Seattle’s Ravenna Brewing hires from within
“After almost five years of me holding the Head Brewer title, it’s now time to pass it on,” says Ravenna Brewing owner Tommy Ransom. “Our very own Audra Johansen has been promoted, and will now assume the duties.”
According to Tommy, she has kind of been the boss of the brew deck for a while, but now it’s official.
“This was an easy choice, especially for me,” he said. “Relinquishing the title to her just reassures me quality, integrity, and production flow will only get better, and reach higher heights.”
For the past 18 months or so, Audra Johansen has worked alongside Tommy at Ravenna Brewing, but before that she worked for a couple of other beloved Seattle breweries: Urban Family Brewing and Big Time Brewery and Alehouse.
At Urban Family, she got her first introduction to the brewing industry. She did whatever the brewery needed her to do, from bartending to cellar work. It was at Big Time that she was able to really get into the brewing side of things, working as an assistant brewer next to Roy McLaughlin.
“I seem to be on a one-and-a-half-year program everywhere I go,” she says. “That’s about how long I worked at Urban Family, that’s about how long I worked at Big Time, and now that’s about how long I’ve been at Ravenna.”
Audra is originally from Houston, Texas and ended up in Seattle to attend the University of Washington, where she earned a master’s degree in chemistry.
“The career trajectory I’ve been on has been a wild ride, that’s for sure,” Audra says. “I didn’t enter the industry until 2016 after leaving the chemistry graduate program at UW, and I’m unbelievably thankful to the people that took a chance on me. From Urban Family hiring me straight out of grad school without a lick of experience to Rick and Roy at Big Time, placing a big-time (ha) bet on my potential and giving me the opportunity and space to grow.”
“I owe all of them a lot and would be remiss if I didn’t express my appreciation. I also have to thank my many friends and contacts in the industry who bolstered my brewing reputation unbeknownst to me and made a move to Ravenna Brewing Co. a possibility. And finally, the owners here at Ravenna, Tommy, Bud, and Elise took a gamble on a girl with an awfully concise resume, but here we are now making moves and having a darn good time while we’re at it.”
“Obviously it’s incredibly exciting, and such an honor, to be named Head Brewer here at Ravenna Brewing,” says Audra. “Having the opportunity to work at a brewery so intensely focused on putting out the best beer possible has made it really so, so easy to be inspired and to push past any gaps or plateaus in my own experience.”
“Also, being in the midst of a brewery-wide growth spurt brings with it novelty and a slew of challenges that have only served to accelerate that learning curve. Hands down, I work with one of the best teams in the industry. Top-down, everyone here is not only super excited and dedicated to making and slinging excellent beer, but gosh they’re also all such a treat to work with.”
Audra explains that there’s some exciting stuff in the works at Ravenna Brewing. “I’m really excited about our burgeoning lager program, which we’ll soon have expanded capacity for. That will allow us to really focus on iterating and developing lagers that meet our (sometimes insanely) high expectations.”
“In parallel with that, we’ll also be focused on expanding our barrel program. This includes both our wild program as well as our barrel-aged stout and porter offerings. It’s so hard to predict what all else will pop up in the future, but I’m so here for it. It’s such an exciting time to be here, and I could not be happier to have this opportunity to act as Head Brewer.
I asked Audra what kind of stuff she plans on bringing to the brewhouse — what kind of mark, or impression does she see herself making on the beers that Ravenna Brewing creates. That doesn’t seem too much of a concern.
“I’m much more focused on keeping things as collaborative as possible because as they say, three brains are usually better than one, and I’ve got two spectacular brains in Tommy and our assistant brewer Alex.”
“I just want us all to stay curious, keep the dialogue open, and make this job as fun as it should be. I mean, we do make beer after all, and what’s not fun about that?”