Q/A: Peter Bouckaert On Why He Joined Melvin Brewing’s Board
Last month industry titan Peter Bouckaert, co-founder of Purpose Brewing and former Brewmaster at New Belgium Brewing, made headlines when Forbes reported that he would be joining the Melvin Brewing Board of Directors.
The announcement came as a surprise to many in the beer world as Peter had only just launched Purpose Brewing during the summer of 2017 and this past April, Melvin Brewing was embroiled in controversy after one of their brewers was accused of sexual harassment a year earlier in addition to the discovery of inappropriate content on the company website.
With so many questions surrounding the news, we wanted to speak directly with Peter to better understand what went into his decision, how the partnership came about, and what this means for the future of both Melvin and Purpose Brewing.
PorchDrinking: How did this decision to join the Melvin team come about? In Forbes’ article, it mentions that you approached the Melvin team at GABF, was this the case and why?
Peter Bouckaert: I have no clue where this date came from. Jeremy approached me soon after it became public that I was going to leave New Belgium but I’m not exactly sure when the conversation started. It must have been around early summer 2017 because I remember us talking about it in late August in Belgium. I received requests for help from mostly breweries all over the world at that point but I was not sure where to take that since I was consumed with my job at New Belgium and the startup of Purpose Brewing and Cellars.
The first time I visited Melvin was in January 2018, when I had already left New Belgium. Dave Chichura called me one night about a technical problem and due to the severity, I drove out there the next day. I had been helping out Dave since his days at Oscar Blues. In Summer of 2018, Will, Jeremy and I started talking about a technical advisory role on the board of Melvin. The logistical and technical challenges are enticing to me, and my expertise is a good match.
PorchDrinking: What will your role on Melvin’s board involve? We know they’ve been interested in starting an experimental sour/wild program, will you be involved at all in the brewing/barrel-aging process in any sort of advisory role?
Peter Bouckaert: The sour/wild program never has been on my radar so far. As a growing company, the largest issues are based on location and the type of beers they make. Alpine, Wyoming is cute but it is not near a major artery and creates quite a bit of scheduling problems. And all brewers know that heavy hopped beers are costly to make. As a young brewery, there are also challenges on how to evolve which I find intriguing. The current brewing climate in the US has changed very fast and there are plenty of options—but which do you choose?
PorchDrinking: There have been several changes at Purpose Brewing lately with Zach and Laura leaving and the addition of Mike Hiatt recently, how will this role affect Purpose Brewing?
Peter Bouckaert: This was a major part of my hesitation to take this advisory role. How much wingspan do I have? I have been focusing more on Purpose Brewing & Cellars, and with the addition of Mike, I have someone with good knowledge about how to run brewery operations. He also is keen on learning other aspects of the business and so I hope we can offer him a great learning opportunity!
PorchDrinking: By now, most of the beer community is aware of the sexual assault claims that took place involving one of Melvin’s employees, as well as the inappropriate jokes on their website surfacing around the same time last year, were these of concern to you when making your decision?
Peter Bouckaert: Of course, this was a concern. However, I was impressed to see how a young company took this issue and made it an opportunity for learning.
I still have yet to find a company that does not trip and fall in it’s young and “being able to conquer the world” stage. We make mistakes. What is, for me, more relevant is how we learn and deal with those mistakes. Some companies go belly up, some do not know how to handle problems. Showing how companies trip and get back up is the beauty of organizations and that is where we can learn and grow as humans.
PorchDrinking: When you left New Belgium you cited one of the main reasons as wanting to learn new things, what about joining Melvin are you hoping to learn that you didn’t feel was being fulfilled at New Belgium or currently at Purpose?
Peter Bouckaert: Learning is my passion in life. New Belgium was a great opportunity to learn! Tristan, you cannot imagine how much I am learning right now. Purpose Brewing & Cellars is fun, and I get to brew and make what I want. But brewing is in my comfort zone, this is not where the learning happens. I do get to learn a lot about other aspects of running the business, that is what makes Purpose Brewing & Cellars intriguing.
I have been expanding my reach in Europe, South America, Africa and looking into markets that have different challenges. It has been a great learning opportunity to see challenges inside out through local players. But I cannot lose my touch with the US market. Things are fast changing here and I need to keep up-to-date with the market. Melvin and other company involvements offer the opportunity to stay in touch with the US market.