Brewer Magazine Q&A: Nick Dunn, Swamp Head 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.

Nick Dunn, Director of Operations, Swamp Head Brewery — Gainesville, Florida

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

DUNN: Nothing is ever the same, ingredients change, personnel fluctuates, and the market is always evolving. You can’t ever get comfortable or complacent, you need to adapt as fast as everything around you is.

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

DUNN: Swamp Head’s Original “Brewmaster,” Craig Birkmair, is definitely one mentor. He showed me the ropes and taught me how to brew on a commercial level. Madison Roane, from Cigar City, is also someone that I’ve had a lot of respect for over the years. He’s been super helpful answering all those weird questions and giving insight as to why CCB went the direction they did, so we never had to make some of the same mistakes.

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

DUNN: My background is Mechanical Engineering, that’s what I did in undergrad. So just the ability to have some sort of insight from a mechanical perspective allows us to find projects that we can do in-house, or which we will need to budget for. We frequently do a lot of refurbishing of equipment from the cellar to the lab that normally we would not be able to afford.

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

DUNN: We’ve had a “strange” growth at Swamp Head. 10 percent to 25 percent growth each year would make every other industry crap themselves. However, in beer, it’s weird to be this consistent. Been around for 10-ish years depending on the metric, and you can kinda set your clock by us. So we’ll see if we can keep it up into regional size.

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

DUNN: Different styles and trends are always cool. Also nice to see legislators slowly changing toward our favor. Little scary with all the consolidation, but [it’s] to be expecting with a maturing industry.

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

DUNN: Continuing with consumer education. A lot of great beer [is] out there and a lot of not-that-great beer out there. I think we need to focus on quality and making sure the consumer knows: best buy dates; what should and shouldn’t be sour; or [how] a style should taste. Ideally, it will only help the whole industry, brewers and consumers alike.

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