Everyone starts somewhere, and for Hannah Ison, she’s starting here in Harrisburg. If you’ve visited Zeroday Brewing before, you’ve probably seen her there, or maybe heard her there – her exuberant laugh is unmistakable, and her energy is contagious throughout the establishment. I met Hannah a few years back at a party, and immediately saw a bit of myself in her. Here we are now, and she’s the Assistant Brewer at my local brewery. I began to wonder to myself, what is this woman’s story? How did a Kentucky girl working in politics find herself here in Harrisburg brewing beer? So, I asked, and I’m delighted to share her story with you.
As I sat down with Hannah for local beers at our favorite dive bar, we didn’t necessarily talk about beer or the brewery, or even Stouts & Stilettos. We chatted Halloween and hiking. Hannah is just down to earth like that. But once we got to talking about upcoming brews (see Johnny Romeo) and other projects, the passion in her voice became palpable, drawing attention from those around us and sucking me into her story. A story of how she found what she didn’t know what she was looking for, staring her right there in the face between home and work.
Hannah never set out to be a brewer. With a background in political science, she found herself in Harrisburg as a crossroads between NYC and DC. After landing a job working in our state capital, she often commuted by foot from home to work. One day she just stumbled upon Zeroday while walking home, and popped in for a beer. Falling in love with the product, the patrons, and the staff she quickly became a regular. With some changes at the brewery, a position became available for a Tuesday evening bartending shift, so she applied, and took the shift. From there, she started working a few more shifts, a few weekend events, and became a part of the Zeroday family.
Things escalated quickly from there. Juggling between the two positions, and finding her passions changing, she found herself at a fork in the road. She tells it to me as a moment where she realized she just had to take the plunge. Many of us find ourselves in a rut from time to time, and and she felt burned by her current job after an opportunity for advancement didn’t work out. With reflection, she realized that in her life she wanted to keep growing. To learn more every day. To push herself to work hard. To avoid stagnancy and step out of her comfort zone in the name of progression. And at this opportune moment when the brewery was swamped and unable to keep up production without an assistant, they decided to take a chance on her, and she decided to accept what she calls the opportunity of a lifetime.
What she does daily is hard work and is challenging. We all know that being a brewer isn’t glamorous and can be both physically and mentally demanding day-in and day-out. I can tell that she takes it in stride. Her happy-go-lucky demeanor is unphased. As she orders a Zeroday beer from the bartender, one that she helped make she says, I can feel her pride exude as she offers me a sip.
So what can we expect from Ms. Hannah? Well, she’s already started her own small batch series, where she hopes to brew beers they wouldn’t normally offer. The most recent was a hefeweizen, Zeroday’s first. She’s implementing head brewer Theo Armstrong’s existing recipes, and challenging him to get more creative. She’s studying everything. Reading everything. Visiting a grain and malt house to learn more about the malting process. Interviewing larger brewery’s lab staff to learn more about the science of beer. Homebrewing alone and with friends to hone in on techniques.
I would say that her desire to quench her thirst for knowledge is becoming quite satiated.