Carson High grad returns a medal winner | NevadaAppeal.com

Carson High grad returns a medal winner

by Kurt Hildebrand

When Denise Jones graduated from Carson High School in 1982, she never imagined she would return to Western Nevada 20 years later a gold medal winning brewmaster.

Denise’s family opened the Carson Sizzler in 1978, when they moved here from Bishop where they owned another Sizzler.

“I had been in the restaurant business, but mostly I bounced around and had done a lot of different things,” she said. “I helped open the Mervyn’s and then delivered the mail.”

However, when the U.S. Postal Service handed her a retirement date of 2032, she decided it was a time for a change.

“I decided I’d better really like what I do, and I grew up in the restaurant business,” she said. “I chose brewing school.”

That choice in the early ’90s led her to win three gold and one silver medal in the World Beer Cup held in Aspen, Colo., on June 12.

The 37-year-old won gold medals for her Cerveza de Santa Rosa Chile Ale, Annadel Pale Ale and Blarney Sisters’ Dry Irish Stout. The silver medal was for her Stonefly Oatmeal Stout.

“The preliminary judging was done in Cleveland, and then they took the finalists to the World Cup in Aspen,” she said. “When you’re announced as a finalist, you know you’re going to win something. I entered eight beers and I was flabbergasted when I found out I placed with four.”

She is brewmaster at the Third Street AleWorks in Santa Rosa, Calif., where her beers compete with California wines at restaurants.

“This is wine country and you would think beer wouldn’t be the popular drink, but the people who come here know their stuff,” she said. “I can’t get away with brewing bad beer here.”

Denise says she does research into a beer and tries to use native ingredients when brewing a new beer.

“You have to develop a style of brewing,” she said. “For me when I get a new recipe, I read about it historically. I taste a lot of different beers. I have to get a feel for every one. I import English grains and English hops if I’m brewing English beer.”

It takes her between two and three weeks to brew a batch of beer.

“If I didn’t like a beer I wouldn’t brew it,” she said. “I’ve been lucky that people have liked my beer.”

Denise, whose mother and stepfather, Leah and Jerry Royal, live in Carson City, is back on her old stomping grounds this weekend at the Great Barbecue, Brews and Blues Festival at the Eldorado Casino in Reno.

She apprenticed at the Great Basin Brewery in Sparks, where she later became an assistant brewer under the tutelage of Eric McClary of Washoe Valley.

“He taught me a lot every day,” she said. She left Great Basin and went to work at the Bluewater Brewery in Lake Tahoe until it closed.

She has been working in Santa Rosa since 1996 and has been dating the same guy for seven years.

Claude McLennan was one of those guys who didn’t make a lot of noise in his life.

He owned the Highway 50 Wrecking Yard since 1963. The yard was a constant topic of debate among Lyon County officials under pressure to clean it up.

I didn’t know Claude well. He let me use his phone when my truck broke down at the top of Dayton Hill in 1998.

A light snow was falling when I knocked on his door and asked to use the phone. I didn’t identify myself as a member of the press, because at the time I was just a stranded motorist.

He told me a little bit about himself while we waited for my wife to come get me.

His nearest relatives lived out of state and he fended for himself in the old double-wide trailer that was split a little off kilter.

Claude said he knew people were trying to shut down his yard, but didn’t know why.

Claude died on June 13 at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Reno.

His urn was placed at the Northern Nevada Veteran’s Memorial Cemetery in Fernley on June 24.

Kurt Hildebrand is managing editor of the Nevada Appeal. Reach him at 881-1215.