Brewer Magazine Q&A: Ryan Landolt, Crooked Stave

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.

Ryan Landolt, Brewhouse ​and​ Cellar Manager​, Crooked Stave — Denver​

BREWER: How do you feel your job has had to adapt in the beer market compared to a few years ago?
LANDOLT: ​For better or for worse, consumers love new things. That means more limited release, specialty beers if you will. So, in response we’ve broadened our scope and have done quite a few small batch, taproom only releases. We’ve had a few releases under our “Candy Sour Series” that have gone over really well (sour beer inspired by sour candy, such as Peachy O’s, Jolly Ranchers, ​e​tc.). We’ve also released a few unique IPAs. One of which was a modern​-​style IPA with Gewurztraminer grape must ​and​ lactose, and another had loads of fresh Colorado peaches.
BREWER: Who is your mentor in the industry and why? What have you learned from them?
LANDOLT: ​I don’t know that I have a true mentor per sé, but I have learned a ton from our owner and brewmaster, Chad Yakobson, since coming on board here at Crooked Stave. Stand out information includes water chemistry concepts, brew day pH specs, recipe development, leadership, and of course, the importance of keeping a (very) clean work space. Honestly our whole crew over the years has been very helpful and inspirational — my former managers, the lab coordinators, etc. That said, I think that our industry as a whole can act as a mentor in a sense. Anytime I work a festival or attend an industry gathering, I always try to chat theory and process with respected brewers and most of the time they are 100% open with how they do things and will provide any necessary guidance, and that is one of the great things about this industry.
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?
LANDOLT: ​This past October we won a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival for our Lambic inspired, spontaneously fermented beer named “Get the Funk Out.” That has been an amazing project to be a part of — from the coopering of the barrels, to the filling, monitoring, blending, and emptying stages. To have a bunch of industry professionals blind taste that beer and call it the best of the bunch is assurance that the years of work that went into that beer made it all worth it and that we are doing something right. That is definitely a beer that I will cherish for years to come.
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)?
LANDOLT: ​We’ve had it for a few years now, but I think adding our can line has been huge for Crooked Stave. It really changed our business model in a sense in that we went from selling individual 375 mL bottles, to canned six packs. We also started producing non​-​sour beer that has been a huge hit. On top of that, probably our greatest success from adding the can line came with introducing consumers to a high quality, oak​-​aged sour beer in a can with real fruit at an approachable price point — Sour Rosé became our new flagship overnight because of that.
BREWER: If you had one business strategy that you could implement to better the brewing industry, what would it be?
LANDOLT: ​I think investing in a pilot system, no matter how small, would be beneficial to a lot of breweries — especially with today’s “push the envelope” culture. How many times have you hit a home run on a brew the very first time? Especially when you’re dealing with, say, ​four​ different unique ingredients that you’ve never used before. This industry prides itself on quality, and shooting from the hip on a 20​-​barrel system starts to shy away from that. At the end of the day, great beer is what brings people back in the door​.​

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