Brewer Magazine Q&A: Chris LaPierre, Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant

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.
Chris LaPierre, Senior Head Brewer​, Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant​

BREWER: ​How do you feel your job has had to adapt in the beer market compared to a few years ago?
​LAPIERRE: ​If we’re talking strictly beer, we have to be way more innovative now. There’s a lot more competition out there these days and a lot of the new competition is young homebrewers “gone pro.”  They’re ‘breaking a lot of rules’ and using new, unconventional techniques and ingredients. The public has appreciated this and breweries can no longer get away with sticking to four-ingredient time-honored styles. In order to stay relevant we have to innovate as well. The biggest impact on my job has less to do with beer though, it has to do with training and hiring. There are so many breweries opening up out there and that means a lot of opportunity for brewers. There’s no longer a line of people waiting for brewing jobs. That means we often have to hire younger brewers with little to no experience. So we spend a lot more time training and supervising. There’s also the fact that the incoming class of brewers are largely of a different generation. Millennials learn differently than do Gen Xers. And a lot of Gen Xers and Baby Boomers just don’t know how to train Millennials. That’s on us to figure out because they’re not making any more Gen Xers!

​BREWER: Who is your mentor in the industry and why? What have you learned from them?
LAPIERRE: I would have a hard time choosing one mentor. I’ve been lucky enough to work with a lot of very talented brewers and for a few different companies. What I love about the brewing community is willing brewers are to help each other out.  There are dozens of people I can call if I need help or advice. It also helps to work for an operation like Iron Hill. We have a pretty diverse group of brewers with a broad range of experience and we’re very much a team. I’ve learned something from every brewer at Iron Hill.

​BREWER: If you had one business strategy that you could implement to better the brewing industry, what would it be?
LAPIERRE: A higher level of professionalism. If we ever want to be able to charge as much for beer as winemakers charge for wine, we have to first make beer as respected as wine. When beer names and labels make drug references, are misogynistic, glorify violence [and such], that doesn’t help. It’s about how we conduct ourselves as well. Dressing slovenly, using swear words during speeches and interviews doesn’t make us look professional. I think we could learn a lot from the wine industry when it comes to image.

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