Brewer Magazine Q&A: Bill Cherry, Switchback Brewing

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.

Bill Cherry, Brewmaster, Switchback Brewing — Burlington, Vermont

BREWER: Who is your mentor in the industry and why? What have you learned from them?
CHERRY: John McDonald of Boulevard Brewing gave me my first job as Head Brewer. John taught me the importance of moving on from mistakes and only dwelling on the lessons learned and improvements that follow. His complete dedication to quality and never-ending quest to make the beer even better coupled with a respect for everyone he’s working with is a model I continue to aspire to. I see this as driving a vibrant innovative work atmosphere as well as great loyalty to the beer and brewery.

BREWER: What have you added to your brewery lately that’s unique or making your business more successful?
CHERRY: Smoked beers! We are on a rampage with smoked beers in our Flynn on Fire Smoked Beer Initiative. We are taking smoky flavor beyond the traditional styles and using it to augment and add complexity to other beers. We have already released three flavors and have another four to follow, ranging from Stout to Saison styles.

BREWER: In today’s business climate for craft beer, how will your brewery grow?
CHERRY: We believe staying true to ourselves will maintain our growth. The consumer senses authenticity and we have that in spades. We are a 100-percent employee-owned brewery with a unique production method that emphasizes aging tank freshness, and a Brewmaster that refuses to brew beer he doesn’t love (that’s me – not good for business but points for heart!)

BREWER: What sort of innovations in craft beer excite you?
CHERRY: Anything that rethinks the standards. i.e. If Pilsener has been perfected what can the new brewer do to take that style in a unique direction? I don’t need to drink another perfect Pilsener, I need to drink something Pilsener-like that I never dreamed of.

BREWER: If you had one strategy that you could implement to better the craft beer business, what would it be?
CHERRY: Mandatory draft beer line cleaning regimen. The number of times I have had to choke down fantastic beer, my own and my competitors, that has been destroyed by poor draft systems is a crime.

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