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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Jess Griego thought she wanted to be a lawyer.
What she became was the owner of a brewery.
Last March, Griego, 32, was made part of the now six-person ownership team at Bosque Brewing Co., one of the area’s most successful breweries. She said that she didn’t set out to change the demographics of the industry but that she is part of a rare group.
Although women are more common in the brewing industry now than just a few years ago, there are still not many women in leadership positions.
“I’ve seen it change a lot, even in the last few years,” she said. “The first few years, (at events) of every 100 men, I was the only woman. It has shifted dramatically, and this is now about bringing other women along. I did not have a mentor in the industry. I had to push myself, put myself in front of them and say ‘Hey, I’m here.’ ”
A change in plans
It was 2012 and Griego was two years out of college, having earned a bachelor’s degree in theater. She had plans to attend law school and was working at a law office and realized it was not the life for her.
“I decided I did not want to go to law school,” she said. “I knew I wasn’t passionate about it.”
Griego had worked as a server in bars around town while she was in college and knew it would be a good way to support herself while she figured out her next step, but she didn’t want to go back to bar hours. She didn’t really drink beer or know much about it at the time, but most breweries are not open late.
“I wanted less of a nighttime job,” she said. “I didn’t want to get home at 4 a.m.”
Coincidentally, around the same time a little brewery named Bosque was opening on San Mateo near Balloon Fiesta Park. Griego was there as a server on Bosque’s opening day, one of six employees and the only one not related to the owners. Today she is the brewery’s chief experience officer, responsible for sales and marketing and getting people into the breweries.
Being there from the beginning made her feel a sense of ownership even when she didn’t officially have the title. She never left. As time went on, she took on more and more duties, becoming general manager of the San Mateo location. She said it was in 2014 that she really started to see her work at Bosque as a possible career. It’s the year the company expanded, opening taprooms in Nob Hill and Las Cruces, and it’s the year she stopped serving and became director of taproom operations. She was responsible for writing policies and job descriptions, preparing for the openings, including painting and putting furniture together and helping determine where the company wanted to go in the future.
Gabe Jensen, CEO and part-owner of Bosque, said from the beginning Griego helped set the culture of what would become a multi-location operation brewing award-winning beer. He said it was apparent right away that she would become a big part of what they were building.
“The early days are somewhat of a blur,” Jensen said. “There were lots of early mornings and late nights. I remember at some point, we knew owners couldn’t be there at all times and we needed to trust someone to close. … Jess had shown herself to be a natural leader, trustworthy and already had helped wherever she was needed.”
Soon after, Jensen said, they started inviting Griego to be a part of meetings and were bouncing ideas off her. Eventually, he said, it became obvious that offering her part ownership was the next step.
“At some point, I remember sitting back and thinking, Jess treats this place like she owns it, in a good way,” he said. “I remember a pretty serious issue happening in Las Cruces and she dropped everything and drove down to run the taproom for a long period of time. … You don’t want to lose someone with that drive and determination. Also, at some point we had to recognize that what she had contributed to the business couldn’t merely be compensated with salary. At least not by one we could afford at the time.”
Griego continues to push herself and take on new challenges. She is the lead for the local chapter of the international Pink Boots Society, which was started to support women working in the brewing industry. She recently became a certified Cicerone, a prestigious designation in the brewing world. The certification is only given to those who pass a grueling three-hour written exam and taste test. Exam takers must be able to identify 60 styles of beer, have knowledge of the process and history behind brewing and be able to taste a beer with off flavors and determine what went wrong in the brewing process.
Bosque has continued to evolve as well, growing to more than 200 employees. It recently closed its first location, on San Mateo, opened a large two-story brewery in Bernalillo with sweeping views of the valley and Sandia Mountains and ventured into something new.
Owners opened Restoration Pizza near Paseo del Norte and Jefferson with the intent of providing employment opportunities for community members with mental and physical disabilities. Four more locations will open this year – two in Santa Fe and two in Albuquerque.
Griego will be right there, helping make it happen.
“I never imagined this (becoming an owner) would be the outcome when I started working for Bosque,” she said. “Bosque ended up being a good environment for me. Now that it’s cemented that it’s part of my future, it certainly feels like security for my family.
Jensen said he’s excited to continue working alongside Griego as the company moves forward.
“Jess is tenacious and fierce,” he said. “She’s one of the only people I know that can stand up to me, tell me if she thinks I’m wrong, no matter what the consequences. She’s deeply driven by right and wrong and will put that ideal in front of her own needs. Her drive to succeed at a high level is unparalleled.”