Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Brew & A with Shane Welch, President of Sixpoint Brewery

For our next Brew & A, we interviewed Shane Welch, President of Sixpoint Brewery in Brooklyn, NY. We think Sixpoint is one of the most interesting breweries in the craft beer scene and we had some burning questions to ask. Sixpoint has rapidly expanded their distribution in recent years and is very active on social media, including Untappd. Sixpoint has been a favorite of ours at the BBA and their Resin received a solid 7.7 in a blind taste test in June 2012 and was the #7 Better Beer Authority beer of the year for 2012. BBA Producer David Hartogs will be participating in their next Google Hangout this Saturday, January 25 to taste their new release Hi-Res, tune in!
courtesy of Sixpoint
BBA:Autumnation was great this year, an all mosaic fresh hop ale.  How much of the ingredients are dictated by your fans for that beer, and how much are dictated by market availability? Are there hops you would like to work with that are just too hard to get now?
Shane Welch (Sixpoint):The ingredient (wet hop selection) was 100% selected by our fans.  That was probably why it was so hard to make :-D  

One of the great fascinations of the human race is we constantly crave what we cannot have, so naturally our folks want us to deliver them a product that has the most difficult to source ingredients.  However, we managed to procure them and all was good – as a matter of fact, better than ever!  One of the difficult things about the Autumnation though is a lot of the good hops are not available until mid September.  Even if we manage to get them into the beer immediately the beer will not be on the shelves and in the bars until at least October.  The crazy way things work in the beer industry these days people are selling their Winter Beers in October, so we missed the boat.  Although our beer is authentic and genuinely seasonal, the retailers are always trying to be one step ahead, even if it corrupts the true seasonality of a product.

BBA: This year marks 10 years of Sixpoint, any big events or special beers that you plan to produce to celebrate this milestone? When you first started 10 years ago could you envision the craft beer boom we are seeing now?
SW: It really is our 9th year, given that we did not start brewing and selling beer until 2005.  That being said we already have a big things in the works for our 10th anniversary, and are very much looking forward to celebrating that event with our fans.

I always knew the craft beer industry was going to grow to its level it is now, and frankly I think it will grow several times over again and furthermore the growth will be even more rapid in other countries who are just learning the wonders of it.  Without downplaying the importance of the craft beer revolution, it really isn’t anything “new” per se.  It is just the return to the way people always did things, which was an emphasis on the craft, natural ingredients, and being closer to your community and your customers.  Its sort of a homecoming, really.

BBA:  The market is much more saturated with craft beer now.  Is it more difficult to compete for shelf space and tap handles with newer craft brewers, or was it harder to convince retail outlets and pubs to have your products available 10 years ago?
SW:  Yes and no.  It is easier for you to sell in craft beer now, because a store or pub that does not have an offering will not be very competitive.  However the ability to retain that spot once it is sold in is getting more difficult, as other suppliers are now vying with each other versus taking space or handles from imports or other domestic premium beers.

courtesy of Sixpoint
BBA:  Brooklyn has seen a boom in the last ten years, especially in beer culture, can you describe what the scene is like in Brooklyn now, why it should be a beer destination on everyone’s list and where Sixpoint fits into all of this?
SW:  Brooklyn has indeed seen a boom but this boom was generations in the making.  It had all of the right kindling for its explosion, it just needed a match to start the fire.  First of all, you have one of the most diverse populations in the world, which is its greatest asset.  Whenever you have that much culture in one area, you benefit from all of the distinctive human contributions.  There are many cities in this country (even large cities) that are relatively homogenous, which stifles their creativity somewhat.  Brooklyn never had that issue, it has always been the first stop for immigrants.

Second, you have all of the bones that make the skeletal system of a great city, it just needed a makeover on the fa├žade.  The subway system is the best in the United States, and the proximity to Manhattan but also Long Island, New England, New Jersey, and Philadelphia is unparalleled.  Then you have one of the best art, food, music, and design scenes in the entire world.  Of course this place is going to be a magnet for the top creative class graduates each and every year.

Last, it’s a positive feedback loop.  People move here because they here about how cool it is, and they bring their enthusiasm with them, experience the scene, and eventually add to it themselves.  Which of course, raises the tide of the scene even more, which attracts more people. 
Untappd Hi Res badge

Brooklyn is a solid beer destination just as many other cities now in the United States are.  Sixpoint has been at the forefront of the conversation since we hit the scene 9 years ago.  We changed the beer culture in NYC real fast and have inspired many others to do so since then.  What’s most exciting to me is we have not even begun to reach our full potential yet, and we have a ton of contributions we will be making in the near future.

BBA:  Sixpoint seems to be the most active brewery on Untappd, how did this come about and what are the benefits you have seen from this? On that note, how many badges do you have?
SW:  We were early adopters of Untappd so we’ve been a part of that conversation from the beginning.  One of the founders lives in NYC so we’ve hung out on several occasions and he has become a friend of ours.  We’ve been able to connect with many different people through this medium, but unfortunately as a brewery we cannot earn badges on Untappd.  Those are reserved solely for its user base. 

BBA Blind taste test review of Resin posted June 20, 2012 

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