Smith Student Entrepreneurs: Comrade Brewing

November 23rd, 2011 by under Entrepreneurship, Smith School, Student Entrepreneurs. No Comments.

Hunter S. Thompson, that legendary font of slightly eccentric wisdom, once said that “good people drink good beer.” He’s not the only American legend to have good things to say about it, though. Some of America’s greatest political leaders had a few things to say about beer.

“Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”
– Benjamin Franklin

I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts, and beer.
-Abraham Lincoln

Beer is, in other words, an important part of American history and tradition. Today, as America’s craft brewing industry is heading into its fifth year of double-digit growth, it’s also an important part of our economy. That growth won’t continue, though, without a new generation of visionary brewers.

 

David Lin, MBA

David Lin, first-year MBA here at the Smith School of Business, is one of those visionaries. With experience working for several breweries out west in Denver, Colorado, David has begun putting together his own special blend of talent and resources in order to start Comrade Brewing. At last week’s Pitch Dingman competition, David took home the $250 Audience Choice Award. After the competition, I had the chance to ask David a few questions about beer, entrepreneurial spirit, and the Smith School. Here’s what he had to say.

Z: How did you decide on pursuing an MBA at the Smith School?

David: Having done a campus visit to all the schools I was accepted into, the Smith School really treated my visit as a business. The professionalism and hospitality made me feel that Smith was the right school for me.

Z: What initially got you into brewing?

David: Having lived in Texas, the liquor laws were eccentric to say the least. I had started to gain an appreciation for beer, but the legislation was very prohibitive in terms of the type and quality of beer that I was able to purchase in Texas, so I decided that it would be easier to make my own.

Z: What about it hooked your interest?

David: The hobby itself was fairly novel. Making your beer at home at the time sounded preposterous. During undergrad, I would not have called myself a fan of beer, but I was drinking the types of beers that were the most accessible at the time. At a homebrew class, I tasted a home brewed pale ale. I had an epiphany when I thought to myself, “Is this what real beer is supposed to taste like?” I was hooked.

Z: What’s your point of differentiation – both as a brewer and an entrepreneur?

David: I think what separates us it the quality of beer. We have a staff that is continuing to gain experience. The craft beer industry is still in its infancy, and it is a very dynamic environment. We want to create beers that are extraordinary as well as pushing the envelope on what a beer can be. In addition, the comrade theme is something that is well integrated. Numerous breweries have a catchy name, but don’t follow through with the concept to complete the brand.

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Z: What’s the story behind Comrade Brewing?

David: It was the summer of 2009, and like many stories, it involved some cute girls at the bar, who had smart aleck remarks. As the saying goes, the rest was history.

Z: How do you plan to leverage your MBA with your plans for Comrade Brewing?

David: There are numerous breweries opening up with little to no experience in the craft beer industry. I hope to leverage the MBA with my experience in the brewing industry to create a brewery that is as dynamic and innovative as the industry itself.

Z: What’s your opinion on the state of the craft brewing industry?

David: The customer is starting to awaken from the doldrums of what is widely available. The craft beer industry is extremely fragmented. You have the west coast versus the east coast brews. If the east coast regulation was more conducive to fostering new businesses and the formation of new breweries, I think the east coast would be on par with the west coast in terms of the quality and variety of beer, but the strangle hold of Prohibition is still strong and pervasive to this day. There has been significant progress, but there is still a monumental amount of work to do.

Z: What are your favorite beers?

David: Whenever I’m at a bar, I am always looking I haven’t had. I think that perfection is something that can never be attained, and the strive for perfection is more important than the end result. I have no specific recommendations, but I do suggest that breweries continue to innovate and evolve to the meet and exceed the ever-changing expectations on what good beer should be.

Z: How can people support the craft beer industry?

David: Do a little research. Beer is something that you consume and the customer should be aware on the types of products they are putting in their body as well as where the product comes from. With the easy access to information today, it takes no time at all to realize which company is selling you pure marketing versus a company that is providing a locally produced quality product.

 

You can check out Comrade Brewing’s Facebook page if you’re interested. Stay tuned here for more interviews with entrepreneurially-minded Smith students!

Happy Thanksgiving! And to my non-American readers, have a happy Thursday.

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