On the Line: Barbara Gerovac Of Anaheim Brewery

The first time I met Barbara at Anaheim Brewery, I knew she was a cool lady. But it took an interview to realize that she’s more of a badass than anything else. 

What made you want to pursue a career in brewing?
After we retired, we wanted to do something completely different than our work in the Army. We’ve always had the same profession. It never occurred to us to pursue different careers.

Most frequently asked question by guests.
“How long have you been open?” We constantly run into new people exploring the Packing District for the first time. I like to tell them, “Been open since noon.” Then I relent and tell them five years.

How did you meet your husband?
We met as cadets at West Point.

What is your industry experience?
I started my professional brewing career in the Washington, D.C. area. I first worked at Shenandoah Brewing Company, a BOP/brewpub/packaging brewery as cellarmaster. Then I became the head brewer at Founders Brewpub in Alexandria (not the Michigan founders). Sadly, both breweries are closed now. Back in the 1990s, that was the sign of a craft brewer; you’d worked for a brewery that had shut down.

When we moved to Anaheim, I worked briefly at Bayhawk Ales in Irvine before moving on to be assistant brewer at Red Car Brewery and Restaurant in Torrance. Next, I worked as the brewmaster for Union Cattle Company in Hermosa Beach. In 2009, I left to become Anaheim Brewery’s full-time project manager. We brewed our first batch, Anaheim 1888, on Memorial Day weekend in 2011.

How did your education at West Point influence your career after you left the Army?
West Point is a math and science heavy curriculum. Commercial brewing is all about chemistry, biology, engineering fluid dynamics and thermodynamics. 

Tell us about the differences between Virginia and California breweries.
No one calls it Hef on the East Coast. They manage to say all four syllables in Hefeweizen.

Best tip for the home brewer.
Cleanliness is everything. I know it’s tedious, but it’s critical to making good beer.

What’s the one thing people didn’t tell you about running a brewery?
Every other email, letter or phone call is someone wanting us to give them beer in the name of “exposure” and “helping people find out about you.” Really? If you have a smart phone, you can find us.

What breweries do you like to frequent?
We are surrounded by so many excellent breweries; I hate to call any one of them out at the expense of others. The OC Brewers Guild rotating happy hour lets us experience each of them. 

Some of my favorite breweries are in Bavaria, where we lived for many years. Weltenberg in Kelheim, Winklerbrau in Lagenfeld, St Georg in Hemau, Prosselbrau in Alderberg and many, many others. Bavaria in the 1990s was like Orange County today. Lots of small, local breweries selling fresh beer. We live in glorious times.

What are your best-sellers on tap?
Anaheim Hefeweizen is our biggest seller, both to our wholesale customers and in our Tasting Room. Our seasonal, Unite Belgian Trippel, is a big seller as well.

Tell us about the building you’re housed in.
The Packard Building is a 1920s-era, board-formed concrete building. It housed several different Packard dealerships; the last one went bust in the Crash of 1929. The building remained in the automobile trade until 2010, when we began renovations. 

Where was your most recent meal?
Frozen pizza and a bottle of Perrier-Jouet Champagne.

One stereotype about your industry, and whether it’s true.
All brewers have a partner that makes good money, because brewers don’t. Mostly true.

What’s your favorite childhood memory?
Wandering the hills in Leucadia by myself, picking up interesting rocks and eating sour grass.

Do you have any skills that are not beer-related?
I design and make quilts. I can field strip a variety of weapons: M14, M16, M16A1, M16A2, M45 and M9. 

Last thing you looked up online:
M.F.K. Fisher on Wikipedia. She wrote about food and the art of eating well.

Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
I broke my neck 20 years ago. I can still walk, talk and breathe on my own. Gives me great perspective to most of life’s problems. 

You’re making breakfast; what are you having?
Waffles with real maple syrup; never that loathsome, fake goo.

We heard that sometimes, city council meetings almost carry over to your brewery. Is that true?
Yes, often the city departments have folks at the meetings in case there’s a question about something on the agenda. For instance, a briefing from the Parks and Recreation Department on refurbishing Boysen Park. Once the council has been briefed, the city employees often come by for a couple of beers.

What do you like to do in your free time?
Sleep, drink and sew. Not at the same time.

Hardest lesson you’ve learned.
I’m not as strong as I look.

As local business owners, do you sponsor or support any charities or causes?
The Orange County Family Justice Center is our corporate charity. OCFJC provides direct victim assistance and empowerment and prevention resources to victims and families whose lives have been impacted by domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault and elder abuse. We donate a portion of sales to the Family Justice Center; have since day one. We were inspired by Bruno Serato of the Anaheim White House, who feeds kids at the Boys & Girls Club near our house every single day.

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