Behind every beer brand you drink is an impressive team of beer professionals — brewers, barkeeps, bussers, canners, sales reps, lab techs and everyone from marketing and HR teams to warehouse and restaurant workers. “Beer professional” encapsulates a wide variety of jobs and skill sets, and breweries are constantly making moves to secure great employees and industry leaders. Oftentimes, it’s not even a beer pro, but a food or technology wiz that’s needed. Craft breweries and their suppliers and trade associations have many facets and require specialized employees. Here are a few of the big personnel headlines from the craft brewing industry in the last month plus. Send your beer pro news to [email protected].
Jennifer Owen is the new CEO of North Coast Brewing Co.
Since it was founded in 1988, North Coast Brewing Co. (NCBC) has been focused on crafting delicious high-quality beer, while caring for its employees, community and environment in Fort Bragg, Calif. Examples include leading the way for other craft breweries to become Certified B Corps, becoming a TRUE Zero Waste Platinum Certified brewery, and providing Non-GMO beers for consumers. The recent establishment of the Mark E. Ruedrich North Coast Brewing Co. Diversity Scholarship with the UC Davis Foundation is another first for the company.
Continuing to move the beer industry forward, the NCBC Board of Directors were unanimous in its decision to officially name Jennifer Owen as the new chief executive officer. She has been acting as interim CEO/CFO since October 2021. She will retain the position of CFO as she continues to lead and care for the financial health of the company. Owen was recruited from the City of Fort Bragg four years ago where her CPA training and communication skills helped her become a highly successful grant writer and project manager. Her first role at NCBC was controller, and she was promoted to CFO in 2019.
“We have a great leadership team in place at North Coast Brewing Company and exceptionally dedicated and hard-working staff. I’m honored and excited to be entrusted by the board to help lead North Coast Brewing into a bright future. I am so proud to be a part of a company that continues to hold true to B Corp values, support community, and make world-famous wonderful beer,” said Owen.
Montclair Brewery owner wins Master Distiller title on Moonshiners: Master Distillers TV Series
Leopold (Leo) Sawadogo, co-owner and head brewer at four-year-old Montclair Brewery, earned the highly coveted Master Distiller title on January 19, during the Moonshiners: Master Distillers episode “Shot of Redemption.” Sawadogo went head to head against two other distillers in the liquor-making competition to win. In addition to bragging rights, Sawadogo will get the opportunity to have his winning Bao Brandy recipe created as a limited run through Sugarlands Distilling Co. The show was aired for the first time on the DiscoveryPlus channel and can be replayed on the DiscoveryPlus website to subscribers and other streaming services such as Amazon Prime and Hulu.
The episode was filmed in Tennessee, last fall and was the second time that Sawadogo appeared on the show. His first appearance on Moonshiners: Master Distillers was season 2, episode 6, “Spirit of the South,” which first aired February 2020. During his first appearance, his jar of peach brandy did not muster up against the jars of the two other competitors, and Sawadogo was sent home early. However, the judges saw something special in him and promised that they would have him back for a redemption episode. For the redemption episode, each contestant was able to bring their own ingredients and distill their own recipe. Sawadogo, who is originally from Burkina Faso, West Africa, brought baobab powder from the West African baobab fruit to make his special winning recipe of his Bao Brandy.
“It is my favorite ingredient to work with and allows me to introduce my culture to the rest of the world,” said Sawadogo.
Sawadogo has been introducing the exclusive baobab fruit to those in the New Jersey and New York area since Montclair Brewery opened its doors in 2018. Montclair Brewery has brewed several craft beers including its award winning Baobiere Golden Ale, Black is Beautiful Stout, the special anniversary Baobiscus and an upcoming TomSank Revolution ale releasing in February.
The Discovery Channel series is an offshoot of one of the channel’s most popular series, Moonshiners, and features America’s top legal and outlaw distillers in the ultimate booze-making competition to see who has what it takes to join the ranks of the greats and win the title of Master Distiller. The competition is usually judged by three legendary Moonshiners — Mark, Digger and Tim of Discovery’s Moonshiners. The show focuses on making a specific type of spirit, including American whiskey, rum, gin, mountain brandy, and mezcal among others. The contestants have to prove their knowledge of distilling and exhibit creativity as they convert raw ingredients into authentic, handcrafted spirits that will impress the most experienced distilling experts.
Montclair Brewery is a husband and wife owned microbrewery and tasting room located in Montclair, N.J.’s Walnut Street business district. The business opened its doors in the fall of 2018 and was born from the desires of Head Brewer Leo Sawadogo to turn his passion of homebrewing into an exciting and growing business with his wife, Denise Ford. Their mission is to build a stronger community by offering an eclectic and culture-infused offering of beer styles to both craft beer fans and to those new to craft beer. The brewery’s motto is “Building Community, One Beer at a Time.” For more info, visit www.montclairbrewery.com
Lord Hobo announces Keith Gabbett as new head brewmaster (formerly of Goose Island)
Lord Hobo Brewing Co. has added a new brewmaster to its team, Keith Gabbett. Gabbett has been brewing craft beer for over 15 years, beginning as a homebrewer who climbed the ranks to eventually lead the brewing team at Goose Island Beer Co. Before brewing professionally, Gabbett secured a diploma in Brewing Technology from the world-renowned Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago.
Lord Hobo’s CEO, Brian Walsh, stated: “We are always looking for opportunities to learn and grow as a company and adding experienced personnel to our team is one of the best ways to do that. We are excited for Keith to bring a fresh look to our 2022 beer calendar with new and innovative recipes, along with continuing to work towards perfecting our core lineup.”
Previously, Gabbett has held the roles of senior brewer, lead brewhouse brewer, head brewer, brewmaster and most recently senior innovation manager before joining Lord Hobo. At Goose Island, he has worked on the bourbon and wine barrel-aging programs as well as cross brewing initiatives both locally and globally while managing a team of 30+ brewers.
“I’m really excited to join the team at Lord Hobo Brewing. As a lover of all things hoppy, I’m looking forward to bringing my passion for hops to one of the leading IPA breweries in New England. What really drew me here was the opportunity to use the knowledge I’ve gained through Goose Island to work with Lord Hobo as we grow and expand. We have a lot of new projects in the pipeline, and I think people will be excited to see what we have planned,” stated Gabbett.
Lord Hobo plans to continue the growth in its Leadership Team in 2022, as it plans to expand its operations and distribution. This includes a new 18,000-sq-ft brewery and restaurant located in downtown Boston coming this spring.
Lord Hobo Brewing Co., founded in 2015, was born out of a Boston craft beer bar. Now into its seventh year of operation, the company continues to grow, bringing innovative New England style beers to its thirsty and dedicated fans. Its brewery, located in Woburn, Mass, is the nucleus of the company. Beginning with a small tasting room and only a handful of recipes, the Woburn Taproom now has a maximum seating capacity accommodating over 400 patrons. The company additionally added a full kitchen and a beautiful outdoor patio. In addition to the Woburn taproom and the Lord Hobo Cambridge bar, the company is opening a new satellite location — an 18,000-sq-ft brewery and restaurant located in downtown Boston, Lord Hobo Seaport, which will be opening spring of 2022.
Lord Hobo beers are currently available in 12 states throughout the eastern United States with 15 wholesaler partners.
Keith Shaw joins Fast Friends Beer as head of brewing
Keith Shaw was born and raised on Long Island, N.Y. He served in the Marines as a helicopter crew chief (UH-1N Huey) from 2001 to 2007 and graduated from the University of California at Davis Master Brewers Program in 2013. Shaw has been an integral part of the Modern Times Brewing Co. team since 2014 helping the company grow its brand and its annual beer production from 2,000 bbls per year to over 60,000 bbls per year. Shaw was personally responsible for starting up and leading brewing operations at Modern Times pilot facility in Los Angeles (The Dankness Dojo) and its Anaheim production facility (Leisuretown).
“We’re incredibly grateful that Keith agreed to lead our brewing team. We’re also thrilled to add another combat veteran to our team,” said Dave Childress, founder of Fast Friends. “Keith is the type of person who enlisted to serve our country after September 11. He’ll tell you, with great humility, that after he witnessed the horror unfold only miles from ground zero, he knew he had to do something.”
Fast Friends Beer Co. is a brewpub currently under construction — a 3.35-acre hill country oasis hidden just on I-35 in South Austin. The company is currently recruiting for its Head of Culinary, Head of Hospitality, and Head of Marketing and Community. Hiring for its front of house and kitchen team will begin in April 2022.
“Keith checks all the boxes, he is a technically gifted brewer, a creative recipe writer, he leads by example and he is a kind human,” said Childress. “We couldn’t have found a better brewer and or a better person to help us build something special in South Austin.”
When asked about his future move to Austin, Shaw said: “Austin is one of the coolest cities I’ve been to, and it seems like there is a place for everyone here. I’m super excited to be a part of the Fast Friends team and bring my expertise and knowledge of the last 10 years to Austin and help make some of the best beer I can possibly make.”
Cruz Blanca Brewery welcomes new director of sales Josh Allard
Cruz Blanca Brewery recently announced Josh Allard as its new director of sales. Cruz is currently building its national Mexican-American inspired craft brand across the United States. Opened in 2016, Chicago-based Cruz Blanca is now distributed at Jewel-Osco, Mariano’s, Binny’s, Walmart, Whole Foods, and Meijer.
“We’re building Cruz for the modern beer drinker, and we need sales leadership that’s as bold and foresighted as our creative approach,” said Founder and CEO Manny Valdes. “With the addition of Josh, we found a strategic sales lead who’s accomplished at framing how craft brands go to market. Josh will help us scale the brand by bringing creative thinking and leadership to our wholesalers and retailers. We admire his brand building philosophy as it fits well with our strategy and core business values.”
Prior to joining Cruz, Allard served in a variety of positions across sales and marketing at Wirtz Beverage Group, Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits, Constellation Brands, and Drink Design Collective — a new-age beverage start up. Most recently, Allard served as VP of sales for 689 Cellars.
Cruz Blanca is highly awarded for its line of refreshing cervezas and its nationally recognized barrel-aged program. In 2021, Cruz Blanca’s flagship Mexican-style lager, Mexico Calling grew +60 percent over 2020. Cruz is answering its growing consumer demand with plans to enter new markets and expand its brand outside of the Chicagoland area.
“Josh was integral in the success of transforming regional brands into national players,” said Marketing Director Kathleen Gray. “We’re confident that his energy and passion for the craft beer and beverage landscape will help solidify Cruz Blanca’s position as the leading craft Mexican-American brewery in the United States.”
Allard comes on board as Cruz Blanca releases a new year-round Vienna Lager, Vamos, and partners with Chicago-based Hogsalt Hospitality to manage and expand their brewpubs.
Hawaii-Based Ola Brew welcomes a new chief operating officer
Ola Brew, a Hawaii-based brewery, is ecstatic to welcome seasoned industry veteran Jason Pond to its team as chief operating officer. Approaching its fourth year in operation, the Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, brewery gears up for an exciting and growth focused 2022 and beyond, with continued emphasis on growing its beer, hard cider, hard seltzer and hard teas footprint in Hawaii.
After a dedicated search to find the right addition to the team, Brett Jacobson, CEO of Ola Brew, said: “[We’re] ready to take Ola to the next level — more production, more efficiencies, which always translates for us into our mission impact. Having excelled in his career and working in every aspect of brewery operations, Jason has pioneered his own success in the brewing industry with drive, ingenuity and purpose, and we are so happy to welcome him into our Ola Ohana.”
In four short years, Ola Brew has grown its barrelage to 15,000 bbls per year through innovating new products based on what fruits and botanicals are seasonally available in Hawaii, and targeting to increase barrelege 20,000 bbls in 2022.
Pond started on the back of a canning line at Oskar Blues and quickly moved to head brewer for two years, then moved to cellar master at Firestone Walker for six years, to head of production and master brewer at the independent brewery behemoth, BrewDog; all experiences that informed him and his teams of his passion and ability to build productive teams. At BrewDog he created and refined hundreds of new and existing beer recipes, while managing four production brewery locations. In the three years that Pond was at BrewDog, he helped to grow the total barrelege at Brewdog from 200,000 to 500,000 bbls. Most recently Pond was at Hangar 24 as the vice president of brewing operations before pursuing the position as chief operating officer with Ola Brew.