Gia Nigro ’15 is still adjusting to how quickly her future has taken shape since her junior year at W&J. The chemistry major who had planned to go to medical school is now working for a large Scottish brewing company in Ohio.
Nigro first became interested in beer while taking brewing-related chemistry classes with Professor of Chemistry Dr. Robbie Iulicci. At the time, her career plan was to become emergency room doctor. Many of her family members work in healthcare, and she knew that there was job security in the field.
But once she had the chance to delve into the science behind beer, Nigro found her passion and it was full speed ahead. Instead of studying for the MCAT, she brewed beer for W&J’s Chemfest, began researching brewing careers, and applied for a graduate program in brewing and distilling at Heriot-Watt University (HWU) in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Two days before Nigro left for a three-month organic chemistry research internship in Madrid, Spain, in the summer of 2014, the acceptance letter arrived from HWU. A week later, she accepted a place in the program and had to break the news to her family.
Her family favored a medical career, pointing out that people will always need healthcare. But Nigro countered by saying that people always have, and always will, drink beer. So far, the opportunities she’s had in the field have worked out better than she could have imagined.
Nigro started the intense program at HWU in the fall of 2015 and she had a job before graduating. She started working for BrewDog in Ellon, Scotland, in August 2016 and received her master’s degree in November 2016. As her student visa was expiring, BrewDog tried to procure a work visa for Nigro but was unable to because of her limited experience in the field.
Fortunately, the timing coincided with the company opening their first brewery outside of Scotland. It just so happened to be located in the United States in Columbus, Ohio, a few hours away from her hometown of Youngstown, Ohio.
After a series of interviews, Nigro was hired as one of two brewers helping to launch BrewDog USA. She flew back to the U.S. on New Year’s Eve 2016, and has spent the first part of 2017 working around the clock to help launch their stateside endeavor.
Nigro has been working with a small team to do everything from sourcing ingredients and supplies to reading construction blueprints as the groundwork is laid for brewing to begin.
DogTap, the bar and taproom in the facility, opened at the end of February and their first brew was April 10.
Everything Nigro has experienced in her career so far has surpassed her expectations. She envisioned starting at a small brewery with an upscale version of a homebrew kit.
She had first heard of BrewDog through the founders’ reality TV show and drank their beer after she arrived in Scotland. When she was looking for a job as graduation loomed, she applied and followed up with the brewery until she made a connection. Her persistence led to an interview, a three-day trial, and ultimately a dream job.
Nigro is both grateful and in awe of the amount of faith BrewDog has had in her so far, especially at the beginning of her career. Her family has come to accept her decisions to pursue beer over medicine, especially as they have seen her rapid success.
“I wasn’t expecting to start at this large of a scale,” Nigro said. “It’s all worked out so perfectly. I never imagined this is where I would end up.”