Brian the Innovator
Innovate or die.
It’s a time-honored adage of business, and one we take seriously at CMBC. If we want to remain relevant, we need to not only stay abreast of the current trends but stay ahead of them, in liquid as well as in technology.
Things move pretty fast in the big, beautiful world of brewing. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
So, we’ve put the guy around here who probably pays the most attention to all things craft beer and brewing related in charge of innovation, our former Head Brewer, Innovation Director Brian Hink.
In honesty, he’s right. This is all stuff he was doing before, so to see this as a promotion from Head Brewer doesn’t make a lot of sense. However, he’s going to have a bit more time to devote to it.
Before his not-a-promotion, Brian was heavily involved in running the day-to-day minutiae of brewing beer.
“Making sure that all the grain and hops and yeast came in,” he explains, “that we had space in the schedule, that the staff was scheduled, that sales got their IPA when they were expecting it.”
It sounds like a lot, and it is. Brian was always one of the first people here each day and always one of the last to leave. It was a killer schedule, and you can’t get good beer recipes from a dead man.
“I was sort of the unofficial Production Manager,” he explains. “That’s what I did with 125% of my time, and the other 25% — actually, probably more like 10% — was focused on developing new brands.”
We come out with a lot of new beers. It’s what you have to do in this business — your typical craft beer drinker always wants something new — and, therefore, we needed to have something new to give to him or her.
So, all of the new brands we’ve seen this year — everything from Ties the Room Together to L’Attitude to Crushin’ It to Bounding Main to all of our limited-edition releases — have been developed by Brian.
“Those were all developed in my spare time, at home, on a weekend, thinking about beers, and coming up with recipes,” Brian explains. “Now, taking away the day-to-day production aspect of things, my focus can be looking ahead, staying ahead of the curve on trends, and developing new beers further out.”
In addition to spending more time developing recipes, one thing that Brian is particularly looking forward to — and, we’ll wager that you’ll be excited about this, as well — is that he’ll have more time to devote to our sour program.
The sours deserve a lot more attention than they get. You can’t just throw together a sour — they take quite a bit of time.
If you know Brian, you’ll know that he’s not one to tip his hand. Particularly with sours, he likes to play things close to the vest.
“There’s some fun stuff coming down the pipeline in the sour brewery, I can guarantee that,” he says.
He’s also going to be able to devote more time to our limited releases. You may have noticed that we’ve been coming out with these extremely limited runs — in the hundred-case range — much more frequently. Beers like That Cranberry Good Good, Not from Concentrate, Baddest Cat in the Whole Damn Town, Tiny Drink Umbrella, and Catch the Drift — Brian will now have more time to devote to their development.
“We’re trying to figure out the right frequency for them,” he says, “but that’s a whole lot of new beers coming down the pipeline. Focusing on them and staying ahead of them, it’s a lot of work. The beer has to exist, it needs a name, there has to be artwork — all that stuff still goes into it. So, even though it’s just a small, 100-case drop out of the Tasting Room, there’s still a lot of attention that has to go into it.”
“Courtney brings a marketing view to the team,” he explains. “Andrew brings a production brewer/Cape May local/beer geek to the team.”
Together, they brainstorm new beers for these über-limited releases.
“My goal is to stay three months ahead on those beers, so that we know what releases we’ll be releasing in December, January, and February, and we’ll start talking about March now.”
However, Brian’s very much against planning too far ahead. Trends in craft beer change quickly — for example, Brut IPAs pretty much came out of nowhere. If we’re planned too far ahead, we lose a lot of flexibility.
“Brut IPAs first came on our radar last December,” he explains, “but the first one didn’t really get on our schedule until this December. So, that’s a whole year of people saying, ‘That’s really cool!’ before we were able to actually brew one.”
Luckily, Brian’s homebrew Crushin’ It won our internal homebrew contest and we were able to get a Brut IPA-esque beer on the calendar much sooner.
But, on the other hand, we can’t do things too quickly, either. There is a whole slew of legal things that need to happen in order to come out with a beer. It has to be on the CPL — the Consumer Price List — a holdover from Prohibition that exists so producers can’t randomly inflate prices. We need time to design packages and write descriptions. Packaged beer needs to go to the TTB — the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau — to be approved, and they look at the description, the label, everything, really putting things under a microscope.
So, with Brian’s title change, he’ll have a lot more time to devote to such things. In fact, we’re in the process of looking for someone to pick up the pieces he’s leaving behind.
He’s definitely looking forward to the new position.
“It’s not so different, because it’s all the stuff I was doing anyway,” he says, “but I can put more focus on it and be more deliberate about it. I think that’s the big thing about it, being more intentional, more thoughtful with execution.”
And, ultimately, this benefits you, dear beer drinker.
“You’ll see more, fun beers,” he says. “For fans of Gull, White Caps, Harmonic Rhythm… literally 95% of the beers we’ve ever produced — it’s easier to name beers I haven’t designed. If you’re fans of our beer, you’ll be even more so now.”
Sounds good, Brian! We’re looking forward to the awesome beers the new title change will bring!