Brewer Magazine Q&A: Shawn Woodbury, Maxline 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.
Shawn Woodbury, Head Brewer, Maxline Brewing — Fort Collins, Colorado

BREWER: What is a lesson learned within your position that sticks with you to this day?

WOODBURY: Always keep your ears open. Your best feedback is listening to your customers. Since we’ve opened, they’ve helped us make much better beer (and beers well suited to their tastes).

BREWER: Who is your mentor in the industry and why? What have you learned from them?
WOODBURY: I don’t have one mentor specifically, but I’ve had the substantial benefit of starting my brewing career in large, regional breweries, surrounded by brilliant brewers. In terms of specific names I’d say I’ve taken the most lessons and guidance from John Cataldo of Great North Aleworks, Ken Hermann of the Isle Brewer’s Guild, and Aaron Moberger of Harpoon Brewing (all of whom I worked with during my time at the Harpoon Brewery). They taught me to keep things simple and to honor the ingredients. Also, Ken might be my spirit animal.

BREWER: What have you added to your brewery lately (concepts, equipment or technology) that’s unique or making your business more successful?
WOODBURY: We’ve recently been focused on beers that take influence from the other sectors of the beverage/culinary industry. Arroz con Leche, Plum Spice Ale, and Mean Heat Wheat are all beers inspired by food. Raspberry Basil is based on a classic cocktail. Mainly the thing we’re doing differently is focusing on flavor over pre-defined style. Each time we make these beers, it becomes clearer that our guests really connect with this approach.

BREWER: In today’s business climate for craft beer, how do you feel your brewery will grow?
WOODBURY: Slowly. Correctly. In this market, there is little to no margin of error, and quality is king. As there are so many high-quality, interesting beers out there, the standards are higher than ever.  We’re ensuring that we’re growing at a responsible rate, or in other words, a rate at which we can keep our promises to our guests of the highest possible quality beer and great beer drinking experiences.

BREWER: What sort of innovations in craft beer excite you?
WOODBURY: Craft brewing is certainly a different industry than it was even a few years ago. I am mostly excited that we are starting to question the long-held traditions and practices of our industry. There has always been trend-breaking aspects of our industry, but now it seems there are no-holds barred. We’ve started to redefine how brewing works, from adding later, cooler-temp hop additions in the kettle, to playing with more fruit, spices and adjuncts. And that is very exciting to me.

BREWER: If you had one strategy that you could implement to better the craft beer business as a whole, what would it be?
WOODBURY: Honestly, I’d make it more accessible. I frequently worry that our recent, elevated attitude as an industry has turned off a substantial portion of people who could otherwise become more passionate beer drinkers. Beer has always been the people’s beverage. I would hope we haven’t forgotten that. Most of us start brewing because we want to make delicious beers and facilitate great drinking experiences. I think it’s imperative to keep that in mind.

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