Hospitality alumna thrives on the front lines of beer industry

Beverage connoisseurs agree: finding a great beer can be incredibly rewarding. For Paige Wuensch ’12 MS ’14, beer gave her a career and a future husband, too.

Wuensch, now a regional sales manager for BrewHub, was at a pre-planning meeting for the 2013 North Miami Brewfest when she spotted William Rivera. She was a student, and he was the venue’s point of contact. They didn’t talk then, but they would meet later among friends at Falcon Pub in Davie. They ended up getting engaged.

“It was very unexpected, but definitely welcome at the time. We met about beer and then we officially met with beer in hand,” Rivera said.

Wuensch’s adult life has truly been about beer. As a sales manager at BrewHub, a production beer brewery, she uses her passion for beer on a daily basis. Wuensch travels to bars, supermarkets and liquor stores to sell in her company’s products. She comes prepared with everything to know about her beers—flavor profiles, origins, alcohol content—and a lot of energy.

“You need to love what you sell or be a great actor. The day I realized I should be in sales, I thought I had to sell something that I love, because otherwise I wouldn’t be happy,” Wuensch said.

BrewHub’s beers have been nationally recognized lately; the company’s Rome City IPA won a gold medal at the Great American Beerfest in 2017.

Thanks to the experience Wuensch accrued at FIU, she was well prepared to join the BrewHub team when she graduated.

Wuensch is an alumna of the beverage management track in the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management. As a junior transfer entering the university, Wuensch knew that she wanted to work in the restaurant or beverage industry. It was professor Barry Gump’s beverage management course that primed her for a career in beer.

“She was interested. Usually, there are some who are primarily there to get a casual knowledge. There are others who tend to take it more seriously. She was one of those,” Gump said.

Students brew six of their own beers in Gump’s class. They taste an assortment of beverages and get down to the science behind brewing.

“That’s when I started thinking, ‘Hm, maybe I should do this beverage industry instead of restaurant industry,’” Wuensch said.

She took advantage of FIU’s opportunities to gain real-world experience. The North Miami Brewfest offers students a chance to pour their school’s beers and network within the industry, and Wuensch capitalized. She helped grow the young program as its event director in 2013 and 2014.

Wuensch also volunteered at the Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival (SOBEWFF®) — a national, star-studded, five-day event showcasing the talents of the world’s most renowned wine and spirits producers, chefs and culinary personalities. More than 1,200 FIU students help run the festival.

“Going out to events is where I really shined. We had the [SOBEWFF®], and it was so amazing to be hands-on with Food Network stars like Duff Goldman. By the time I worked my first event in the industry, I wasn’t nervous,” Paige said.

As she prepared to graduate, Wuensch took part-time work with Lagunitas, a prominent craft beer brewery in California, Illinois and Florida. Here she learned the sales side of beer and met her mentor, Joe Reyes.

“[Paige] was the perfect piece we needed. Her work ethic is awesome but even more, she had a superpower. She can tell you about beers without being forward,” Reyes said.

On Nov. 10, Wuensch will return to the North Miami Brewfest, but now as a vendor for BrewHub and a consultant for the dean. Now a professional of the trade, she is happy to go back to where it all began and help the next generation of brewers.

“What FIU gave to me was the door opening and my education. If I had any advice for students, it would be network, network, network. That’s what makes up the hospitality industry,” Wuensch said. “

“They say no one will leave the beverage industry, but they’ll move around all the time.”

The 2018 North Miami Brewfest will take place on Saturday, Nov. 10, at MOCA Plaza. Members of the FIU family receive a discount of 10% off their ticket purchase with the code NoMiBrew10. Tickets are available here.