Last month I did a little piece on the collaboration brew from Necromancer and Dancing Gnome. It occurred to me, that the beloved beer drinkers of the greater PGH area and beyond might not know Caiti Sullivan. So, I wanted to shine a little light on her and the work she does at Dancing Gnome, as well as outside of the brewery!
Caiti’s husband became a resident at a UPMC hospital here in Pittsburgh, so the two, along with their precious pups, packed up and left Baltimore in May of 2019.
Prior to moving to PGH, Caiti, along with having a degree in sculpture, had experience working in different roles with fermentation, but had not done actual brewing. It was something she wanted to try, but had tabled it in the midst of moving to a new city.
She worked in production, cellaring, sales and marketing at a facility that produced Kombucha and fermented products like Sauerkraut and Kimchi. She also spent time working for a cidery in town as a GM.
From there, she followed the rabbit hole and began home-brewing. She hadn’t had experience in making beer, but being in the fermentation business, it had big overlap with sour beer and leant a better understanding of Belgians and mixed fermentation beers.
“If i want to be spending my time at a place I feel really excited about, I reached out to Dancing Gnome, and said, ‘your beer is great and you’re working at a high level. I havent done this before, but I understand what this job is. I’m interested in being here.’” Caiti joined the DG brewing team in August of 2019. “If you want it, go to it, don’t wait for it to fall in your lap.”
Caiti used to host a private supper club in Maryland, which was her only cooking for service experience. “Something about cooking, the moment of planning and planning and when service happens, you just have to do it. Head down, black out feeling, just making it happen.” For her, mashing in is a lot like that. They use a live mill at DG, which means they grind the grain while mixing with water to mash in. The way the mill and mash tun are placed, makes you run back in forth, which can be stressful. But when it goes right, it gives that feeling of making it happen. “Being an anxious person, I find it zen that I have no choice other than to do.”
Outside of the brewery, Caiti is an avid gardener. Pictured above, the beautiful cut flowers she grows (Zinnia’s in view) along with vegetables like tomatoes, peppers and so on. And you can bet your duppa that Caiti cans up and ferments a lot of her yield. “When the 7 plagues are eating the vegetables, and nothing is eating the flowers, they are pretty and make me happy.”
I asked Caiti if there she had a dream brewery she could work for, who would it be? Pen Druid, owned and operated by three brothers in Sperryville, VA, who brew for half of the year and go out on a Metal Band tour the other half. They use a wood-fired kettle, mash out through juniper branches and run their spot like a true farm. “They brew some of the best spontaneous beer I’ve ever had!”
Finally, a very important detail. Caiti’s favorite DG beer: A toss up between Lustra, the brewery’s critically acclaimed flagship pale, and Okta, a seasonal Marzen that tends to stick around longer than some of DG’s other beers, thus allowing Caiti to enjoy it longer!
Connect with Caiti via Instagram, @caitimfsullivan