GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - When recent college graduate Emma Faulkner moved from West Virginia to Grand Junction in 2008, she came with just a carload of belongings and a wish - to join Colorado's ever-growing craft beer culture."I didn't have a job on the East Coast when I graduated," Faulkner said, and she was ready for a big move.So, when a friend in Grand Junction offered Faulkner a spare bedroom, she packed her car and that was it. Two weeks later, she was living on the Western Slope.Landing in Colorado wasn't by chance, however. As a junior at Virginia Tech, Faulkner said she toured Colorado State University in Fort Collins. But it wasn't the grad school that left a lasting impression. It was the beer.From then on, Faulkner said: "It was a dream to make beer in Colorado." After graduation, that vision became reality when she landed a job with Kannah Creek Brewing Company in October 2008. With experimental home-brew experience - plus a degree in biological-systems engineering and a minor in food science - Faulkner's skills were quickly put to the test."It's my first job out of college, and I found a career," she said.Fast forward four years, 26-year-old Faulkner is one of three full-time brewers at the quickly expanding Kannah Creek family. Ground recently broke on a multimillion dollar bottling plant and tasting room near the Colorado River. The structure, near the Western Colorado Botanical Gardens on Struthers Avenue, should be up and running by May 2013."All three of us (brewing at the 12th Street pub & restaurant) will be brewing at both locations," Faulkner said. "I'm excited for the challenge."Faulkner, who is fairly new to the craft-brew profession, views Kannah Creek's expansion and bottling project as a great opportunity."They say it's a whole new ball game," she said, adding that she'll definitely learn a lot from her co-workers. "The other two brewers have both worked in bottling facilities before."Being a female brewer in a male-dominated profession doesn't phase Faulkner either. She loves it, especially because the job isn't easy."It can be hard to show confidence in a male-dominated environment," she said. "But, you learn to earn respect. In my engineering classes, there weren't a lot of girls either."
It's no surprise Faulkner gravitated toward craft brewing after college -creativity and hard work played lead roles in her life since childhood. She describes her parents as "makers and doers" who raised her and her three siblings (one younger sister and two older brothers) on a small farm in West Virginia. "We grew grapes and my dad made wine," she said. "My mom made bread and cheese. They're not afraid to experiment, and they love creating something unique."Faulkner also said she's fascinated by foods created through fermentation - cheese, bread, yogurt and beer. And, when she's not working at Kannah, it's likely she's engaged in one of her own food projects at home."The coolest thing about beer is the variety," she said. "For the most part, it's the same four ingredients - barley, yeast, hops and water - and every beer is unique."Variety, whether at work or play, makes Faulkner's days both fun and busy. And she said she loves brewing for Kannah Creek because "there's always more to learn and more to taste.""You can see your product and every day the work is a little different," she added.Plus, beer itself is a passion. And she's not partial to simply one type or another. Rather, she chooses to drink brews based on the weather, how her day has gone, or what she's been into lately."I like all beer," she said with a shrug and a smile. "I don't think you could get bored."When Faulkner isn't making beer (or envisioning a creative project at home), she's outside playing with her fianc, Ryan Dutch ("We met climbing!" she said) and their two dogs - Luna and Mia. They love hiking, biking and rock climbing - basically anything outdoorsy.Travel means a lot to Faulkner, too. Climbing trips with Dutch rate high on her list of enjoyable things, plus she was able to spend a year away from work (October 2009 through October 2010) as a foreign exchange student in southern Chile and Patagonia. Luckily, there was still a spot for her at Kannah Creek when she got back, she said.