Brewer Magazine Q&A: Brian Finn, Iron Hill Brewery

This is a part of a continuing series of Q&As with members of the brewing community from across the U.S.
Brewer Magazine will share business and personal insights from Brewmasters, Head Brewers, Brewing Managers, Sales Directors, QCQA Managers and others each weekend to help you get to know each other better in the industry and learn more to better develop your own brand.

Brian Finn​, ​Regional Brewer​, Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant​

BREWER: How do you feel your job has had to adapt in the beer market compared to a few years ago?
FINN: Intent is a key word for us in the last few years. With the changing tastes of the beer market compared to a few years ago, we had to start brewing modern styles that customers are clamoring for. New England-style IPA (which I think we should refer to as Northeast-style IPA because I’m an Eagles fan), Juicy IPAs and Milkshake IPAs. We didn’t want our brewers to just stop filtering beers and call them NEIPA. If the beer was intended to be hazy, it should stay that way from first pint until the last of that batch. These beers have stability issues that we needed to address so we sometimes split the batches between locations to ensure that they are at their peak freshness.

BREWER: Who is your mentor in the industry and why? What have you learned from them?
FINN: Early in my career it would have been Ryan Ashley, he ran a brewpub in Chicago area. He helped us brew the first couple of batches in our original location in Newark, Delaware. We became close and he would answer my questions and make me look like I had more knowledge than I did for my real mentor, Mark Edelson. Mark and I worked together in the Newark location and he put me on a diet of great beer and reading books about brewing. Later in my career, he taught us how to operate and run a brewery from a financial standpoint. This is what we teach our brewers now. Great beer in a financially responsible brewery.

BREWER: Can you share a success story that you are proud of in your job or maybe a story of how you learned from a situation that has altered your thoughts on how you do your job now?
FINN: We have so many success stories. Most involve people who I have hired. They have become very successful both within our organization and outside. I have always been more proud of brewers that I have hired than anything that I have done. They are a reflection of you. Instilling pride in the craft in them, and the knowledge to execute that craft, it only makes the organization and industry better.

BREWER: Can you touch on something your brewery has added lately that’s unique or making your business more successful (it could be equipment, technology or people)?
FINN: Appreciation of the customers. A few years back, I started doing Appreciation Nights for my customers in our Wilmington, Delaware location (twice a month). We put on a special beer and paired it with a small food item to highlight how beer pairs so well with food. We also gave double loyalty points on these nights. This drew in the most loyal beer fans and they started seeing each other at every event. It became a sense of community and these customers became lifelong friends with myself and each other. A few years later when I was managing multiple breweries, I took it company-wide and gave a platform for each brewer to engage the guests in a community-like atmosphere. Isn’t that what everyone wants from a pub/restaurant?

BREWER: If you had one business strategy that you could implement to better the brewing industry, what would it be?
FINN: It would be to have a complete business. Show passion for each part of the industry. The beer, the cleanliness of the facility, the people who work tirelessly for you, and in our case, food and service. Give the complete experience.

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