Brewer Magazine Q&A: Brian Grace, Thirsty Monk

 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 Grace, Head Brewer​, Thirsty Monk — Denver​

​BREWER: ​How do you feel your job has had to adapt in the beer market compared to a few years ago?
​GRACE: ​It seems that a few years ago there was more focus on churning out flagships and making sure they were all “to spec” but lately the focus has shifted to being able to keep up with the ever​-​changing trends and offering a constant rotation of beer. The beer lovers seem to never tire of new and interesting or weird beer flavors and/or methods. But, there are also the beer drinkers who have been into beer for a long time who really just want a beer that tastes like beer.

BREWER: Who is your mentor in the industry and why? What have you learned from them?
GRACE: I have two: Ron Jeffries from Jolly Pumpkin and Chad Yakobson from Crooked Stave. I have tons of respect for these guys for blazing trails in the wood aged, sour and wild beer world. I have learned practically everything I know from them. From Ron, I learned the science and art of blending and he has helped train my palate to taste beyond off flavors, but to think about how the beer will taste in the future. He also taught me how important it is to try new things. From Chad, I learned the importance of overall science in brewing, awareness of work place, cleanliness and to keep learning even when you think you have mastered something. They are both very intelligent people in very different ways and I think I have had the benefit of learning two sides to many aspects of brewing and cellaring.

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?
GRACE: Every time a brew or a blend turns out as good or better than I expected I consider a success story! Making good beer has become much easier over the years, but there are always pitfalls if you get complacent and one of those pitfalls is making the same beers over and over and expecting people to continue to drink it. I think that if you are not constantly learning or trying to change things up you will lose your spirit and your beers will suffer.

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)?
GRACE: Thirsty Monk is trying to explore a different realm of expanding that is not entirely reliant on distribution and getting on grocery shelves. Right now, we are expanding via tap rooms in different cities. It has been both a difficult and rewarding road, but one that we feel we can learn from, adjust and keep moving.

BREWER: If you had one business strategy that you could implement to better the brewing industry, what would it be?
GRACE: I think our current business strategy of expanding via small, local brew pubs over fighting for grocery shelf space offers customers beer that is fresh and more like what the brewer intended. Packaging in bottles and cans and distributing is a delicate process and can really ruin a beer if not handled with care!

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