PhD quantum physicist, Certified Cicerone, awarding-winning beer writer, brewer.
Even in the eclectic industry that is craft beer, you have to admit this a pretty unusual – and impressive – CV. But that’s Marie Claire Jarratt, known to most as MC (pictured above enjoying a behind-the-scenes tour at Rodenbach), and the last person to win the Australian International Beer Awards Best Media for articles she wrote for The Crafty Pint and her own blog, New South Ales.
She picked up the trophy (sort of) in 2019, becoming the first woman to win it and, thanks to COVID, she may well end up as only person to hold the title for two years straight. Why sort of? It was while on a post-PhD holiday to explore America’s beer industry that MC found out she'd been awarded the Best Media trophy, meaning her Crafty colleagues had to step up.
“I went for a great cycle around Portland and ended my night at the Cascade Brewing Barrel House,” she says. “I woke up the next morning to about ten million messages of congratulations and celebrated about eight hours after everyone else.”
She might have been on the wrong side of the world to take the acclaim onstage but MC says she took great personal satisfaction with the win, particularly given one of the pieces she submitted was a Big Issue feature on sexism in the beer industry.
“I’m pretty proud of that because I really tried hard to not portray anything too negatively,” she says. “I was really happy with how it turned out, then I was happy with how it was received, and then I was super happy with the publicity it got because of the win.”
MC says she that she felt the positive response from the story stemmed from approaching it as thoroughly as possible.
“As I scientist, I knew the only way to stop people from coming out saying, ‘This doesn’t happen in the industry’ was to bombard them with facts. In this case, the facts weren’t numbers but there were six women and one guy saying: this is happening."
MC's journey from blogger to award winner started in 2015 after she moved from the craft beer desert that was Sydney’s North Shore for the crafty oasis that was fast forming in the city’s inner west.
“It was pretty much a personal reflection and journal,” MC says of New South Ales.
“Once I’d learnt there were all these craft breweries in the area, I decided to start a blog which essentially captured all my travels around those different breweries, my experiences, and all the beers that I tried.”
She soon decided to take a new approach, however, following her first interview for which she was granted a behind-the-scenes look at a brewery. That brewery was Marrickville’s Batch Brewing, an environment that has fostered an impressive collection of alumni besides MC, something we explored in 2018.
“The first interview I ever had was with Batch,” she says. “It was with [co-founder] Chris Sidwa, who ended up hiring me, first in 2016 and then again in 2019. He was the first person to invite me to a brewery and give me a chance to write about what they were doing there.”
That first interview saw MC switch up her approach from one of detailing venues she’d visited and the beers she enjoyed to the stories behind what she was discovering. It’s an approach she’s always taken with her articles for this publication, as well as on her own blog with series such as Behind The Beer.
“Once I had one interview under my belt, I really wanted to explore the stories rather than the venues,” MC says.
But a peek behind the curtains of brewing wasn't enough to satisfy someone who was also used to looking at the world on a quantum level as part of her PhD studies at the University of Sydney; a desire to better understand beer led to her working on Batch's packaging line and studying to become a Certified Cicerone.
“It was just all about gaining knowledge,” she says. “I’m definitely a practical learner, so I could read as much as I like but it wouldn’t have stuck if I didn’t actually do it.”
That practical side of the beer world is where you’ll find her today. After completing her PhD thesis – the snappily-titled Readout And Control: Scalable Techniques For Quantum Information Processing, which included a much-appreciated thanks to The Crafty Pint for assisting with her writing skills – MC joined CUB’s graduate program at the start of 2020.
Back to the writing, however, and while the Big Issue: Sexism feature was highlighted by judges in her award-winning submission in 2019, if she has to pick a favourite, MC says a two-part and well-timed piece on the rise of cans was a story she loved telling.
“I really liked it because it was at a time when cans were exploding on the market,” she says. “Now they’re standard – everyone cans – but then it was still a bit of a novelty. So, I loved being able to capture that revolution happening in Australia.”
As for advice for anyone thinking about joining the beer media landscape, whether through a blog, podcast or video stream, the polymath suggests: “Don’t write about things that people can find out for themselves. Build relationships and find out things you couldn’t if you were just a casual drinker, and that’s what people will want to read.”
Entries for the 2021 Australian International Beer Awards – including the Beer Media Trophy – are open now. To enter, head here. Submissions close on March 26, with the awards dinner set to take place in May during Good Beer Week.