Friday, January 10, 2014

Kim Leshinski: A Lady Who Loves Beer

Kim Leshinski is serious about her beer.

A New England native, this Rochester Institute of Technology graduate has combined her love for beer and design into her own small business. Since moving to Chicago to expand her tastes and her portfolio, she's become a noted beer blogger and avid home brewer, founded the Chicago Beer Gals Collective, and left her full-time agency job to pursue self-employment.

Currently working toward becoming a certified beer judge and Cicerone, this smarty-pants beer drinker has made quite a name for herself and no doubt will continue to inspire other women to join the ranks.

Read more about this lady who loves beer in this month's {BeyondATL} feature on women and beer. 

Tell us about you. How did you end up in Chicago? Do you think this is your forever home?
I grew up in scenic New Hampshire and migrated to Upstate NY to graphic design at Rochester Institute of Technology. Shortly after college is when I discovered craft beer through a number of small microbreweries and brewpubs like Rohrbach Brewing and The Distillery popping up in the area. The first agency I worked for designed packaging and brand collateral for Genesee Brewing as well as a number of local wineries. As I looked to expand my design portfolio, Chicago stood out as a great place to be from a consumer products and a cultural perspective. My first apartment was right down the street from The Hopleaf, which was rated one of America’s Best Beer Bars by Food & Wine Magazine. With over 60 draft lines I was quickly exposed to the unbelievable selection of beers Chicago had to offer. It has been 7 fantastic years in Chicago and although I miss the quaintness of New England, the city very much agrees with me.
When you're not drinking beer, you're…
When I’m not drinking beer, I’m mostly likely writing about it or designing something beer related. The science behind the brewing process as well as the stories of the people who create it provides a wealth of inspiration to satisfy my curiosity. In addition to beer, Chicago has a fantastic live music and culture scene. I really can’t imagine ever being bored here.
Tell us about Hail to the Ale. How did it evolve, and what's your goal for the brand? Have you been surprised by anything (reception, push back, challenges) since deciding to put your energy toward craft beer full time?
My craft beer blog Hail To The Ale started as an outlet to document my homebrewing experiences, showcase my own packaging design, and write about the booming local beer scene. It led to opportunities to interview breweries and write for some local publications. 
Last May I planned my first event during Chicago Craft Beer Week. I was focused on celebrating the women in the beer industry and motivated by the fact that nothing like this had been done in Chicago. I was able to bring together 16 women involved in the Chicago brewing scene (most who had never met before) to brew a collaboration beer exclusively for the event. The women brewed a saison with ginger and chamomile, dubbed “99 Problems” at Rock Bottom Brewery. Proceeds from pint sales benefited the Chicago Chapter of Dress for Success, a charity that promotes economic independence for disadvantaged women. 
The response to the event was astounding. There was a large interest in more female-focused beer enthusiast events. Shortly thereafter I formed the Chicago Beer Gals Collective, which is a monthly meet-up that focuses on promoting beer education as well as fostering a sense of community among women in the industry. Each month we have special guests from all aspects of the industry who lead tastings, talk about industry trends and share their experiences and passion for craft beer.
Can you speak about your other projects--Chicago Beer Gals Collective, Brew Camp (etc.) and how they fit into the overall trajectory of your career?
This past October I left my full-time agency job to pursue self employment. It has been both a frightening and exciting venture. I am working on a number of branding and marketing projects with local breweries and distributors as well as writing for some of the local beer publications. In addition to the monthly Beer Gals events, I've partnered up for some exciting events (open to men and women) that continue to share my passion for art and beer education. For years, design has been my area of expertise. And while I know it will always be a passion (and frankly, is what pays the bills) I find a lot of joy and personal fulfillment in through these opportunities to meet and collaborate with great people on beer education.
Favorite spot(s) in Chicago to grab a brew? 
I have a slight obsession with Half Acre Brewing’s Taproom, which is right in my neighborhood. We have a close-knit community of budding new breweries, homebrew shops, and homebrew clubs. So in addition to the consistently amazing beer that Half Acre has on draft, stepping into the cozy taproom always feels a bit like “Cheers.” 
I also really love Atlas Brewing’s brewpub and bowling alley. I’ve known the Saller brothers since they opened in 2012. They’ve definitely had an impact on the local beer scene and it’s been fun to watch them grow and continue to make exceptional beer.
New brew loves? Old favorites? 
I mentioned my love for Half Acre earlier. When it comes to choosing juicy, mouthwatering hops, they set the bar high. Their Space and Heyoka IPAs were two of my go-to beers of 2013. Belgian beers are without a doubt a favorite style, so beers like Duchesse de Bourgogne and La Fin Du Monde will always have a place in my beer cellar.
Future goals/plans/dreams, either beer-related or not...
In 2014 I’m looking forward to more opportunities to collaborate and brew beer. I’m also working on the BJCP Judge and Cicerone Certifications. With the number of breweries entering the local scene, I believe branding and marketing will be playing a larger role than ever. I’m excited for the opportunity to be involved in developing and refreshing brands, helping the breweries reach consumers in a compelling way.
As far as upcoming events I am really excited about a global cider tasting event I’m working on leading up to the Chicago Cider Summit in February, as well as another event that will celebrate International Women’s Brew Day in March
If you could have one beer with anywhere and with anyone you like (past or present) who/where would you raise your glass and why?
From a design perspective designer/surfer David Carson’s experimental grunge typography have always had an impact on my work. The older we get the more we often let fear pressure us to chose the safe or conservative solution. It’s nice to have those with a more radical spirit remind us that taking risks and pushing into unknown territories is what elevates life from living to experiencing. I would love to share a couple cans of beer with that guy on a beach in California.
Find and connect with Kim Leshinksi on her website, Facebook page, Twitter @hail2theale and @chicagobeergals, and Instagram

Join us for a new feature on Atlanta women and beer on the first Friday of each month throughout 2014. Not in Atlanta, but still have something of interest to offer our readers? Requests for promotion and individual features are offered on a first come, first serve basis provided there is an opening in or limited schedule and your brand/expertise meets the needs and interests of our readership. Inquiries, interest, and requests for more information should be sent to

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