Brewer Magazine Q&A: Eric Bachli, Sixpoint Brewery

This is a part of a continuing series of Q&As with brewers from across the U.S.

Brewer Magazine will share business and personal insights from Brewmasters, Head Brewers, Brewing Managers and others each weekend to help you, a fellow brewer, Brewmaster or brewing manager get to know each other better in the industry and learn more to better develop your own brand.

Eric Bachli, Chief Product Officer, Sixpoint Brewery — Brooklyn, New York

BREWER: What is a lesson learned within your position that sticks with you to this day?

BACHLI: Craft beer is the sum of all its parts. To create the best beer and experience you have to have a passionate and inspired team, the best raw materials, an innovative pipeline of formulations/technology development all with the customer experience at the forefront of our efforts. This boils down to respect and integrity for the product, process, and people. As a brewer I’ve always made it a point to use this ethos as a guide with the ultimate mandate of creating a unique and differentiated experience.

BREWER: Who is your mentor in the industry and why? What have you learned from them?

BACHLI: I’ve had so many mentors and people that have helped me along the way in the industry — too numerous to list! I think that says a lot about our industry — while competition is the nature of business there is an altruism in the industry that I love. Mentorship comes in so many forms both within and outside of actual brewing that shapes the way we make beer. For me the strongest mentor has always been the team I work with. I always build cooperative team structures as I value input from the least experienced brewer all the way up to the most decorated brewer as well as from the team supporting product (marketing, sales, finance, operations). Some of the most powerful ideas and creative movement have come from the most unlikely of people— they just need the right encouragement and platform to express themselves. Providing an environment where people can express themselves, be creative and challenge the status quo has had the greatest influence on my personal growth in the industry.

Our approach to innovation is through formulation and technology. The “Mad Scientist” philosophy of brewing mandates a dynamic approach to recipe development and constant evolution of our beers to match the equally dynamic and shifting palates of our fan base. The beer fans’ palate is undergoing a transformation—the tolerance for sweetness, bitterness, and sourness is all rapidly changing. It’s the brewers’ job to monitor this, and offer a dynamic range that suits the variety of desired experience. No easy task! We continue to develop new recipes and showcase these as small batch can releases out of our brewery in Brooklyn, some of which will be scaled for national distribution always keeping true to the integrity of the original formulation. We’ve worked hard to establish critical raw material relationships over the years as well — working directly with hop farmers and hand selecting the best hops and varieties to support our innovation.

BREWER: What have you added to your brewery lately that’s unique or making your business more successful?

BACHLI: The technology component as it impacts point of sale and customer experience has been at the forefront of our efforts as we work to create a holistic and valued experience for our customers. In 2017 we released our app technology that provides customers with the ability for seamless transactions online and easy beer pickups without the lines that are becoming more common in the day and age of direct to consumer interactions. We’ve had a tremendous amount of positive feedback and continue to add to the technology. It’s game changing.

BREWER: In today’s business climate for craft beer, how will your brewery grow?

BACHLI: Craft beer is undergoing a shift from the traditional wholesale model and tiered system to more direct to consumer interactions. I’ve always believed that beer should be accessible and that there is room to continue growing in both models — satisfying customer interactions in proximity to the brewery and around the world. Commerce is rapidly evolving with new and innovative technologies, this will have a major impact on how craft brewers and the industry grow as a whole. At Sixpoint we are continuing to innovate on both a product and technology level and believe that a dynamic approach in the evolving market configuration is to adopt and pioneer new platforms for customers to interact with our products.

BREWER: What sort of innovations in craft beer excite you?

BACHLI: We are currently in the midst of a paradigm shift in brewing and evolution of a style of beer — the New England IPA. I remember when this style was first getting rooted in our craft beer culture. In the beginning there were many skeptics within the industry and among the craft beer drinker base. Brewers of these beers were often criticized among their peers as “lazy” because the beers were opaque (perceived as a flaw or lack of understanding basic brewing concepts) and the consumer was shocked (some in good ways and others in bad) at the overall aesthetic. Now we are seeing this style rapidly migrate around the country and each region developing their own take on the style and the beer community embracing it. From an innovation perspective this requires breaking the mold and going against the status quo of more traditional brewing techniques. While extreme brewing has existed in many shapes and forms I believe this style exemplifies going against the grain and pioneering forward—based on the heart and soul of the craft brewer and the palate of the audience we craft our beer for. The style itself is indicative of a palate shift in a subset of the craft beer consumer base. As the IBUs are dialed back the aromatics and fruit notes of the hops and yeast esters shine. The arms race for the highest IBU IPAs has been reversed with more and more breweries aspiring for the “zero” IBU IPA. Generally speaking, people are trending towards less bitterness and more sweetness in their beer.

BREWER: If you had one strategy that you could implement to better the craft beer business, what would it be?

BACHLI: We are seeing tremendous creativity and process innovation in brewing. New styles continue to emerge and the customer is experiencing that creativity with momentous force. This is one component of the customer experience. In taking a holistic approach towards that experience I believe continued innovation into point of sale technology will be game-changing for the consumer. We are working on it!

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