Brewer Magazine Q&A: Matt Gundrum, 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.
Matt Gundrum, Senior Head Brewer​, Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant — Ardmore, Pennsylvania​

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How do you feel your job has had to adapt in the beer market compared to a few years ago?
​GUNDRUM: ​Well, there’s a lot more competition out there now. A lot more. This year, there will be over 7,000 breweries open in the United States, the most in our history. Where in years past we were the only brewers on the block, we’re seeing more and more breweries open in our back yards, so now the pressure is on to strive to be the absolute best. The American craft beer drinker has certainly changed over the past few years as well. Craft beer is no longer a niche, and occupies over a 20% market share of all beer sold in the US. Additionally, there are many new styles of beer out there that didn’t exist just a few years ago. The haze craze is real, and it seems it is here to stay.

​BREWER: Who is your mentor in the industry and why? What have you learned from them?
GUNDRUM: I would not be the brewer I am today without my good friend and mentor, Tim Stumpf. Twelve years ago, he brought me into the brewery for my first “brew-for-a-day” for Iron Hill. At the time I was a bartender, and never dreamed I had a career in brewing ahead of me. In fact, I had never (and still haven’t) homebrewed a single batch of beer. I fell instantly in love with the process, and applied for a position as an assistant brewer. Tim took me from a completely green, beer-loving bartender, and molded me into a professional brewer. It’s been a long road, and I absolutely have Tim to thank. I’m looking forward to checking out his new gig at Untied Brewing Company in New Providence, New Jersey.​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?
GUNDRUM:​ ​I had left Iron Hill for a couple of years, to pursue an opportunity at Port Jeff Brewing Co. on Long Island. While it was an amazing experience, and I fell in love with the Island (I still visit regularly), my heart is in Pennsylvania. I returned to Iron Hill in 2016, and at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, won my very first GABF medal as a Head Brewer. What made it such a special experience was that it kept alive Iron Hill’s 20-year streak (and counting) of winning medals at the worlds most prestigious beer competition. What makes this festival really great for us though, isn’t the medals or the great beer. It’s the people that we work with that come out to support us, and cheer us on. We regularly have 50-plus staff members that aren’t brewers pay their own way to show their brewers some love​.​

​BREWER: 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)?
GUNDRUM: I think really what we do here at Iron Hill overall is unique in the industry. I can’t think of another brewpub that has ever done precisely what we do, keeping 15 unique beers on tap across 16 locations regionally. Additionally, all of our food is prepared from scratch, and all of our servers are highly trained to guide our guests through food and beer pairings using flavor profiles. Each of our breweries has its own Head Brewer, who creates new and innovative recipes, and has a loyal following of guests who visit multiple times per week. We also have a loyalty program that rewards guests for their purchases and special nights known as “King of the Hill Night” where our guests get added benefits and get to meet the brewers.

​BREWER: If you had one business strategy that you could implement to better the brewing industry, what would it be?
GUNDRUM: Honestly, even though brewing is one of the most ancient professions, the craft brewing industry in America is just in its infancy and it’s still the best it’s ever been. Quality, variety, and accessibility are driving the industry forward, and really the only thing holding it back are some of the archaic state and federal laws that were instilled almost 100 years ago after prohibition. All brewers and brewery owners should be active in their local, state and national governments, and help fight to change these laws for the betterment of craft brewing as a whole. Otherwise, the best strategy is to just make great beer​.​

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