Brewer Magazine Q&A: Justin Sproul, 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.

Justin Sproul​,​ Senior Head Brewer​, Iron Hill Brewery — ​Newark, Delaware

BREWER: How do you feel your job has had to adapt in the beer market compared to a few years ago?
SPROUL: I grew up in an industry where we replicated the classic styles of the world and putting an American signature on them by increasing the alcohol and making them more hoppy.  In the last few years I’ve had to adapt to the acceptance of hazy beer which traditionally should be bright — specifically hazy IPAs which are now some of our top selling beers. I never thought I would have to tell a brewer his or her IPA is not hazy enough.

BREWER: Who is your mentor in the industry and why? What have you learned from them?
SPROUL:​ ​Brian Finn because he taught me how to brew beer​. And​ Mark Edelson because he taught me the business of brewing beer​.

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?
SPROUL:​ ​Growing in the brewing industry —​ ​and specifically pub brewing —​ ​I worked by myself a lot and even when I did have help wasn’t always the best at delegating tasks​.​ I frequently would just take care of it myself. In my current role overseeing ​six​ of our brewery operations​,​ I can’t operate in that manner any longer. Over the last few years I have personally had to make changes to how I work with my ​six​ Head Brewers realizing I can’t just take care of it myself anymore. Now I have to work with them to make them better​ brewers through coaching and sharing my past experiences in pub brewing.

Can 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)?
SPROUL:​ ​I can’t really think of a piece of equipment or specific technology that has made us more successful in recent memory. I’d have to say what has made us the most successful is our people and the new ideas they bring to the table keeping us on the cutting edge of brewing new and exciting beers.

If you had one business strategy that you could implement to better the brewing industry, what would it be?
SPROUL:​ ​Dump bad beer down the drain​.​ Don’t try to salvage it or repurpose it​,​ just get rid of it if it doesn’t taste good.

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