The North Van native used her experience in wine to cultivate a career in beer
This article appeared in the March issue of BCBusiness before the COVID-19 pandemic came to Canada.
Sitting at the middle of a long table, sipping a cranberry sour, Samantha Lindeman argues that she’s often judged by how she looks or by her last name. Fair enough.
Six years ago, at 22, Lindeman was working for an Australian wine company. And while it’s not pure coincidence that one of the world’s most storied wineries shares her last name (Melbourne-based Lindeman’s Wines, whose founder is a distant relative), her family sold the company before she was born. She did, however, learn about the trade from her grandfather, who was a rep for Lindeman’s in Canada. So charges of nepotism were hard to escape.
While working in the Land Down Under, the North Vancouver native had her first taste of real craft beer, and it changed everything. “The only beer I knew was the warm stuff from the shelf my friends would bring to a party,” Lindeman recalls. “That’s what beer was. I went to a little microbrewery while on a wine tour and said, Sure, I’ll have a soda or something. My friend slams down a pale ale in front of me, and I couldn’t believe it was beer. It had aroma and flavour and texture. And from then on, I wanted to dive into it more.”
Dive in she did. That cranberry sour is one of the latest creations from her hometown’s Wildeye Brewing, and Lindeman, sole founder of the operation, is enjoying it in the tasting room she opened last June. Now 28, she doesn’t look like most folks you run into in the beer industry. But that’s sort of the point.
Lindeman has a productive start to her day, checking and sending emails while on the elliptical at the gym. She’s usually inundated with info on how the previous night went, and double-tasking kills two birds. “I usually have about 30 emails that have piled up,” Lindeman says. “And it helps so much, gets the blood pumping, wakes me up.”
For Lindeman, one of the main draws of the beer industry was a chance to populate it with characters who have traditionally been few and far between. When she walks into Wildeye—close to her home in Lower Lonsdale—she sees a lot of female faces. Her brother, Spencer, who does repping and delivery, and brew-master Michael Friesen are exceptions, but many of Wildeye’s 25 or so staff are women.
“I liked the idea of being a minority. I saw [female representation] a lot in the wine side but a lot less on the brewer side,” Lindeman says. “And I have a lot of friends who are female and had struggles moving up in the industry, even though they were just as qualified as the men.”
For Lindeman, making the beer scene a safe space for women to grow became a mission. At Wildeye, they fill key positions like assistant brewer, kitchen manager, lounge manager and head chef. “It wasn’t that I was hunting for that,” Lindeman notes. “They were just the most qualified, and I wanted to make sure they got the jobs they deserved.”
After the brewery opens at noon, she sticks around to talk to Friesen about what’s coming up and taste some samples. But because Wildeye doesn’t have much of an office staff just yet, Lindeman wears many hats. That includes making regular field trips around the Lower Mainland to hand out samples to chains and hotels, hoping they’ll throw Wildeye on their taps.
While the brewery always has some inventive options, Lindeman notes that the larger locations usually “want a really good pilsner or pale ale. And they’ve been liking our stuff”—the brewery’s Czech Pilsner, in particular—“so that’s great.” Sometimes she’ll even venture out to Kelowna, Victoria or Whistler.
Lindeman often comes back to Wildeye just to make sure everything’s running smoothly. Sometimes she’ll get to work chopping vegetables or pouring beers; other times she’ll bring some friends in and enjoy herself. As she looks around the wood-accented room and reminisces about how hard it was to open (the place was gutted when she signed the lease, and opening took two years of cutting through red tape) and how she did it with no real partners (she has investors, but they’re all silent), she’s more relieved than anything. Wildeye is packed to the brim most days and nights, even though North Vancouverites have plenty of other brewery choices.
“It did take some time for me to prove to people that, hey, I got this,” Lindeman admits. “People take one look at me and think, This girl has no experience, no idea what she’s doing. There’s always going to be that in any industry, but I’m starting to see a little bit more love coming my way from fellow brewers.”