DARIEN — Emily Sauter, or “Em,” can’t get enough of beer.
Sauter, who will be turning 35 Sunday, is a certified beer connoisseur whose interest in the beverage became an outright fascination and, ultimately, into a career that has taken her around the country.
Sauter’s fondness for beer is so that she recalls the one drink that captivated her attention and taste buds.
“I was in New Hampshire in 2006, the Seahawks were playing the Steelers in the Super Bowl and I had this Sam Adams white ale,” Sauter said when she presented at the Darien Library last week. “It was 25 ounces, $4.50 and I remember this moment like it was yesterday because the minute I had this beer — it was spicy, it wasn’t bitter and it was easy to drink. It really changed my life.”
Growing up in Darien, Sauter developed an interest in drawing and Archie comics at a young age. She headed out to study at Bard College where she met a young Ronan Farrow, the reporter who wrote the Harvey Weinstein exposé for The New Yorker and son of Mia Farrow and Woody Allen.
“I was a cartoonist for the Bard Observer,” Sauter said. “Farrow was a super, super smart kid and he wore these little jumpsuits and one of my comics is based on him.”
After completing her undergraduate studies, Sauter worked in finance in Boston for three years prior to attending the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vermont, where she obtained her Master of Fine Arts degree in cartooning in 2011.
In May 2010, Sauter fused her interests in beer and drawing into the cartoon that became “Pints and Panels,” her personal way of reviewing different types of beer through a cartoon self-portrait that was accompanied by, at the beginning, a star-system rating.
“I used to give star ratings, but not anymore because I love all beer. In 2010 my favorite beer was a Sixpoint Bengali Tiger IPA,” Sauter said, pointing to her cartoon review of that memorable drink.
Her work has been recognized in various beer blogs and outlets nationally and even in the Milan daily Corriere della Sera as a recognized food blog. In 2016, Sauter was named a Top 40 under 40 Tastemaker by Wine Enthusiast Magazine.
Sauter, who resides in New Britain, sports two tattoos on her left forearm: a nonic (“no-nick”) glass and a Brussel glass, both used for beer. Both designs are simple, black ink outlines, about an inch in length and are purposefully empty.
“I wanted them empty because it means that there will always be more beer, even when times are tough,” Sauter said in an interview over the loud hisses and bangs coming from the machinery in the Stratford-based Two Roads brewery.
In her quest to discover the infinite types of beers, Sauter has worked in New Hampshire, Oregon and back home in Connecticut. She has worked at Two Roads since October 2012 as the social media and communications manager and has been a firsthand witness to the company’s growth and expansion into foreign markets.
2017 was a particularly outstanding year for the Darien native.
“Pints and Panels” eventually developed into its very own book titled “Beer is for Everyone (of Drinking Age)” that was published in October last year by One Peace Books. Sauter’s signature caricatures guide the reader through the various types of beers and their ingredients.
“My book is a very elementary approach to beer but beer can also get super scientific,” Sauter said. “For months I would wake up early, draw for an hour, come to work, go home and then do the digital clean-up of the art at night.”
Around the same time last year, Sauter decided to put her skills to the test, literally, when she signed up to take the rigorous Advanced Cicerone certification exam.
“I studied for about four months and I would listen to an audio about beer on repeat for three months straight. I also had flash cards a friend gave me, to which I added my own, coming in at 950 cards,” Sauter said.
According to the Cicerone Certification Program website, the Advanced Cicerone certification was introduced in 2015 to “distinguish those individuals who had advanced their knowledge to an expert level” — a rank Sauter joined in early November of last year.
“I just read the words ‘Congratulations’ (in the email) and I threw my computer across the room and started screaming about how I had passed,” Sauter said, smiling. “It was a really exciting experience especially after having studied for so long.”
In yet another achievement, Sauter was called to be a judge for the Great American Beer Festival last year, an event that welcomes only 20 new judges a year.
“It was really exciting to get the call,” Sauter recalled. “It was one of my lifelong goals and the beers were unbelievable. We got to taste 300 beers or so in the span of a week.”
Sauter still has a long way to go and she keeps enjoying the journey, abiding by her personal philosophy that “Beer is like music — it is infinite. That's what I like about this gig — it's never done.”