
MC: Well, about four years ago, I was engaged. I went on a plane ride, had a conversation with a stranger, and decided that I shouldn’t be engaged anymore.
MC: Yeah, I was flying from northern California out to Georgia to help my sister move across the country. So I flew back, went to my fiancé’s place, and said, “I think we should postpone the wedding.” Everyone knew it wasn’t right. I just needed a little push. That night, I drove to my friend’s house in Santa Cruz. I put my resumé on Atlanta Craigslist. A few days later, I got a call for a marketing job at a startup. So I packed up my dog and everything I owned and moved.
KG: That’s crazy. And you got engaged again?
MC: Two weeks before I was supposed to move back to California, I met the love of my life at a house party and decided to stay in Georgia. We’re getting married in October.
KG: Congratulations. And what are you doing now?
MC: I’m the craft beer portfolio manager for a company called Craft Beer Direct. My biggest priority is recruiting breweries to go to the South. A lot of people don’t want to come to Georgia because we have a lot of archaic laws.
Just this year we passed law SB 85, which allows for direct sales at licensed breweries. Before that, you couldn’t actually go into a Georgia brewery and order a pint of beer. You had to get a wristband and go on a “tour,” and then you get a take-home tour souvenir.
KG: That’s worse than Pennsylvania.
MC: It’s bad. You’re only allowed so much to drink in the brewery, and only allowed so much to take home. But that’s changing. When I moved out here originally, you couldn’t buy alcohol on Sundays. Now you can get it after 12:30 p.m.
MC: I was a health and fitness blogger. Healthy recipes, challenges, stuff like that. I had 3,000 or 4,000 followers, which wasn’t bad. But 3 years ago mid-August, I broke my back [so the fitness blogging had to go on hold.] I always loved beer; I’m from Santa Rosa and when I was younger I’d always go to Russian River. So I thought, I’m going to start posting all the cool beers I drink. And it blew up. It got crazy really fast. Last year around this time I was at 9,000 followers; now I’m almost at 25,000.
KG: And you also got your signature pink hair.
MC: Growing up, I was very much a tomboy. I worked on cars, built stuff, played in the mud. Even now, I drive a big ass truck. A lot of my friends are guys. I have bridesmen at my wedding.
But I like being a girl. With my hair, I wanted to say, “I can have pink hair and kick ass and do all the things I love to do.” That’s how it started and now I use it for my personal branding. Actually, the other day I had a doctor’s appointment and while I was in the waiting room, a doctor walked by and said, “Are you Crafty Beer Maven?” He was like 65 but he recognized me. I want to be approachable. I love, love, love when people come talk to me. I’ve met so many people because because of my hair.
KG: If you could have a beer with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
MC: My hero is Bart Starr. He’s an old quarterback from the Packers who led them to their first and second Superbowls. He got shit on his whole life and still became this awesome, positive force. He started a non-profit for kids. I’d love to shake his hand. He’s so humble and amazing. We all get shit on, we all get slighted, and the way you react makes you who you are.
KG: What’s the best lesson that beer has taught you?
MC: Don’t be an asshole. In this industry, everyone knows each other. If you’re a dick, someone’s going to find out. I won’t go into names, but there’s a brewery in California and the owner posted something sexist. And once that blew over, someone found a super racist post on his Facebook. If I’m in the public eye, I want to be a good role model. It’s so easy to make a negative impact on the world — why not try to make a positive one?
KG: Let’s go back to the Georgia beer scene. What are some hidden gems in Atlanta?
MC: Brick Store is a craft beer spot in Decatur. They always have an absolute killer list, the food is good, and the people that work there are awesome. We also have a lot of cool bottle shops. The owner of Sprayberry Bottle Shop in Marietta is a friend of mine, so I have to give him a shoutout. The quality of the bottle list is incredible. You always find crazy stuff that you can’t find anywhere else. He’s also a funny dude; he has a sign out front that he changes all the time. He had one about a month ago: “Vodka, healthier than a salad.” This soccer mom got pissed but he kept it out.
KG: Other than the changing beer laws, what are you most excited about regarding the Atlanta beer scene?
MC: I’m really stoked about New Realm Brewing Company, Mitch Steele’s new brewery (Editor’s note: Mitch Steele is the former brewmaster of Stone Brewing in Escondido, California). It’s going to be right on the Beltline. In California, we’d go brewery hopping on bikes, which was very communal and a good way to meet up with people. I think that by opening a brewery on the Beltline, we’ll be able to do that in Atlanta. Monday Night Brewing is also opening a second location on the Beltline so I’m stoked about that.
KG: And what are you excited about in the beer scene, in general?
MC: There are more and more women in beer and it’s normal. I mean, every once in a while someone will say something weird. One of my friends, she’s 5’1 and can deadlift 195 pounds. She loves stouts and sometimes people say things like, “Do you know how many calories are in that beer?” But that’s changing. This year, the Pink Boots Society is celebrating their 10th anniversary in San Diego, and I’m actually speaking at it. But I don’t know what I’m going to talk about yet!