Presented x Mondial de la Bière [June 14-18, 2017 - Montréal]
Who are you:
Your current job:
President and CEO Spearhead Brewing Company
In which city are you located?
I split my time between Toronto and Kingston Ontario
A word to define what kind of worker you are:
What tools are essential to your life
For me, it’s my MAC and my iPhone. Neither are often far from my side. It’s more about being connected at all times so we can make fast decisions to stay nimble as a brewery.
What does your office space look like?
While I have an office I generally don’t spend any time there. When I’m not sitting on my couch responding to emails, I can typically be found in Bars or coffee shops meeting with people or working nose stuck into my computer.
How large is the brewery?
For our first 5 years we have been contracting to brew (basically renting space to ‘cook in someone else's kitchen’. I’m really excited to say that we are in the middle of a building of a 16,000 sqft Brewing Facility in Kingston Ontario.
The reason you started brewing?
First just to keep the record straight, I’m not the one brewing the beer. Sometimes I’ll help carry some of the ingredients but the real magic is produced by our internationally respected Brewmaster Tomas Schmitt along with our head brewer (and Tom’s son) Jacob Schmitt. Tom has over 40 years brewing great beer in every size brewery you can think of. Jacob has been brewing since he learned to walk, literally following in his father’s footsteps.
I got into the industry in 2008 as a writer when I founded BeerSnob.ca to review beer. I went on to also write for magazines and news organizations. My ‘Day job’ was always building businesses, so when I had the opportunity to match my skill set to my passion with Spearhead I leaped in with both feet. I can honestly say I’ve never been happier with my work.
What was the inspiration behind your brewery?
At Spearhead, we believe that rules were meant to be broken. So when brewing our beer, we dispense with inhibitions. We believe that there are no boundaries when making beer. We use unusual ingredients and brewing methods that challenge the imagination—both yours and ours. We are driven by quality, if a beer does not meet our standards down the drain it goes. Like us if you are spending your hard earned money on a beer it had better be awesome. We hit that mark every time.
What are the biggest challenges for you as a brewer in Ontario?
Ontario is a very interesting market. As awareness of craft beer has been rising the people of Ontario have been quick to embrace our products. The biggest challenge for most brewers our size is getting our products out to market while having to compete with the budgets of established macro beer and larger craft breweries who in many cases can choose to price smaller brewers out of the market. Thankfully as a group the Ontario Craft Brewers, for the most part, stick together so we all succeed.
What kind of music do you listen to when you are working?
Depending on my mood and the time of day I could be listening to just about anything. Typically in the mornings I like to get a good start with faster harder music like Metallica or Tool as I shift into the afternoon I’ll typically switch over to Hip Hop and as the day winds down I listen to a lot of rock and folk music. Whenever I’ve got to put in some extended time for an all day or night event I always mellow out with some Sam Roberts Band to get me in a good mood to smile and talk to people.
Do you have a way to organize your days to optimize your work?
Typically I try to get an early start to deal with any correspondence from the evening before and plan out my day.
I know it sounds old fashion but typically I like to write things down. I take a piece of paper split it into 3 sections, 1) phone or in person meetings 2) other business (dealing with paperwork, looking at spreadsheets etc.) 3) personal. I’ll list a maximum of 4 items that I have to get done in each category and I knock all of the items off the list as quickly as possible. I don’t stop for anything short of an emergency.
What tips would you give to improve productivity?
Cut down on the clutter. Only check your email twice a day and respond to everything at once. My phone number is posted on my website if it’s really important people will call.
What is the best advice anyone has given you?
This goes back to the beginning of my career way before I got into the brewing industry.
I’m with my good friend Christian von Ompteda (at the time he was a Director for a major Canadian Teleco) and I tell him that I have to go home because I had a big presentation in the morning. He looks me in the eye and says “If you can’t do it bleary eyed and hung over you just can’t do it” I took the meaning to be no matter what happens the day before or right before a meeting or an objective that you just had to perform because failure is not an option.
Years later he admitted he just wanted to keep me out drinking so he made up the advice, but it really stuck with me and has helped propel any successes I’ve had.
What is your routine start and end of the day?
The start of the day is usually helping my kids get ready and walking them to school. Once the kids are sorted most days I dive into my first check of emails for the day and plan the rest of my schedule.
At the end of the day, I like to sit back and have pint or two of our Hawaiian Style Pale Ale.
Aside from your computer and your phone, what gadget can you not you go without?
For me, it’s my Apple Watch. At first, I bought it just to prove that Apple pretty much owns me, but it’s turned into a big part of my day. Mostly I use it to subtlety read text messages and to track my health. It even reminds me to take a minute for myself and breath from time to time.
3 Ontario craft beers that we must try?
To drop any hint of bias, I’m not going to mention any Spearhead beer.
10 Bitter Years - Black Oak Brewery (Toronto)
8 Man English Pale Ale - MacKinnon Brothers Brewing Co. (Bath)
Lone Pine IPA - Sawdust City Brewing Co. (Gravenhurst)
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a brewery?
Most people get into this business for one of two reasons. Either they are a brewer and their passion for beer has driven them to it or they are a business person who thinks it’s a good investment opportunity. The thing is you have to be both or at least have both on your team. The craft breweries that last are the ones who focus on quality by making great beer and also recognize that this is a business and run it like one.
Buckle up it’s going to be a wild ride!
Twitter @SpearheadBeer | #BeerWithoutBoundaries