This weekend I sat down with John Reynolds, Founding Brewer at Slow Pour Brewing Company. Slow Pour is the first brewery in Gwinnett County and is located in historic downtown Lawrenceville, Georgia.
“My family is all really close. My wife and I have lots of extended family. So for Christmas we draw names to pick who we are going to buy Christmas gifts for. It makes it easier and eliminates the stress of going broke trying to buy Christmas for everybody. So 8 years ago I drew my brother-in-law’s name, Marty. He had always wanted a Coke machine. So I got him this old Coke machine, one with the pull door. And he was really touched by it. He ended up drawing my name the next year and he bought me a home brewing kit.
Beer was this awakening for the creative side my brain. I thought, “Oh, now, this is something I really enjoy.” I didn’t have an ambition to take it any further than that. Just a creative outlet for my career. Something that allowed me to not go crazy.
I was working in the technology industry. I had gotten a degree in Management Information Systems from the University of Georgia. I went into software development, then joined a QA team as an analyst. I had an opportunity to move up the ladder and get involved in management so I did that. Then I went to work for a company called McKesson, which is a Fortune 15 company. They’re huge. So I was just a number. Beer really became my creative outlet. Within computers there’s only so much you can do. So beer became my creative voice, something I could actually make myself. But it wasn’t very ambitious.
Then I approached Marty with an idea. He has a coffee company with two stores. They have their own coffee and bags, with their brand. And I mentioned to him, “You know, it would be really cool if you took your coffee and approached a young brewery and you got your coffee into their stout recipe.” It made sense to me. To push the brand forward and get some recognition. Well he said, “Let’s just start our own brewery.”
But I know that I know very little about any one discipline. So with homebrewing I’m like, “There’s a million homebrewers better than me.” So I’m thinking this will be a monumental task. I didn’t take his idea super seriously. And then he started scouting buildings. And he said, “I found us a building. Let’s do this.” And I’m like, “All right!”
I had an appointment to go get this tattoo the day I was laid off from McKesson. I was on the phone, as they’re laying off 600 people, on a conference call. They are like, “You’re getting this call to inform you that you’re getting laid off.” And all I can think is, “I have a tattoo appointment in 45 minutes. Can we hurry this up? Can we move this along?” It was the least stressed I’ve felt being laid off from a place. I had this brewery to look forward to.
That day I got this tattoo of Mickey and Minnie clinking beer glasses together. I’m a big Disney nerd. Disney was where my wife and I met, sort of. We were on a lifeguard team for Lake Lanier Islands and competed at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon. Ever since then it’s been a place we have loved to go. We started taking our kids when my oldest was 2.
When I was in corporate we got $5000 for continuing education. And I knew that Disney offered classes through the Disney Institute. So I somehow got the company to agree to send me to those. I somehow slipped it through one time, then the next two times I just referred back to that saying, “Well you did it that other time.” I took Disney’s Approach to Leadership Excellence, Disney’s Approach to Creativity and Innovation, and one other one. They were all super informative, really good stuff.
For Disney it’s all about the details of story. They have created their whole experience with that in mind. We want our story told properly here at Slow Pour also. It’s been a big thing for me. We want a positive experience from the time someone parks their car, puts their foot on the concrete outside, to when they get back in the car to leave – we want that entire experience to be positive.
It just so happens that we are sitting at the table where we have our Wednesday company business meetings. We all gather around this table. Marty sits at the end, he’s my business partner now. And he talks about investing in the people around this table so that we can have a better product. It will translate.
If we can create a culture where we invest in the people that work here, help them have a definitive work path, and care about who they are then the beer will speak for itself. If I can take care of them, then they’ll go the extra mile for the beer. And that will translate to bottom line sales and everything else. So that’s one thing that I have to keep reminding myself: to not only focus on what’s going on in my head but focus on the people.”
Want to know how Slow Pour names its beers on tap? Get the stories HERE.