Interview with Mark Edelson, 2016 February 2

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  • Introduction
    Partial Transcript: "I went to school in Philadelphia..." "After graduating, I came to Delaware... I worked for ICI... today it's known as AstraZeneca..." "I have a background in pharmaceutical production..." "I got this bug about brewing and home brewing a couple years before I started brewing with Kevin..."
    Synopsis: Edelson talks about his personal and academic background. He says that he is originally from near Asbury Park New Jersey and the he holds a degree in chemical engineering from the University of Pennsylvania. He says that he came to Delaware to work for AstraZeneca. At this time in his life, he was a soccer player and met his future business partner, Kevin Finn via New Castle County, Delaware's adult athletic program. He says that they met in 1987 or 1988 and that while they home brewed beer together, it would be several years before they decided to turn their hobby into a business.
    Keywords: Asbury Park New Jersey; IBM; Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant; Newark, Delaware; Ocean Township, New Jersey; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; University of Pennsylvania; Wilmington, Delaware
  • Learning about craft brewing and the brew pub business
    Partial Transcript: "Craft brewing was just getting started..." "Eventually, you think about starting your own business..." "The more we home brewed together, the more we started talking about this... as a business." "We can make the pie bigger... rather than battling for the same dollar..."
    Synopsis: Edelson talks about opening the first Iron Hill location in Newark, Delaware. He discusses that it took two years to find another partner who knew how to run a restaurant and that it took another two years to open the first Iron Hill location. He says that at the time there was a competition among brewers to be the first brew pub in Delaware. He says that they lost that competition and says that the founding of Dogfish Head in 1995 in Rehoboth, Delaware caught him totally off guard.
    Keywords: 1492 Restaurant Group; Brandywine Brewing; brew pub; contract brewing; Dock Street beer; Dogfish Head Brewery; Greenville, Delaware; home brewing; Iron Hill Brewery and Pub; New Castle County, Delaware; Newark, Delaware; Philadelphia Pennsylvania; Rehoboth, Delaware; Rockford Brewing
  • Getting started in the craft brewing industry
    Partial Transcript: "Well, I drank a lot of beer in college... so that was probably the most helpful..." "We did imported beer nights at our fraternity... if you wanted good beer you got imported beer.. but I'm just joking there..." "You learn how to learn in college.""All of the brewers bought dairy equipment.." "Most of the early guys started with used dairy equipment..."
    Synopsis: Edelson talks about getting into craft brewing. He says that his background as a chemical engineer prepared him for working in a sanitary environment. He says that many of his contemporaries in the 1980s used old dairy equipment for their brewing. He explains that many of the sanitary procedures he had to adhere to in the pharmaceutical industry and in the brewing industry had their start in the dairy industry. He further elaborates and says that in the 1980s there were few to no companies that made small scale purpose built beer brewing equipment, but that there was a market for small scale dairy equipment- due to family run farms- that brewers could retool for beer.
    Keywords: brewing equipment; dairy; dairy equipment; pharmaceutical industry; University of Pennsylvania
  • The second wave of craft brewing and finding a place for Iron Hill's first location
    Partial Transcript: "We were the second wave of craft brewing..." "There was a possibility of getting a bank loan and buying real brewing equipment." "People in Wilmington and people in Newark consider each other on a different planet." "We were fortunate to hit the ground running." "Within two years we opened our second location in West Chester."
    Synopsis: Edelson talks about the challenges of starting a brew pub as the second wave of craft brewing came to an end. Originally, they wanted to open their business in Wilmington, Delaware but found a place in Newark Delaware instead.
    Keywords: Chester County, Pennsylvania; economic bubble; Wilmington, Delaware; equipment; Newark, Delaware; Trolley Square; West Chester, Pennsylvania
  • Equipping a brew house and learning how to brew beer
    Partial Transcript: "We've not ever cobbled together a brewery..." "The design goes into how big the brewery is gonna be.." "I went to Siebel Institute in Chicago..." "I was always nervous about recipe development." "You make better beer when you have better equipment."
    Synopsis: Edelson discusses his brew house equipment. He says that he knows people who have retooled dairy equipment for use as brewing equipment, but that he has never done so. He says that they have purchased their equipment from Specific Mechanical Systems, a Canadian company, since opening their doors.He says that they have a good business relationship. He also discusses learning how to brew beer at the Siebel Institute in Chicago, Illinois and establishing a business and personal relationship with some consultants also from Chicago, Illinois.
    Keywords: brew house equipment; Chicago, Illinois; home brewing; Newark, Delaware; recipe development; Siebel Institute; Specific Mechanical Systems; Victoria Island, British Columbia
  • Iron Hill's relationship with Specific Mechanical Systems
    Partial Transcript: "This company doesn't do a lot of their own design because they don't have brewers on staff..." "I had them design this dispersion plate... well, it's on all their equipment now."
    Synopsis: Edelson talks about his brewing equipment and how some of the changes he suggested to his equipment manufacturer are now standard on all equipment that they make. He discusses innovation in brewing, and says that whenever he builds a new brew house his brewers discuss how they could improve the new design over the old, and then they do it. He says that space and money permitting, he retrofits all of his old brew houses if the improvements in a new brew house work in Iron Hill's favor.
    Keywords: brewing equipment; Specific Mechanical Systems
  • Iron Hill's hiring and training process
    Partial Transcript: "For the majority of what we've done we've hired in house... we can teach them how to brew." "We hired a head brewer.. we haven't done that in ten years..." "Forty percent of our current brewing staff joined the company and then put their hand up for the brewery..." "Everyone thinks its the glamorous thing... and it's not..."
    Synopsis: Edelson talks about Iron Hill's hiring and brewer training process. He says that he very rarely hires from outside Iron Hill and then only if the potential employee already has a lot of brewing experience. Instead, he would rather hire internally and teach an employee who has already proven themselves how to brew beer. He says the process seems to work and that by his estimation around forty percent of the brew staff at Iron Hill began their career at Iron Hill in some other capacity before shifting over to work in the brew house.
    Keywords: brewing; hiring; Iron Hill Brewery; training
  • Filtering beer at Iron Hill
    Partial Transcript: "We almost exclusively do diatomaceous earth filtering."
    Synopsis: Edelson talks about using diatomaceous earth to filter beer. He says it is one of the most process oriented tasks at Iron Hill. He says there are other ways to filter beer, but diatomaceous earth is the least expensive method available.
    Keywords: brewing; diatomaceous earth; filtering
  • The brew house at Iron Hill
    Partial Transcript: "There's a lot of processing technology out there.. and most of the technical stuff is beyond the budget of a small brewing operation." "If it was all automated, it wouldn't be hands on craft beer, would it?"
    Synopsis: Edelson talks about the brew house at Iron Hill. He says that they have less worries about quality control than other breweries due to their small size. He describes his brewery as "low-tech" and says that his brewers rely more on their sense than technology when brewing beer. He explains that while the brew house is low-tech he makes use of information technology to track the goings on of his business.
    Keywords: brew house; information technology; technology
  • Definition of craft brewing
    Partial Transcript: "Realistically, it's what the consumer wants to think is craft." "We are trying to prevent the hijacking of the term 'craft' as small brewers but at the end of the day, its what the customer's want." "Craft beer is still twelve, thirteen percent of the market..."
    Synopsis: Edelson disucusses the meaning of craft beer. He cites the brewer's association definition of craft beer, but suggests that there's much more to it than that. He discusses Blue Moon beer and how it is sold as craft beer despite being brewed at and by Coors. He suggests that while he thinks craft beer is beer made by small, independent brewers, the customer ultimately decides what does or does not qualify as craft beer.
    Keywords: Blue Moon Brewing; Brewer's Association; craft brewing; labor; selling beer
  • The craft brewing bubble
    Partial Transcript: "The first bubble was not a bubble.. it won't be a burst that decreases sales." "There will be a business bubble... where there's too many SKUs on the shelf." "The capacity is probably growing faster than the demand."
    Synopsis: Edelson talks about bubbles in the craft brewing industry. He says that bubbles in craft brewing will be a business bubble, where too many brewers devalue their product and are forced out of business due to not making enough money and there is too much competition, not because customers will stop consuming craft beer.
    Keywords: buying used equipment; craft beer; economic bubble; selling beer
  • Craft breweries and brewing conglomerates
    Partial Transcript: "I thought, look at that portfolio of breweries, that is really impressive." "The question always becomes... they don't stay craft brewers once they're bought out..." ".. craft brewers struggle for so many things..." "Say like Goose Island that got bought by Anheuser-Busch a couple years ago...they have placements everywhere." "I think there is a certain amount of sweat and struggle that makes a craft brewer."
    Synopsis: Edelson talks about craft breweries that get bought out by bigger breweries. He says that when a craft brewer does it to get bigger, they remain a craft brewer. However, when a craft brewery gets purchased by a global conglomerate like Anheuser-Busch they cease to be a craft brewer as they no longer struggle for shelf space in retail outlets and raw resources to brew their beer, all they have to do is brew beer. He says that the struggle for resources is part of what defines craft brewing for him.
    Keywords: Anheueser-Busch; Belgium; Boulevard Brewing Company; Brewery Ommegang; Duval Moortgat Brewery; Firestone Walker Brewing Company; Goose Island Brewery
  • Involvement with the Brewer's Association
    Partial Transcript: "[The Brewer's Association has] been great with us, we've used them as a resource since before we even opened." "Some of the large craft brewers are members of the Beer Institute."
    Synopsis: Edelson talks about beer trade associations. He says that he was the treasurer of the Brewer's Association for about a decade. He says that the Busch family funded a lot of research for the industry, but they no longer do. He says that the Brewer's Association has replaced the Busch family in that respect. He says that the Brewer's Association is now large enough to get some attention in Washington D.C. and is growing.
    Keywords: ABI; Boulder, Colorado; Brewer's Association; Brewer's Association of America; Christian Schmidt Brewing Company; grassroots; Great American Beer Festival; InBev; lobbying; Matt Brewing Company; Rolling Rock; The Beer Institute; Washington D.C.; World Beer Cup
  • The FDA and the craft brewing industry and industry research
    Partial Transcript: "The FDA's latest initiative is food safety..." "Brewer's traditionally sell or give away their spent grain to farmers... so as part of the food chain anything that livestock eat, the FDA wants to start monitoring."
    Synopsis: Edelson talks about the FDA and an issue between brewer's and the FDA regarding spent grain and the practice of feeding it to livestock. He also discusses research into barley and how the Brewer's Association is the main driver of that research and how he hopes for a future where there is a compromise between GMO and organic farming.
    Keywords: Anheuser-Busch; barley; Chipolte; FDA; Food and Drug Administration; food safety; genetic modification; GMO; hops; research; spent grain
  • Craft brewing in the state of Delaware
    Partial Transcript: "You have one of the most successful craft brewer's (Dogfish Head) who has kept their production here."
    Synopsis: Edelson offers his thoughts on why Delaware has the highest amount of craft breweries per capita in the United States. He attributes this to the long term success of Dogfish Head, which continues to grow and has yet to leave Sussex County, Delaware. He says that beer tours out of Philadelphia always sell out their tickets to Dogfish Head first and that it attracts a national audience. He says that he hopes Iron Hill Brewery has done the same in New Castle County, Delaware.
    Keywords: Delaware; Dogfish Head; Iron Hill Brewery; Milton, Delaware; New Castle County, Delaware; New Jersey; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Sussex County, Delaware
  • Deciding what to brew at Iron Hill
    Partial Transcript: "I don't always decide anymore, but I do over see it." "In each of the breweries we like to try new stuff." "We brew a lot of IPA." "That's why I think America is so innovative.. we are not tied to these traditions..."
    Synopsis: Edelson talks about how Iron Hill decides what to brew and beer brewing traditions. He says that since American brewing has fewer traditions American brewers have more creative freedom in their brewing. He says that Iron Hill brews what's popular and a number of seasonal beers and that they allow their most trusted brewers to create their own beers. He uses India Pale Ale as an example of a beer variety that has been transformed by American brewing in general and also at Iron Hill.
    Keywords: American IPA; brewing beer; Budweiser; Coors; hops; India Pale Ale; IPA; making beer; Miller Lite; seasonal beer; stout; tradition
  • Iron Hill Brewery in beer contests
    Partial Transcript: "We only participate in two competitions..." "Its exciting.. if we could do (win) our fourth in a row on our home turf" "Competition just by sheer numbers has gotten harder and harder and harder..."
    Synopsis: Edelson discusses Iron Hill's participation in contests. They only participate in two, but have won several medals. He also describes serving as a judge in contests.He discusses how to combat palate fatigue in beer judging and tasting. He says contests provide valuable feedback and chances to learn as a contestant and judge.
    Keywords: American IPA; competition; contests; Great American Beer Festival; India Pale Ale; IPA; judging beer; palate fatigue; World Beer Cup
  • Recipe development at Iron Hill Brewery
    Partial Transcript: "Recipe's change all the time." "Pig Iron Porter is the only one that hasn't changed." "Rate Beer and Beer Advocate.. we don't use those in any way.. we find they are not great feedback..."
    Synopsis: Edelson talks about recipe formulation. He says that with the exception of Pig Iron Porter everything is subject to change and often include small changes from batch to batch. He says that he does not use online rating systems for his beer, he prefers in person feedback from brew pub customers and internal sales. He says that customers tell you what they want with their dollars.
    Keywords: beer; Beer Advocate; development; digital marketing; Ore House IPA; Pig Iron Porter; Rate Beer; recipe; social media; Untapped
  • Iron Hill brew house technologies and capacity
    Partial Transcript: "I would say we're doing a new recipe once a quarter in each restaurant." "...collaboration within the industry." "We want to grow the pie."
    Synopsis: Edelson revisits the technologies in his brew houses. He further discusses recipe formulation and their high rate of success with new formulations. He credits this high rate of success to collaboration within the industry. He says that while other breweries are his competition, they all have an interest in "growing the pie," meaning that they all have an interest in doing whatever it takes to grow the craft beer industry as a whole.
    Keywords: brew house; brewing capacity; recipes
  • The relationship between beer and food
    Partial Transcript: "Beer has a much wider diversity of flavors, so you can pair way more beers with various foods than you can with wine..." "I enjoy the meal more when they're specifically paired..." "Beer and cheese, wine and cheese sucks... but beer and cheese is wonderful." "Wine sucks with chocolate... but beers and desserts..."
    Synopsis: Edelson talks about pairing different types of beers with different types of food. He argues that wine is a poor choice for food pairings compared with beer. Edelson says that the many different flavor profiles of beer mean that there is some sort of beer that can go with virtually any type of food. He talks about how well farmhouse beers pair with cheeses, smoked beers with smoked foods, and stouts with desserts.
    Keywords: barley wine; beer; blue cheese; chocolate; dessert; farmhouse beer; flavor; food pairing; rouquefort cheese; saison; Saison Dupont; smoked beer; smoked food; wine; yeast
  • The future of craft brewing
    Partial Transcript: "We will continue to sell more craft beer as an industry every year as long as we're all alive..." "I'm drinking these craft beers... that's what I'm gonna continue to drink."
    Synopsis: Edelson talks about the future of craft beer. He's not sure what it will be like. He does not see a bright future for nano breweries unless they are owned by dedicated hobbyists. He thinks that the future will be determined by what is or is not taxed, he says he thinks innovation will be driven by people trying to avoid the combinations and making the best product for the least cost.
    Keywords: capacity; cooking; craft beer; economic bubble; future; history; nano breweries; taxes
  • Taxes and politics in the craft brewing world
    Partial Transcript: "The tax man can influence in a good way... influence in the right way we can get tax credits..." "There's a small brewer's tax exemption..." "Wine, spirits, and beer are taxed at different rates because of their strengths."
    Synopsis: Edelson talks about the tax costs of running a brewery. He says that he believes in tax credits, especially if they help him make more jobs at his business. He talks about how some manufacturers make flavored malt beverages-- what he calls beer without hops-- as a way to avoid paying higher taxes.
    Keywords: beerl tax credits; flavored malt beverages; money; politics; taxes
  • Edelson's personal interest in history
    Partial Transcript: "Franklin said beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." "Washington brewed at Mount Vernon"
    Synopsis: Edelson gives some historical background on different types of beer. He talks about how Russian Imperial Stout and India Pale Ale came to be.
    Keywords: Benjamin Franklin; George Washington; history; India Pale Ale; IPA; Russian Imperial Stout
  • Hops
    Partial Transcript: "More hops, more hops, and more hops." "We like big bold flavors of hops." "In America we just want more of everything." "More is better in America...more flavor, we don't like bland things."
    Synopsis: Edelson talks about flavoring beer. He says that people want beer with more and more hops over anything else. He says that he's trying to cut down on hops, because he thinks they have reached a max saturation point of hops. He also talks about how as a brew pub owner he is in the minority for brewing lagers
    Keywords: ale; American IPA; bittering; bitterness; delicate beer; hops; lager; lower alcohol beer