Bootleg Team


Our Team spends every day growing, dreaming about, brewing with, and cleaning up loads of yeast and bacteria that will one day brew you an excellent beer. Take a moment and get to know our team of brewers and yeast wranglers.

  • Name: Jeff Mello
  • Title: Founder/Chief Yeast Wrangler
  • Background: Starting homebrewing in 2010. Caught first Local Yeast in 2013. Politics and history junky. 
  • Favorite Beer Styles: English cask ale, Lambics.
  • Favorite Bootleg Strain: The next culture we release, because that one is gonna be PHENOMENAL.
  • In high school I was sure I’d be: A&R Rep for a record label.
  • Favorite band in High School: Deftones.
  • Name: Erin Mello
  • Title: Founder/Chief Technology & Sustainability Officer
  • Background: Energy/environmental enginerd and data geek. Shirley’s Mom.
  • Favorite Beer Styles: Fruited sours in Summer. Porters in Winter. NO HOPS.
  • Favorite Bootleg Strain: Sour Weapon P. A lot of quick sours are bracingly acidic, but Pedio pentosaceus creates a gentle, rounded acid profile that compliments a subtle malt profile.
  • In high school I was sure I’d be: Professional sleeper. Fall back plan: Veterinarian.
  • Favorite band in High School: No one understands me like the Cranberries do.
  • Name: Sam Wineka
  • Title: Lab Manager/Bioprospector
  • Background: Homebrewing since 2008. Former president of the DC Homebrewers. Recovering journalist/flack.
  • Favorite Beer Styles: Well made IPAs and Negra Modelo Fanboi.
  • Favorite Bootleg Strain: S. Arlingtonesis. It’s a super versatile strain, able to ferment at both ale and lager temps. It’s become my go-to strain for anything clean.
  • In high school I was sure I’d be: Playing guitar before hoards of adoring fans by now.
  • Favorite band in High School: DMB….yeah, I know.
  • Name: Faye Johnson
  • Title: Lab Tech/Yeastologist
  • Background: Got a food science degree, became a cheese maker, and now a brewer/distiller/lab nerd.
  • Favorite Beer Styles: Goses, Saisons, and super clean Lagers.
  • Favorite Bootleg Strain: Oslo Kveik. It challenges me in the lab, and has the potential to make life easier for homebrewers.
  • In high school I was sure I’d be:  A pastry chef.
  • Favorite band in High School: Panic! At The Disco (and eyeliner for days).
  • Name: Don Graves
  • Title: Production/Shipping Officer
  • Background: Homebrewing since 2005.  Former finance desk jockey.
  • Favorite Beer Styles: Farmhouse ales (I love local ingredients and yeasts!), Lambics and IPAs.
  • Favorite Bootleg Strain: Sour Weapon L. Its clean acidity can be used in so many beer styles. Huge upgrade over my old sour mashing technique. I’m also a frequent Local Yeast Project contributor, I love experimenting with those as well.
  • In high school I was sure I’d be: Rambo… I swore into the Marines, then joined ROTC… but it didn’t take.
  • Favorite band in High School: Weezer, I had to pretend to cry to the doorman to get into my first concert.
  • Name: Leia Siksay
  • Title: Lab Tech/Mother of Microbes
  • Background: Got a degree in Molecular & Cellular Biology from Vanderbilt that lay dormant for 8 years until I started this job. Seven years in the non-profit/education world. Spanish-speaker.
  • Favorite Beer Styles: The darker, the better! Stouts, porters, anything barrel-aged. If I’m craving something lighter, fruited sours or wheat beers.
  • Favorite Bootleg Strain: I love the aroma of a fresh Saison Parfait or NEEPAH Blend.
  • In high school I was sure I’d be: Either a teacher or a doctor. Oh well.
  • Favorite band in High School: I listened to a lot of Spanish pop & Christian rap.
  • Name: Isaac Brannon
  • Title: Lab Tech/Yeast Whisperer
  • Background: Homebrewing made me want to be a scientist, so here I am.
  • Favorite Beer Styles: German Pils. Life is all about subtle complexities.
  • Favorite Bootleg Strain: Saison Parfait. Saisons were a big part of my craft beer epiphany, and the first style I was obsessed with brewing.
  • In high school I was sure I’d be:  Wearing pajama pants to work every day.
  • Favorite band in High School: Underoath (year pictured).