Originally from northern San Diego, Jess Klembara worked as an EMT firefighter before embarking on a brewing career. She and her now husband, a brewer, would go on craft beer dates, trying new styles, and visiting breweries.

“I started learning more and more. And then I became a bartender on the side to learn more about brewing,” she says. ”Then I decided to switch career paths and I went to brewing school.”

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic Klembara and her husband decided to make a change and moved to Iowa to pursue new brewing opportunities. A month after settling into their new home, her sister revealed that she had a genetic mutation that could lead to cancer. Klembara took a BRCA test and received a positive diagnosis that showed she had high risks for breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and pancreatic cancer. A later scan found a pre-cancerous tumor. Soon after, at the age of 27, she underwent a double mastectomy.

Post-surgery she transitioned from brewing work into beer marketing at Confluence Brewing. She was looking for a way to raise awareness and to support others battling breast cancer. The result is the Scars Are Beautiful campaign. She spoke with All About Beer editor John Holl.

John Holl: How did the beer come together?

Jess Klembara: We started here in Iowa, with Toppling Goliath and many other breweries. The following year we took it nationwide. About 300 breweries across the United States did this beer. I was invited to speak at the Craft Brewers Conference in 2023 and will do so again at the 2024 conference. The whole point is, your beautiful, your scars are beautiful. I have these very large scars. And I just want you to feel the same love that I should have felt earlier on in my journey. But that I eventually found.

John Holl: That brewers are getting on board is great. And the invitations to speak at CBC is very nice. What’s the what’s the overall reception been? From the public to drinkers to those this benefits.

Jess Klembara: It’s been amazing. I’ve had hundreds and hundreds of emails come in from survivors, providers, thrivers, anybody that’s going through cancer or know someone who is. They don’t know who I am, I don’t know who they are, but they share their journey. That’s something really special because for a lot of us in the cancer world it’s hard for us to be vulnerable and to speak about our journey.

So, to have these opportunities is amazing and I’m glad I could be there to support others and make them feel loved while they are going through the hardest time of their life.

The beer sells out quickly almost everywhere, and we hope to grow it more and more each year.

John Holl: Tell me about the beer. What’s the recipe?

Jess Klembara: I brewed a West Coast IPA, but it’s up to each brewery to decide what they want to do. Each brewery can focus on one style or focus on specialty ales. We do send them a recipe for the West Coast IPA if they want, because that’s where I’m from.

John Holl: Have most breweries brewed the West Coast IPA? Or are they doing their own thing?

Jess Klembara: I would say like 30 percent do West Coast. I mean, I don’t know about everyone’s recipe, but there have been a lot of sours. Some people made it pink. We had some dark beers. The Veil did a wine saison that was amazing.

Scars Are Beautiful. Can art provided by Jess Klembara.

John Holl:  Is there a unifying thread between the beers? There have been beers for various causes in the past where it’s been a single recipe and then people’s interpretation of that recipe. So, is there a unifying thread for all of the breweries that are doing this?

Jess Klembara: The only thing that’s the same is the branding. And all the breweries have to donate to a local cancer organization of their choice. It doesn’t matter how much it just matters that they donate something. We’re helping organizations nationwide, not necessarily nationwide organizations. This is a local initiative.

I’m hoping that companies like BSG or Country Malt or whoever will get involved as well, like they have with other beers like this, to get materials donated so that more breweries can make this beer and do more good.

John Holl: What else do you want people to know about this initiative?

Jess Klembara: That it’s important. It’s more important than people think. People just think that you’re slapping a label on a beer and you’re calling it a day. But to see the emails and messages that have come through, it means a lot more to everyone in the United States more than people think. It really does uplift them during the hardest moments of their life. And I mean, honestly, I probably wouldn’t have opened up as much as I did, because of my journey and how it started. But other people lifted me up just the same way that I feel. It’s like this spirit is lifting others up to become more comfortable in their bodies.

John Holl: For the breweries that want to participate, how do they get in touch?

Jess Klembara: Anyone interested in Scars Are Beautiful can visit our website, FiercelyBrave.org.

Pull Up a Stool is a regular feature on All About Beer. Reach out to editor John Holl at JohnHoll@allaboutbeer.com with suggestions on brewing professionals that should be featured. And to support our journalism, please visit and donate via Patreon.com/AllAboutBeer