Albuquerque has a new brewer at the helm, but unlike others in town, Nexus Brewery & Restaurant has hired a female head brewer.
Kaylynn McKnight is not new to brewing. She was formerly the assistant brewer at the popular and award-winning La Cumbre Brewing Co. and has been brewing for about three years.
Former Nexus head brewer Manuel Mussen is heading back to California but is sticking around for a month to train McKnight. McKnight said she has had an interest in brewing since she was a little girl.
“Growing up my dad was a home brewer and he started making beer when I was really young,” she said. When McKnight was 18, she began working at Chama River Brewing Company, where she met now-La Cumbre president Jeffrey Erway.
“I told Jeff I wanted to be a brewer and he would laugh and he would ask ‘Can you lift a keg little girl?’ and I would say ‘No, but I can try,’” McKnight said.
McKnight later moved to La Cumbre to work as a bartender and assistant brewer under Erway. She credits Erway with teaching her everything that she knows. McKnight said going in that she was unaware of how much labor brewing entails.
“It was a lot of persistence and then I had no idea how hard the work is,” she explained. “It’s a lot of heavy lifting and 95 percent of it is cleaning. A lot of the time you’re cleaning and organizing and lifting heavy 44-pound boxes of hops and 55-pound boxes of grains and getting up and down off of a ladder and rolling 55-pound gallon barrels.”
McKnight said she is happy to have graduated to head brewer and has plans to introduce some seasonals to the Nexus craft beer rotation.
“I feel like I’m going to love it,” McKnight said. “I get my own little place to take care of and keep clean and it’s my brewery baby. Working with other people can be a challenge. I’m excited to have my own space and especially being the only one here now. I earned it.”