As we grow, we’ve seen the need for leadership in production. Last week, we introduced you to James, who, essentially exited the womb and started brewing, and this week, we’re proud to introduce you to Brandon Greenwood, our new Vice President of Operations, who’s been brewing as long as many of us have been alive.
“Brandon has nearly 25 years of experience with some of the biggest names in this industry,” Ryan said, “and we couldn’t be happier that he’s a perfect fit for CMBC. His extensive knowledge and know-how is coupled with his desire to preserve a company culture that he respects. He’ll be a strong leader on the production floor, and we’re grateful to have him aboard.”
“Kennett Square would be the bigger metropolis near Unionville,” he jokes. “The town I grew up in had no stop signs, no traffic lights, no cops. Just a little country town.”
He went to West Chester University before graduating with a degree in Cell and Molecular Biology and working in organic chemistry at Johnson Matthey and DuPont.
“In 1993, I spent a month bumming around Europe,” he recalls. “Belgium. Scotland. Germany. All over the place, really. And, during that time, had a bunch of great beer. Had a spectacular beer in the Czech Republic — it was a simple, dark lager at a really old brewpub. It was like eating a warm chocolate chip cookie out of the oven.”
At the time, he was toying with the idea of going to grad school for a PhD in Chemistry, but the experience of that beer made him wonder why he couldn’t get such great brews in the states. Bear in mind that this was about a decade before the craft beer craze would really take hold in America.
“I got this crazy idea to go to brewing school,” he says. “So I ran it by my trusted confidante — my mom — and she said, ‘Well, that sounds like an awesome idea!’”
She was probably the first mother in history to encourage her son to go into brewing. Thanks, mom!
“It was like saying, ‘Hey, I want to be a rock star,’” he laughs. “‘Well, go for it!’”
So, he enrolled in Heriot-Watt in Scotland for an eighteen-month post-graduate diploma in Brewing, Malting, and Distilling Science.
“I had a really awesome experience,” he says, “made some great friends. I cried the day I left Scotland, I loved it there so much. It’s a magical place.”
He tries to visit Scotland as frequently as possible, having returned there four times since leaving Heriot-Watt.
Since Heriot-Watt, Brandon’s career has taken him all over the place.
“From Scotland to St. Paul, MN, to Philadelphia, to Rochester, NY, to Chicago, to Tennessee,” he says. “I’ve been all over the place.”
That’s a bit of an understatement: Brandon’s worked at some big-name breweries. He was the Brewmaster at Yards in Philly for a spell, he’s been the VP of Brewery Operations with Lagunitas, and he was the Director of Brewing and Technical Services with Mike’s Hard Lemonade, to name a few.
So, what brought him here?
“Twenty-five years of frustration and hard work,” he jokes. “But I’ve been fortunate in my career. I’ve had a few opportunities where I’ve learned a lot.”
His career began at the Genessee brewery in Rochester, New York, a position that he says taught him the most.
“There were a lot of really old-school brewmasters who’d been in the industry for forty years and most of whom had forgotten more than I know,” he says. “I learned a lot — a lot — from those individuals.”
He points to Mike’s Hard Lemonade and Lagunitas as both having taught him a lot, too.
“I don’t think there’s a single job I’ve had where I haven’t learned a lot,” he says. “I try to learn every day; it’s kind of a conscious effort. I’m not one who thinks he knows everything. Everything has been a great opportunity.”
A few years ago, he and wife Jennifer had a hand in opening a lager-centric brewery in Tennessee.
“Our core brands were two lagers and two ales,” he says, “but our biggest seller was a dark lager. It far outsold everything else.”
However, there wasn’t much opportunity in Tennessee for Jennifer, a marketing professional, so he looked to move on.
“An opportunity came up in Richmond, Virginia, so I jumped on it,” he says. “Sadly, it was a risky venture, and there were some things going on behind the scenes that I wasn’t aware of.”
So, Brandon left and started his own consulting business.
“I took a job with an engineering company that was working for an insurance company and I was the subject-matter expert for a brewery that had been destroyed by a hurricane.”
We hope that experience doesn’t make itself useful at Cape May Brewing Co.
“After a while, I was just burnt out,” he says. “The industry is different than it used to be. There’s not as much care given to the craft of brewing beer, in my opinion, as there used to be.”
Brandon notes that, while there are some great breweries out there, a lot of people think that the way to start a brewery is with a business plan, then worry about the beer later.
“A lot of people get into the business without any understanding of what they’re doing,” he says, “without any real idea of how to make beer. Would you go get heart surgery from a guy who decided he wanted to open a business?”
He also points to a change in the amount of camaraderie in brewing, as well.
“It’s become a little competitive and cutthroat and not a lot of fun,” he says. “So, I was kicking back, waiting for the right opportunity. I came up to meet everyone and was like, ‘Wow! For being relatively new to the business, these guys have their shit together, and they’re smart enough to know what they don’t know and that they’re getting ready for some serious growth.’
“But I really dug the people here,” he says. “These guys were nice enough to let me come up and spend a few days in the brewery and kind of pull back the curtain to see what I was getting into. I’m super stoked.”
Brandon points to the fact that we come to work each day happy and enjoying what we do.
“I’ve been a lot of places where they don’t,” he says. “It’s been a while since I’ve been super passionate about brewing, and being here has rekindled my passion for what I do, which is exciting. It’s back to being more than just a job. It’s a great group of people. You guys all laugh. It’s nice to be around.
“And you don’t take yourselves too seriously.”
Well… that’s true.
“So many people are like, ‘Well, I’m a brewmaster,’” he says, affecting a haughty air. “Or, ‘I run a brewery.’ I’m like, ‘It’s just beer, dude. Have some fun.’”
One of the challenges Brandon faces is preserving the fun culture he’s found here in the face of impending growth.
“One of the things that sometimes fall by the wayside as a company grows is the culture,” he says. “Fortunately — or unfortunately, depending on how you look at that –, I’ve been through that a few times. I’m hoping to help preserve the ‘good vibes’ that you get here culturally while we grow.”
Yet, he sees a lot of potential here.
“I’m looking forward to making some great beer,” he says, “and opening up the portfolio a bit and maybe finding some opportunities to flex our muscles in lager brewing. There’s a lot to do here.”
When Brandon’s not busy making beer, he likes to be outside having fun.
“I’m an outdoorsman,” he says. “I fish, my family likes to hike. These days, I’m just trying to enjoy life, and my family, especially my eight-year-old son, Jack.”
It sounds as if Jack may follow in his father’s footsteps.
“He has spent more time in a brewery than any eight-year old should,” he laughs. “He knows what’s happening in a brewery from the sounds and the smells.”
With his move here, Brandon is looking forward to more time spent with the family.
“These days, I’m just trying to live in the moment,” he says. “Sadly, brewing requires a tremendous amount of time and commitment. I have sacrificed a lot of my personal time and my family’s time in my career. I’m working really hard these days to balance that, and, in all honesty, I’m relearning how to do that.”
Brandon is “super psyched” to be near the ocean in Cape May.
“I get to do some salt-water fishing — which I don’t do a lot of — so I’m super stoked about wandering around on the Bay and seeing what I can hook into,” he says. “Hopefully it’s not Hoffa.”
And, while Cape May is currently “cold, deserted, and windy,” he’s enjoying his time here.
“I’ve been trying to get down to the beach and take some pictures and walk around and smell the salt air,” he says, “but, so far, so good.”
He’s enjoying his time at CMBC thus far.
“I love coming to work in the morning,” he says. “We’ve got a great team here; everybody’s receptive. Everybody seems to help each other out, which is nice.”
But Brandon is looking forward to taking us to the next level.
“My hope is to brew some really, truly, world-class, spectacular beer.”
If you see Brandon in the Tasting Room, be sure to say hello!