Behind the Scenes: Cal Poly Brewing Professor

For our second story, we decided to cover a Cal Poly professor who also manages and operates a local brewery. Bio Professor Emily Taylor runs the 7Sisters Brewery in San Luis Obispo when she’s not teaching, along with owner/brewer Steve Van Middlesworth. While media covered the opening of the brewery last year, nobody did an in-depth piece on how Taylor juggles being a professor and a local business owner at the same time. So we took on the story with that being our angle as well as mentioning the sustainability of the brewery.

When you walk into the brewery, the first thing that strikes you is the incredibly cozy and welcoming atmosphere. A colorful mural of mountain peaks adorns one wall, a nod to the Nine Sisters in San Luis Obispo County. Sturdy wooden tables fill the room and a colorful menu of beers hangs on another wall behind the counter.

The colorful selection of beers on tap at 7Sisters Brewery.

If Emily Taylor is around, she is immediately what catches your attention next. Her bubbly personality and enthusiastic demeanor light up the room and fill the brewery with warmth. Taylor has a busy schedule, with her roles at the brewery ranging from event coordinator to social media manager. Speaking of events, part of what makes 7Sisters so eclectic is their array of entertainment. Most nights you can walk in and listen to live music, comedy shows or open mic performances. Seasonal events could be pumpkin carving or costume contests and are fun for all ages. “I just work constantly,” said Taylor, “but it’s fun. I used to just go home and sit on my computer and work, and now I’m out here enjoying live music at my own place. And I get to walk up to the tap and pour myself a beer – it’s pretty much the best thing ever.”

Professor Emily Taylor // Photo courtesy of Cal Poly

Taylor also considers herself the executive chef; although she doesn’t cook the food, she did design the menu, which features mouth-watering grilled cheeses (their speciality), three bean chili and more. The food is all made from scratch or locally sourced from places like Edna’s Bakery and Central Coast Creamery. 7Sisters prides itself on offering a variety of vegan and gluten free options throughout the menu, something that makes me happy to see as a vegetarian. Taylor and Van Middlesworth truly seem to care about about who comes to their brewery and how they can cater to everybody. “It’s wonderful to know how much thought and intention is behind all of the work that Emily and Steve are doing,” said group member Alyssa Mavor.

Grilled cheeses are a popular food item at the brewery. // Photo courtesy of 7Sisters Brewery

The beers themselves are all vegan too, actually, part of 7Sisters’ sustainability efforts. When our group visited the brewery we got a behind the scenes tour of the unique sustainability process that Van Middlesworth goes through to ensure he saves energy and water when producing the beer. Their environmental efforts don’t stop there – the tasting room is made almost entirely from repurposed materials and they try to stay away from plastics and non-compostable waste as well. “It was interesting to see how Steve manufactured the brewing system to save water in order to be eco friendly,” said group member Emily Fagenstrom. “It showed that they truly care about the environment and what they’re accomplishing at 7Sisters.”

“I have a newfound respect for 7Sisters, and it’s nice to know that I’m supporting a CP prof whenever I drink a beer there,” said group member Carter Harrington. “Emily and Steve were awesome to be around. It’s apparent that they care a lot about a sustainable brewing process.”

It was a fascinating experience to get a glimpse behind the scenes of a sustainable brewery and to see how a Cal Poly professor deals with teaching and running a brewery, both of which are full-time jobs and commitments. I definitely recommend checking out 7Sisters; even if you’re not a big beer fan, at least go for the welcoming atmosphere, delicious food, live entertainment and, of course, the brewing professor.