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Sept. 21 , 2007 | What she's on is a beer tour

"HAVE RUBBER boots, will travel and brew" is Teri Fahrendorf's motto this summer. They're pink rubber boots, by the way, and by the end of this week, she will have pulled them on at 54 different breweries.

The former head brewer at Steelhead Brewing, Eugene, Ore., Fahrendorf is halfway through an epic, five-month expedition to meet and share pints with brewers across America. Chugging along in a Chevy Astro van with a tiny, 15-foot camping trailer in tow, she passed through the Philadelphia area this week on her way to yet another brewery.

"I'm meeting all kinds of folks and making great connections," she said during a breather in the parking lot at Dogfish Head Brewing in Milton, Del. "I'm having such a great time . . . You know, I don't think very many women would ever even attempt a trip like this by themselves."Teri Fahrendorf in her pink boots, outside Dogfish Head Brewery in Delaware.

Indeed, Fahrendorf, 47, is one of the few female brewers in America (she estimates there are perhaps 30).

At each brewery, she pulls on her now-trademark pink boots, as an affirmation that - even in this manly profession - there's still room for women. "No man," she says in her distinctive Wisconsin accent, "would ever wear pink boots."

Fahrendorf has been brewing professionally since 1988, but her love of beer began well before that. She remembers getting her first sip at the dinner table when she was 9. By 20, she was making her own wine.

She is a certified master brewer and a graduate of the highly respected Siebel Institute in Chicago. She's a beer judge, author and speaker. And her suds are good: Her recipes have won eight medals at the Great American Beer Festival.

For 17 years, she was brewmaster at Steelhead, where she built a reputation for collaborating with other brewers in Eugene. When she quit that job earlier this year, the idea of extending that collaboration nationwide was hatched. (Her husband, Jon Graber, is back home at his new job at a brewery in Portland, Ore.)

The trip is primarily an opportunity to network with other professionals and share tricks of the trade. She showed one brewery how to build a better hoe for raking wet mash; at Stone Brewing, they showed her how to run a gas-powered bottle crowner.

At least two breweries allowed her to brew entire batches from her own recipes, and dozens of others have put her to work, loading grain or stirring bubbling kettles of wort. At each stop, the day is mostly filled with shop talk.

Untold numbers of beer freaks have been following her exploits on her blog (

And reading her dispatches, it's clear her trip, which she financed herself, is also a beer-lover's dream vacation.

She's gotten an inside look at some of the country's top craft breweries, including Deschutes, New Belgium and Brewery Ommegang.

At Brooklyn Brewing, she and a handful of workers did "The Garrett" - an exaggerated raising of a beer glass, a la Brooklyn's effusive brewmaster, Garrett Oliver.

In Oregon, she attended the International Symposium on Hop Flavor and Aroma. (OK, that was a bit of a zzzz . . . .)

She's taken test readings with hydrometers, sampled fresh worth from Zwickel taps, shown genuine interest in glycol lines used for cooling equipment, marveled at bubbling open fermenters and taken photographs of dozens of gadgets.

"I've learned a ton," Fahrendorf said. "One of the things you learn is that there are so many ways to skin this cat, so many ways to make craft beer."

And, yeah, she has drunk a lot of beer - wood-aged ale from Allagash, imperial maibock at Rock Bottom, milk stout at Left Hand, kolsch from Flying Bison.

She's headed West now, after stops in our area at Troegs and Stoudt's, to Kentucky, Missouri, Denver (in time for the GABF) and then home to Oregon. By the time it's over, she'll have traveled 15,000 miles and spent 5 grand in gasoline.

And worn out one pair of pink boots.


© Copyright 2006 Joe Sixpack