The 4 Rules Ringler Follows to Drive Cedar Springs & Küsterer Brauhaus Forward

This is a part of a continuing series of Q&As with members of the brewing community from across the US.
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.

David Ringler, Director of Happiness, Küsterer Brauhaus/Cedar Springs Brewing​ — Grand Rapids & Cedar Springs, Michigan​

BREWER: Why did you enter the craft beer industry and what makes you love being a part of it and staying in it?
​RINGLER: ​I started homebrewing in 1987 and started brewing professionally in Germany in 1994, where I worked under a female Braumeisterin (which was unusual at the time), Angel Würges. I was genuinely touched by the brotherhood of the community. I could visit other breweries, as a foreign-born kid, and introduce myself and who I worked for, and I would be welcomed as a colleague. I find the same sense of community here in West Michigan, which was completely different from my time away from the industry in the financial world for 15 years. My goal was to get back into this industry and I’m so thankful that it’s worked out​.​

BREWER: What do you feel have been new challenges in your position that have helped push you and make you better at your job?
RINGLER: Every day has been a challenge in founding, building, owning, and operating an independent brewery. Obviously, the past few years have been unprecedented for any business, but particularly our industry, which is seeing maturation pains and consolidation as well. I’ve found that working hard to surround ourselves with good people and treating everyone as well as possible has helped us weather most storms. We really have only four rules in our business: Have fun. Make it fun for others. Be there. Choose your attitude. We’ve been able to address nearly every issue that faces us by falling back on one of those four guideposts.  

BREWER: How has the definition of growth for your company evolved and how have you adjusted to be successful in that new definition?
RINGLER: Well, I think the definition has changed a bit for us. From my past, I’ve worked in all three tiers and my intention in founding this company in 2013 was to ultimately grow into a regional distribution presence. Shortly prior to the Pandemic, however, as we analyzed our successes and challenges, we adjusted our gameplan to widen our footprint with additional location outlets rather than invest capital in additional distribution capacity and packaging. The shutdowns and resulting consolidation of suppliers and wholesalers in the industry reinforced that decision. While we were selling all we could make prior, the increased costs and reduced margins of distribution channels, along with the shrinking draft real estate in the on-premise market, convinced us we were in a stronger position close to home and controlling our access to customers.

BREWER: How has opening the Küsterer Brauhaus location helped create a new strategic growth opportunity for the brewery? How does having a presence in West Grand Rapids help expand your brand’s reach?
RINGLER: We are very much a “seasonal” and destination location at our main brewery in Cedar Springs. We were also very limited in the demographics we were touching and we had to constantly work to ensure people remembered we were here and encourage them to make the effort to visit us. Obviously, some of that occurred organically with our on-premise presence, but a more traditional taproom in a growing business corridor allows us to reach an entirely different and diverse set of consumers that was rare at our main location. The response has been really positive, and despite having been around for years, we’re making new friends in the larger city, only 20 minutes away, and that should help us flatten our seasonal curve a bit. It also makes it easier for many of our metro guests to visit “more often” in the city.

BREWER: If you had one business strategy that you could implement to better the brewing industry, what would it be?
RINGLER: Be kind. This is a people business, from the people within our industry to the people we serve, our world ultimately comes down to those connections we can create with our products, atmosphere, and flavors. We specialize in beer styles that are centuries old, but those connections to people — new staff members and guests alike — are often very new​ ​…​ ​and we’re excited every time we “reach” someone new who can say, “Wow.” I would also not measure “success” strictly in volume, as is so often the scale in our industry. We’ve sent people through school, helped parents support their families, introduced patrons to history and culture they didn’t know, reached people who “don’t like beer,” and we’ve changed and improved our community for the better. Those are the “wins” that stand over time.

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