This Focus Fowler Feels is Best for Facilitating Growth

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.

This past summer, the San Diego Brewers Guild announced a change in leadership as Erik Fowler was named as the replacement for Paige McWey Acers. Fowler, 35, spent the last nine years as Head of Education & Craft Hospitality at White Labs Brewing Co. and its sister company White Labs. A Certified Cicerone®, Fowler also served as a Director on the Brewers Guild Board of Directors for the last year and a half.

Erik Fowler, Executive Director, San Diego Brewers Guild 

BREWER: What new initiatives or law reforms have been worked on lately by your guild that’s unique or making your member breweries become more successful?
FOWLER: The San Diego Brewers Guild is focusing on educational opportunities for our members. Facilitating workshops, panels, and our annual conference that brings discussion and insight from industry veterans and outside perspectives to keep our local industry relevant and innovative.

READ MORE: San Diego Beer Week Returns November 3-12

BREWER: What business strategies are you encouraging breweries to evolve toward to help stay competitive or even flourish during this difficult period of the industry?
FOWLER: Focus on your community and humanize your brand. Both internal and external communities are what our industry is built on and it’s essential we celebrate that. Taproom sales are still thriving, and it is that personal connection and experience that will always remain important.

BREWER: How do you feel your guild has had to adapt in the industry compared to a few years ago?
FOWLER: Our industry is not just one big party — and that’s OK. Most other industries have realized this, and it’s taken time for beer, as a whole, to come to terms with it. The San Diego Brewers Guild will continue creating avenues for honest conversations on how to advance our industry. It might not be topics we want to hear, but the brewing industry is not isolated and there’s a lot that can be learned from what others have done to pivot their businesses and industries.

BREWER: Can you share a success story (be it a brewery, an event, law change, etc.) that you are proud of the maturity and growth of what they/it has done or perhaps a story of how you learned from a situation that has altered your thoughts on how you do your job now and how the guild works with its members?
FOWLER: I recently had a meeting with an affiliate member who supports breweries with their services and has a genuine interest and caring for the breweries they work with. They made a comment, however, that the beer industry seems cliquey and difficult for an outsider to break into. It took me back, as from my experiences we are a very open and welcoming industry. But days later I was still thinking about this comment. This person was right. Our industry, and the Guild to some extent, can come off as cliquey. We are a community that is very tight knit and consisting of a lot of friendships not seen in other industries. This can make it difficult for other professionals who might only understand beer from a hobbyist perspective and not understand how to break the ice. Due to comments like this, SDBG has a renewed vow to better our communication and accessibility. We want to be perceived as present and open to all our members.

BREWER: If you had one business strategy that you could implement to better the brewing industry, what would it be?
FOWLER: Re-define why craft matters to younger beer drinkers. We need to inspire the younger generation to seek their local brewery. A lot of breweries are doing a great job at this, but as an industry, we need to push in the same direction and capture new beer drinkers to ensure the longevity of what we all love. 

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