"The best thing about beer is that it creates such a cool community and I don't see that going away any time. I feel honored to be a part of it."
— Chelsea Woodmansee
She is the Beer Goddess.
It says so right there on her business card.
Chelsea Woodmansee has earned that title, as this summer will be her seventh year of wrangling that keg rodeo better known as Bend Brewfest. As if that year-round gig is not enough, the second hat she wears is sponsorship and events coordinator for the Old Mill District.
Woodmansee started out working for the Old Mill District as a receptionist, in a three-month temp gig filling in for a staffer on maternity leave. Before her time was up, her boss, Marney Smith, director of the Les Schwab Amphitheater, informed her, "We're going to steal you," Woodmansee recalls.
"I fell in love with it. It was fast-paced. I fell in love with the people, the brewers, all the volunteers, giving out hugs and handshakes. It just kind of changed my life; it was really cool. And even after seven years, I still get excited about it," Woodmansee says. "It's just three days of chaos. It's learning all about beer. It took two years of immersion to get a lot of it figured out. It's a really consuming event, but I love it. I've been able to grow and it's grown with me."
Over the past seven years, Woodmansee says she's seen it all at Brewfest: weddings, anniversaries, family reunions, bachelor and bachelorette parties and even a marriage proposal. "They're having their first kid right now," she says.
"I'm a really hard worker and I'm not afraid of hard work. We work 18-22-hour days and then get up and do it all over again. Once the Brewfest is over, we jump in and start working on the next one." During one Brewfest she logged about 15 miles in a single day, according to her pedometer.
Brewfest this year will be Aug. 10-12, a week earlier than usual, due to the solar eclipse happening Aug 21.
Woodmansee has lived in Bend for 28 years, minus two years living in San Francisco. She and her family moved to Bend in 1991, and she is a proud alumni of Bend High School.
For much of the year, Woodmansee lives beer. She breathes it, drinks it, talks it, loves it and knows it well. It inspired her enough to have her first tattoo be a hop flower on the inside of her wrist. "I like a good stout. It doesn't matter what time of year it is, and I like sours a lot. The best thing about beer is that it creates such a cool community and I don't see that going away any time. I feel honored to be a part of it. It's more than just beer, it's really changed my life."
Is the craft beer scene at its crest? She poo-poos that suggestion. "If it is cresting, I don't want to know about it. I'm in denial," she laughs. Asked if she had any beer philosophy to impart, Woodmansee mentions a monologue from the classic TV sitcom, "Cheers," in which postman Cliff Clavin explains the virtues of drinking beer. Any self-respecting beer drinker above a certain age should recall this. If not, just Google 'Cliff's Beer Theory.'
During the past seven years Woodmansee has also been practicing standup comedy at local clubs while emceeing various events such as the A Cappella Festival and the annual Bend Follies. For the past two months she also has been teaching comedy improvisation.
On a long-overdue vacation to New Zealand last fall, she and her two travel mates checked out the local craft beer scene. She said New Zealanders they talked to knew all about Oregon beers and were somewhat intimidated to have the Oregonians taste their local brews. She said they still found some good ones, mostly reds, IPAs and pale ales, but not many stouts or other dark beers. "They have really delicious hops," Woodmansee says.
She related a story about how the Goodlife brewers visited New Zealand years ago and the resulting collaboration that became Sweet As Pacific Ale. As she and her friends learned last fall, the phrase, "Sweet as," is New Zealand slang for "right on." One time, as they were leaving a grocery store, the clerk cheerfully remarked, "Sweet As!"
Woodmansee says, "We asked each other, 'Did he say, 'Sweet Ass'?!' But they eventually figured it out...