Brewbound Podcast Episode 13: Dan Kopman on Three-Tier Challenges and his 35-Year Career in Beer

Dan Kopman got his start in the brewing industry in 1983, as a trainee brewer at Young’s Brewery in London. Eight years later, he opened The Saint Louis Brewery, makers of Schlafly beer, with co-founder Tom Schlafly.

In the 35 years that Kopman has been actively involved in the beer business, he’s witnessed a profound amount of change.

“I’ve realized, only recently, that anything goes,” he said during a Brewbound Podcast interview recorded at the Beer Institute’s annual meeting in June.

“It’s exciting because now I’ve realized that we don’t have to live within that straight jacket,” he added, referring to the ability to innovate with non-traditional brewing ingredients.

In early 2012, Kopman and Schlafly sold a 60 percent stake in The Saint Louis Brewery to private equity firm Sage Capital. Kopman departed the company in late 2016, and just a few months later he was recruited to become the CEO of Heavy Seas Beer in Baltimore, Maryland.

At Heavy Seas, he’s been tasked with helping breathe new life into a 23-year-old brand that is struggling to compete with thousands of new startups.

“The opinion leaders, thought leaders in our industry have written us off,” he said. “We are done. We are toast. We might as well shut the doors. But that doesn’t have to happen at all. There is no reason why we can’t take the brand that we have and breathe life into that and make that exciting for consumers again and make the place where we go to work everyday vibrant and interesting and dynamic.”

In episode 13 of the Brewbound Podcast, Kopman discusses his experience launching and building Schlafly Beer in the early days of craft, the amount of change that’s occurred in the industry since the early 1990s – and the impact that’s had on the three-tier system — and he also shares lessons for other beer entrepreneurs.

Also in this episode: Brewbound editor Chris Furnari shares the latest news items, including information about a new hard seltzer product from Oskar Blues, an update on the Pabst-MillerCoors contract brewing lawsuit, and details about Boston-area craft brewery Trillium Brewing, whose labor practices and brewing methods are under scrutiny after accusations were lodged by a self-described former employee in an online beer forum.

Listen to episode 13 of the Brewbound Podcast above, as well as on iTunes. The episode is also available on Google Play, Stitcher, Spotify, and Soundcloud. New episodes of the Brewbound Podcast, which is co-hosted by Furnari and Brewbound editor Justin Kendall, are published every Thursday.

Episode 14, featuring the founders of Briggs Hard Seltzer, will be released on Thursday, December 13.

For questions, comments or suggestions, please email podcast@brewbound.com.

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Brewbound Podcast

The Brewbound Podcast features interviews with beer industry executives and entrepreneurs, along with highlights and commentary from the weekly news. New episodes every Thursday.