Creating a brewpub culture

Karl Strauss Brewing Company, headquartered in San Diego, CA, just opened their ninth and tenth brewpubs, and Fred Glick, VP of brewpubs for the company, says the company’s success is due to a focus on culture.

“Culture really starts at the top. There are places that have phenomenal beer and really good food, but if they miss the people element, they won’t be successful. If you don’t engage your employees and they don’t care about the guests, you aren’t going be successful no matter what you do.”

– Fred Glick, Brewpubs Vice President

Glick says it’s critical to build a culture in which employees truly care about guests.

“We define culture in simple terms,” he said. “It’s ‘how we do things around here.’ It’s everything from standard operating procedures and training manuals to how to interact with each other.” Glick explains the company’s core ideology includes their mission (what’s the purpose of the company; where are we trying to go), a purpose statement and core company values.

“It’s critical that you define these and write them down,” said Glick. “If you don’t have them, they exist already without you. Your employees will create your culture for you if you don’t define it. If you’re just starting out, engage your employees to be part of the process — you’ll have a lot more buy-in. But don’t just write your company’s core ideology on a poster on the wall. It has to live and breathe in everything you do.”

There are challenges in dealing with Millennials, who are likely to be the age group applying for positions.

“[Millenials] don’t see the world the way all of us see the world. Millennials expect instant recognition, and they want to be brought up into the company right away. They want to connect to a vision and purpose, so you have to have something they buy into.”

– Fred Glick, Brewpubs Vice President

Glick says the goal of Karl Strauss is to be “the most-loved craft brewer in San Diego.”

“We have a soft, fuzzy, warm, lots-of-hugs thing,” he said. “The ‘how’ we do that is our purpose statement, and that’s what people go to work to do every day. It’s critical that people know what the goal is, and for us, it’s making people happy one Karl Strauss beer at a time.”

If management doesn’t connect with what employees do daily, a portion of the “what” is lost. Glick uses the example of what a dishwasher’s job and goal might be — spotless glassware, everything shines in the back of the house. “That might be how I interact with the front of the house staff who are interacting with guests,” he said. “It’s a lot easier for a front-of-the-house employee to see the connection because they’re the ones making people happy.”

The connection to the guest is where you win or lose,” said Glick. “It isn’t just the beer. Beer is the most important part of your brewery. If you don’t get the beer right, nothing else matters.” The food is important, but the reason people return to certain places is because of how someone made them feel when they were there.


One of the Karl Strauss values, and the one Glick says is most critical in connecting to human beings, is care for each other, our environment and the community.

“Caring for each other is something society needs a little bit more of right now,” he said. “It’s basically ‘do until others’, using magic words; please and thank you when you’re walking through the brewpub, and just being kind to each other.”

– Article by Sally Colby, Wine & Craft Beverage News

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