Friday, January 14, 2011

Week #2 - Dustin Walker

The man they call Ranger, Dustin Walker, is Terrapin Brewery’s Regional Manager for Virginia & North Carolina. Every rep has their own approach to the job and I really admire Ranger's ability to be all business one second and all fun the next. Talking beer with him is awesome too, he’s been to Cantillon and loves sours. Every time I peel back a layer of the Terrapin story it gets cooler and cooler and Ranger is no different. Moving up to North Carolina's 'Triangle' area from Georgia, Mr. Walker is doing great things for Craft Beer in cities like Raleigh, but also has a knack for wiggling into some of the smaller towns in his territory that are thirsty for the good stuff. If you’re in VA/NC you can catch him at one of his zillion events. He comes to see us in Philly every once in a while too. Ladies & Gents, Dustin Walker...

I always get a huge team-work vibe out of all you Terrapin guys. What's your favorite part about the people you work with?

I really love working for Terrapin for two big reasons. I believe that we make wonderful, delicious beer, and the people that I get to work with are awesome folks! I would consider everyone on the sales team as close friends. We actually all hang out together a good bit away from the work scene. It was through the folks at Terrapin that my eyes were opened to all the different and amazing craft brews and breweries out there.

How long have you been with the brewery?

I have been with Terrapin since August 18th, 2008. It was the day that I started my dream job. Before I was hired by Terrapin, I used to work for a distributor in Athens, Georgia, and they were actually the first to distribute Terrapin's beer. I was even in the warehouse when the first shipment of Terrapin came through the door on a little box truck full of torpedo kegs. I remember it clearly because that was the first time I had ever seen 1/6bbl kegs. I was 18 at the time.

What's the biggest thing you've learned in the beer business?

I've learned that is doesn't take millions of dollars in marketing to sell beer. At the end of the day, its all about the liquid inside the bottle that makes the most difference.

So...the Oxymoron tour. Sounded like a lot of fun and sounded a bit painful. What can you say about it?

Dan Conway from Left Hand brewing and I did a 6 day, 10 event tour of Virginia at the end of October to celebrate the Midnight Project collaboration our breweries do together each year. This year's collaboration was called "Oxymoron." It was a week long, grueling tour of tastings and bar events that reeked havoc on our livers but was something we both enjoyed and will hopefully get to do again...maybe not 10 events in 6 days though. We both thought we were going to hate each other when it was over. I mean two hungover, grown ass men in a single cab pickup truck for 6 days. We keep asking ourselves, "What were we thinking?" The booze helped, but we became better friends in the end.

The collaboration beers are always exciting. Are they planned really far in advance or do the guys just let you know, 'Hey we're gonna go do this. Get ready to sell it.'?

We know what style the beer is going to be before they start brewing. The reps from Left Hand and I get events set up before beers are released. Dan and I wanted to blow it up big in Virginia, so we worked on the tour for about 3 months getting everything lined up.

After Philly Beer Week you told me you were really impressed with the food at the bars in Philly. Where else in your territory are you finding great food?

Craft beer reps are lucky because great food and great beer come hand in hand. Almost everywhere I go for a market visit, I can find great food. Richmond, Arlington, Raleigh and Charlotte all have great places to eat. The food in Philly seems like it is raised up to another level though. Even the bar food is amazing!

2010 was your first Philly Beer Week right? What'd you think?

I thought that Philly Beer Week was a great time. It was hands down the best beer week that I have ever been a part of. So many great bars, great beers and great events... so little time. Hopefully I will get to help out again this year.

I've had a couple of retailers tell me how active Terrapin is in reaching out to them, showing the brewing facility, etc. How important is it to you guys to convey that sense of where the beer comes from to the people who ultimately end up selling directly to the consumer?

Its very important to us that the retailers have a sense of where the beer comes from. One of our goals is to connect Terrapin to our retailers in some capacity. Bridging that connection with our company and beer gives the retailer an experience they typically want to convey to the potential customer. We also believe that it is our role as a craft brewery to educate, show people about the brewing process, and tell the story of Terrapin.

What's in store for 2011? What do we need to keep an extra space in the fridge for?

2011 is going to be a great brewing year for us! Tomfoolery "Black Saison" is slated to be next in the Side Project lineup. We are also looking at brewing another beer in the "Crunkles" lineup to follow Capt'n Crunkles. The exact style is still under wraps, but it will be in the form of an IPA. Rye Squared and Monk's Revenge will also return in the Monster Beer Tour series this Spring.

In your dream cellar, what's the one case of beer that would never run out?

Geez... that's a tough question. I would say the original Liefmans Goudenband before they were shut down then reopened would have to be in there. But if it were my dream, and it is damnit! I would also have a case of Hopzilla!

*Ranger is pictured above with his awesome wife Kristin

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