The old saying goes something like this: Behind every good man is a good woman. Turns out, the saying holds true in the beer business as well. I had a chance recently to speak with Carmen Schoelen, the vice president at Mustang Brewing Co. For several years now, Schoelen has essentially been operating behind the scenes at Mustang. When it comes to publicity — being the face of the company — she takes a back seat to her husband, Tim. But as you’ll see in my latest Five Questions With… segment, she does not take a back seat when it comes to the business of beer.
1. The Thirsty Beagle: Tell me what your official title is at Mustang, and what your day-to-day responsibilities are. Do you have a regular job as well?
Carmen Schoelen: My official title at Mustang Brewing Co. is vice president. My day-to-day duties range from bottle washing, brewing beer, designing labels, delivering beer (yes I can lift kegs), to driving from state to state meeting with distributors, meetings with local companies, sales, setting up and running promotions, relationships/contacts with bands we sponsor, all the (point of sale) for Mustang, such as designing shirts, pint glasses, and other items for giveaways. Even though we’re in our second full year of operations, we are growing so fast that we still function as a start-up. There are only a few of us to complete all the jobs that need to get done. I am also a talent coordinator at C&C Productions and a full-time mother of two children (a son, 12, and a daughter, 7). Both are very involved in school and sports.
2. TTB: So, I’ve heard the story of Mustang’s creation from your husband’s perspective — tell me about your thoughts and feelings when you guys decided to start the company? Were you all-in and enthusiastic? Or maybe apprehensive, like “What if this doesn’t work?”
CS: I was very supportive of starting the company from the beginning. I believe you should do what you love and love what you do. Tim and I both love being the people we are and that includes taking risks. More than anything I wanted to know my husband enjoyed his job and was happy going to his job everyday, whatever that might be, and taking a chance like starting a brewery was worth it to me. Failure never really crossed my mind. Tim and I have an agreement that we will keep doing this until it isn’t fun anymore. I’m having a blast and this has led me into other areas of interest, such as music.
3. TTB: It seems like almost every brewer, distributor, liquor store owner and bar manager is a man. What kind of challenges have you encountered being a woman in a heavily male industry?
CS: One of the biggest challenges is being taken seriously or being seen as a vital part of the company. Many times Tim and I have sat down in a meeting or gone to a tasting where Tim is the person they direct all questions or comments to and ask if I work for him. I also get, “Are you a promo girl for the company?” quite a bit. Most of the time I smile, answer their questions, and they figure out that I do know what I am talking about and I am one of the founders of the company. Being a woman in the beer industry isn’t bad. I’ve had the opportunity to introduce many woman to craft beer that normally would have just passed on trying any type of beer.
4. TTB: You mentioned to me that you wanted to be able to sell a beer that you actually wanted to drink as well; did you like/drink much beer before you started Mustang? Have you found yourself warming up to any particular styles of beer?
CS: I wasn’t much of a beer drinker before starting Mustang. I would have an occasional Tecate, but typically wine or liquor if I drank. For me to go out and get other people drinking it our beer, it had to be a beer I would enjoy drinking. That is how we got the Golden Ale recipe.
5. TTB: Are you surprised at all about the way the company has grown and how fast it has expanded? Has it met or exceeded what you realistically expected?
CS: I am more excited than surprised at the growth of our company. My expectations were high and we have exceeded those with our growth, two silver medals and one gold medal at the World Beer Championships, and the support from our friends, family and fans. Now, I have new expectations and goals for Mustang. I love to stay busy and we are constantly looking at ways to improve and let more people know about our beer. I still meet people from Oklahoma City that have never heard of Mustang Brewing Co. So even though we are looking at ways to continue expanded, there is still a lot to accomplish here in Oklahoma.
There you have it, folks. Thanks to Carmen for taking some time to answer my questions.