Brewer Magazine Q&A: Justin Clark, Cigar City 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.
Justin Clark, Chief Operating Officer​, Cigar City Brewing — Tampa, Florida​
​BREWER: What is a lesson learned within your position that sticks with you to this day?
​CLARK: ​I know it is an obvious one, but surround yourself with people smarter than yourself.
​BREWER: Who is your mentor in the industry and why? What have you learned from them?
​CLARK: ​I am fortunate I have had many mentors in the industry. Our ​f​ounder Joey Redner has taught me countless things. I love that ​quality comes first, always. Without a quality product how do you expect people to continue to buy your beer​? Quality is expensive but he always was in the mindset if you spend it up front it is actually cheaper than trying to fix a problem. You have one opportunity to make a first impression. We are in a friendly collaborative industry. I have a mentor in Tommy Gannon from Sierra Nevada, it is great being able to call him up and ask some sales questions, or even what would Sierra ​would do in this instance… considering they are at the top of our industry​,​ it​’s​ amazing having access to their knowledge.

​BREWER: What have you added to your brewery lately (concepts, equipment or technology) that’s unique or making your business more successful?
​CLARK: ​We have been able to add a bunch of resources to Cigar City Brewing. When we joined CANarchy Craft Brewery Collective, we got access to so many things we were lacking. We have access to data that wasn’t available to us previously. (We didn’t have the budget) Our sales team grew tenfold​.​ We have capacity that we wouldn’t have had access to, this year we will more than double our volume th​en​ when we joined ​two years ago. We have added centrifuges to ​two​ of our facilities and a ​third on the way! The biggest benefit we gained by joining CANarchy is the talent that now surrounds us, competitors are now colleagues​.​
​BREWER: In today’s business climate for craft beer, how do you feel your brewery ​will ​grow?
​CLARK: ​We are very fortunate, Cigar City Brewing has not been available in many markets, but we have recently grown to 23 states. Some of our growth is coming from new markets, but the most exciting piece is that we are still up almost 30​ percent​ in Florida. Our team still pinches ourselves how well our brands are traveling in today’s climate. Our growth is led by Jai Alai IPA but we have a great supporting cast with Guayabera Pale Ale, Florida Cracker Belgian White Ale and Maduro Brown Ale.
BREWER: What sort of innovations in craft beer excite you?
​CLARK: ​I am most excited that just when you think everything has been done, new trends and styles are invented. I am not saying I love all of them but it is encouraging that brewers across the world are still experimenting.
BREWER: ​If you had one strategy that you could implement to better the craft beer business as a whole, what would it be?
​CLARK: ​I think the best strategy for craft beer would center around quality. Maybe inventing a package that would safety self-destruct when out of code​. 🙂

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