Growing up the daughter of Lithuanian parents, Audra Gaiziunas became introduced to the world of beer via imports. Pilsners were the beverage of choice in her household. But she still remembers her first craft beer. "It was a Dixie Voodoo Lager," she said.
It was sometime around 1998, and she had been visiting friends in Austin, Texas. "Lots of Shiner Bock was also consumed too," she said smiling. Shiner Bock being the de rigueur brew of the state's country music scene and then wildly adopted by indie rock hipsters.
Soon after Dixie and Shiner, she began to explore more beer styles, and developed a penchant for Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale and Terrapin Brewing Co.'s beers because she likes the label. "The turtle is kinda cute ya know?" she said.
As we sat at a picnic table during an unseasonably warm day in February at The Federal on Main Street in Durham, Gaiziunas was clearly game to try different styles. While I settled in for my old standby—Bell's Brewing's Two Hearted Ale IPA with its pleasant citrus hop punch to the nose—she ordered Terrapin Brewing Company's Mosaic, a single-hop rye IPA. It is one of the newer hops to come out of the Pacific Northwest that imparts earthy, piney and herbal notes to the beer.
The importance of label art arose as we discussed Terrapin's Mosaic (remember she has an affinity for the cute turtle). "A label has to resonate with people," said Gaiziunas, whose business, Brewed For Her Ledger, advises brewers on the financial side of the craft. "At the end of the day, if someone is new to craft beer and is turned off by a brand label, that is a huge—and very unnecessary—loss."
As for the Mosaic: "It is very biscuity but the rye lends a dry, peppery slant to the finish."
Her career trajectory arced from a machinery salesperson for Caterpillar Inc., which is most known for its construction and mining equipment, to working at Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in 2009 as a controller. "A total culture shock," she said. "I finally found an industry I could fit in; where I could work hard and work smart ... but still culturally fit it."
"Sam [Calagione owner of Dogfish Head] would come in wearing shorts, sandals and a Hawaiian shirt," she said in a tone of astonishment. "And he had the best stories!" She loved seeing the process of working at a small business. The company had opened her palate to a whole new world of beer and for a while she was living strictly on a Dogfish Head diet.
She left Dogfish Head in Delaware to become the CFO at Mother Earth Brewing Co. in Kinston, N.C., in 2011. This contract gig soon turned into a full-time job. Her knowledge of numbers and spreadsheets quickly circulated through the craft beer community, and one day it occurred to her to become her own boss. So after three years at Mother Earth she left, and Brewed For Her Ledger was born.
Part accountant, part financial advisor—and sometimes—part strategist, she has worked with Mystery Brewing's Erik Lars Myers to help launch his company, and is working with a handful of start-up breweries as clients.
She has one key piece of advice to anybody thinking about starting a craft brewery: "Distribution is the game," she said emphatically. "It is going to play a key role in the future of craft beer in North Carolina. Not just landing a distributor, but to have an active hand in managing that partnership."
But there are some downsides to her business. "There is very little I dislike about my job," she explained. "Well ... not knowing where your next job is going to come from can be challenging.
"I don't like looking at someone's financials and telling them they aren't going to survive," she added.
Even though she dabbles in glamour photography as a break from number crunching, she sees herself as a T-shirt and jeans girl, which allows her to seamlessly integrate herself into the world of brewers.This article appeared in print with the wrong business name, Brewed for a Ledger
This article appeared in print with the headline "Beer pays the bills"