She’s been at Bosque Brewing Co. since the start and has done practically every job, but please don’t give her a knife.
Jess Griego was a server when the company first got going and now — 11 years later — she’s chief operating officer and one of the owners.
“For the most part, I’ve done everything,” Griego said. “But you don’t want me in the kitchen. Like, I know how most of the things work, but don’t give me a knife.”
Griego, who became chief operations officer in 2021, is in charge of a brewery that went from six employees after it opened in 2012 to its current roster of nearly 400. It has seven locations, plus two Restoration Pizza sites, which it owns.
Griego said she was 23 and a server at Burt’s Tiki Lounge when she first approached owner Gabe Jensen and told him, “I’m happy to help with whatever you need.”
He took her up on it, and she has risen through the ranks ever since.
“We had no idea what we were doing,” Griego said. “It was just the two of us in the trenches. Everything, we had to do ourselves.”
She went on to become a Certified Cicerone — similar to a sommelier in the wine world — through a difficult process in which applicants are tested on knowledge and tasting skill. She also just earned her master’s of business administration from the University of Illinois.
Griego said her achievements are partly fueled by wanting to succeed in a male-dominated field. She was just elected to the board of the national Brewers Association, and she’s been co-leading the state chapter of the Pink Boots Society, which supports women and non-binary people in the alcohol beverage industry.
“That has been really important to me,” she said. “Let’s come sit at the table and work together to make this better. I want there to be more camaraderie and networking, and women need to feel like they have somewhere to come.”
What’s your favorite beer?
“I love our Pistol Pete’s 1888 blonde ale. We were one of the first breweries in the country to officially license with a state school (New Mexico State University). It’s delicious, not too bitter. When I first got into the industry, I was drinking all the IPAs and very bitter and that sort of stuff, but I feel that as I’ve grown up, I like much more easygoing products, beerwise.”
Did you always want to be in this industry?
“I thought I was going to law school. I really wanted to be a lawyer. I worked for a defense attorney during that time, and I learned so much. I was there every day after school, talking to clients, running to the courthouse, doing errands, having motions filed. I was glad I had that experience, because I was not sold on going to law school after actually working in that industry. I was just in my early 20s, with a specific vision of what I wanted to do and realizing that’s not what it was.”
How did you come to the brewery business?
“Though I worked at the law office most of the way through college, I always had a serving gig. Those are fun times, but also I don’t know how I did that. I would get off my shift at 4 a.m. and then sleep until 10 a.m. and either go to class or work at the law office during the day. It was all chaotic. I decided I wanted to do something a little more stable. I knew that having a serving job would make the most sense … while I was figuring out what I was doing with the rest of my life. I wanted something easygoing and laid-back, and that’s what Bosque was at the time. And then I haven’t left.”
How do you spend your free time?
“I have two little girls, a 6-year-old, and Piper is about to turn 2. She’s nuts. She’s so much fun, though. My husband … is a stay-at-home dad right now. We’re homebodies. I like to just cuddle with my kids, hang out in the backyard. We always have music on, and we’re singing. We’re all about Disney.”
What are your pet peeves?
“I cannot stand when people stand very closely behind me in line, in my personal space. The other one that’s kind of similar is I don’t like when you stop at a stop sign and someone waves you through, even though it was their turn to go. I hate that. Because just follow the rules. I think it’s anything where rules are pretty standard, but people decide to not follow them because it’s easier. I’m pretty neurotic about those two things.”
What’s in the future for Bosque Brewing?
“There were a lot of projects we had to put on hold during COVID, so I think getting back to that growth strategy. For me, I want to do that in a way that’s efficient and effective, but really business savvy. I just got my master’s degree in business earlier this year, so I want to really be able to utilize everything. At least when we first opened, we were just making decisions from our gut as opposed to a foundational business way of doing things. So I’m excited for us as a company and for my own development to marry all those things together. It’s important to me and essential to us surviving. It’s a difficult industry.”
What’s it been like being a woman in this industry?
“I don’t want to sound cliche, but just being a woman in a male-dominated industry isn’t easy. Luckily, I haven’t really felt that from my peers like Gabe Jensen (owner and CEO) for example and John Bullard, our master brewer and one of our owners, or Jotham Michnovicz, employee-owner. I’ve always felt supported by them. But I’ve just always felt like I had to prove myself a little bit more. Like me getting my cicerone (certification) … and my master’s. Feeling that internal pressure to prove myself. Who am I doing this for? Is it for me, or am I trying to prove that I belong here? I think it’s a combination of those things. Which is fine, but just being self-aware of that. There have been times I’ve been in the room and been completely ignored, or someone assumed I’m the secretary. Or someone’s wife. We joke about it now.”
Whom do you look up to?
“My dad passed away in 2016, so he (missed) out on a lot — motherhood for me, the career growth that I had, becoming a part-owner of the company. It’s bittersweet because there are times where I just wish he was around. My mom and I are also very close, just having to lean on each other a lot. And then just in general, anyone who is being authentically themselves. I try to keep my eye on people who just seem to be doing their best, despite the circumstance. Accountability — anyone who is accountable to themselves and their behavior. That’s where I’ve been gravitating lately.”