Brewer Magazine Q&A: Joel Will, Rohrbach Brewing

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.

Joel Will, Brewpub Brewery Manager, Rohrbach Brewing — Rochester, New York

BREWER: How do you feel your job has had to adapt in the beer market compared to a few years ago?
WILL: Years ago, my position at our smaller brewery focused mostly on brewing small batches of custom brews for some of our best wholesale accounts. It wound up being a smaller version of production, making the same beers over and over, with an occasional chance to do a creative one-off for our brewpub. But the market has changed to the point where beer drinkers are looking for something new and more creative every time they stop in at our brewpub or beer hall, so it’s become my job to brew small batches with as much creativity as possible to sell in-house, and I love it.

BREWER: Who is your mentor in the industry and why? What have you learned from them?
WILL: It’s hard to pick one mentor since I’ve worked under and learned from some awesome and super skilled people, but I’ll go with the guy who first taught me to brew, our Head Brewer back when I started at Rohrbachs, Mitch. He was also the small-batch brewer at our brewpub when he started with the company. Naturally, I learned my first bits of brewing science from him, but he played a huge part in starting me out with the idea that beer can be so much more than the classic (albeit great) beer styles that have been around for ages, and just to think outside the box of tradition. It’s the mindset that I need to have as the small-batch brewer at Rohrbachs.

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?
WILL: Every time I make a small batch that winds up being popular enough that it needs to become part of our large-scale Neoteric Series, I have a Proud Dad kind of moment. The most recent was my Neapolitan version of our flagship Scotch Ale. We released it on a larger scale, canned, distributed, etc. It ran out ahead of schedule over a month ago and people are still calling us asking where they can find it. When people demand that my one-offs become flagships, I feel like I’m doing something right.

BREWERCan 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)?
WILL: We just finished installing a new seven-barrel brewhouse in my brewery at the brewpub. The brewhouse I had before was the original one that Rohrbachs started with almost 30 years ago. It was a bit of a Frankenstein system, was extremely inefficient, and undersized in almost every way. I’ve brewed five or six batches on this new brewhouse from ProBrew and it’s awesome. Overall, we’re just able to get more out of every batch with less work and time, but higher quality. Win-win-win.

BREWER: If you had one business strategy that you could implement to better the brewing industry, what would it be?
WILL: I think if more breweries visibly give to their community, it will better the industry as well as our communities. Whether it’s having a standing “charity” draft line where a certain amount of money from each pour goes to certain charities or having staff volunteering days. I guess I don’t look at it so much as a business strategy, but I do think businesses like breweries should support their local community, and chances are the community will respond in kind. Luckily I work for a company that already does this.

1 Comment

  1. I just read the interview with Joel Will from Rohrbach. I have followed the Brewery from the old days at Gregory St. great beer from the start, these younger brewers have hit the mark with some of their ideas and innovations.

    Space Kitty is outstanding, i cant wait for the release of the summer Pineapple Wheat. Rohrbach has been the pioneer of craft beers in the Rochester area.

    Guys like Joel make it happen

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