Brewer Magazine Q&A: Kevin Van Winkle, Endo Brewing

Endo owners Bob Lichens, left and Kevin Van Winkle.

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.

Kevin Van Winkle, Head brewer​/c​o-owner​, Endo BrewingLafayette, Colorado

​BREWER: How do you feel your job has had to adapt in the beer market compared to a two years ago?
VAN WINKLE: Our tasting room and brewery is turned two this year (EDITOR’S NOTE: Endo celebrated its 2nd Anniversary on Sept. 28). So although we weren’t pouring beers two years ago, we were doing tons of research and planning. It was clear to us that the landscape around packaging and distribution was shifting and the model that made the most sense to us was a brewery designed to serve the on-site tasting room. We found the perfect retail space and hired an amazing architect to turn it into something special. The end result is an open, comfortable space with views of the brewery and the mountains. But we didn’t stop there. We knew jumping into a sea of 400-plus breweries in Colorado warranted further distinction. Being huge mountain bike enthusiasts, we knew bicycles and beer go together like movies and popcorn. Conveniently, Bob (the other owner at Endo) had already been planning on opening a bike shop. So, we built his bike shop right in the tasting room, and we can service your bike while you enjoy a beer.

​BREWER: Who is your mentor in the industry and why? What have you learned from them?
VAN WINKLE:​ ​Nathan Watkins and Tyler Brewer (how could he not be a mentor with that last name?) have played a huge role in my growth as a brewer and brewery owner. They’ve taught me everything from brewery operating procedures to ingredient selection to tasting room tweaks. Thanks guys!

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?
VAN WINKLE: If I answer wearing my brewer boots, I’d say as a homebrewer turned professional​.​ I knew I’d have my hands full hitting quality out of the park from ​Day ​One. So, I checked my ego and hired some consultants to ensure we’d release solid beers from ​Day ​One. Two years later, I feel that was money well spent since we’ve been successful in building a brand that customers trust. My next challenge is to apply my mantra of ‘Would I want to drink another pint?’ to more experimental styles.

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)?
VAN WINKLE: From the beginning we knew that cycling and beer were a perfect pairing. It is a huge differentiator. The unforeseen contributor to our success has been pinball. The rare and limited edition machines we have (we’re up to 13 now) draw folks from all over. We even have a ranked player on our beertender staff.

​BREWER: If you had one business strategy that you could implement to better the brewing industry, what would it be?
VAN WINKLE: It might not specifically be a business strategy, but I’m a huge proponent of clear beer. Sure, keep those ​Hazy IPAs and ​Wheat beers cloudy, but please don’t serve hazy Lagers, Ambers, Stouts, and ​Tripels.

Photo Courtesy Endo Brewing with owners Bob Lichens, left and Kevin Van Winkle.

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