Greg Smith

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What’s your current position at your brewery, and how did you get started in the craft brewing industry?

I’m a co-owner, along with my wife, Gina, of Leech Lake Brewing Company in Walker, Minn. I run the brewing operation with Gina’s assistance, and she and I share the responsibilities associated with our tap room and distribution. I have been a homebrewer for 18 years and recently completed the World Brewing Academy Web-based Concise Course in Brewing Technology offered by the Siebel Institute. Largely as a result of encouragement from friends and family, we began to think seriously about opening a microbrewery around 10 years ago, bur first we had to land in the right location. Originally from Denver, we lived most recently in the Rochester, Minn., area where I worked as a mechanical design engineer for IBM. I took an IT Specialist job within IBM that allowed me to work from home and live anywhere, so we moved to Walker—our vacation destination for 20 years. We have a brewhouse that nets 5 bbl of beer per session (a three-batch day), and a two-head bottle filler/crowner. Definitely time consuming.

What’s new at Leech Lake?

Everything. We brewed our inaugural batch of beer—Loch Leech Monster Scottish Ale—on August 13, and opened the doors to our tap room with three beers on September 10. Now we have six staples that we will keep on tap year-round, and we will brew an occasional special/seasonal beer for the various events that occur in and around Walker (the Eelpout Festival, for example).

What’s the best part of being a part of the craft brewing community?

I love the creative aspect of the business. From designing and brewing the beers to label artwork, it’s a lot of fun.

What do you like to do in your time away from the brewery?

I look forward to having time away from the brewery. I’ve been putting in consistent 90 to 100 hour weeks since we started brewing. Given the time, I’d be water/snow skiing, boating, cycling, hiking—all with my wife and three kids.

What’s your favorite food and beer pairing?

I love really spicy pepperoni and smoked Gouda cheese on crackers with Loch Leech Monster Scottish Ale. Killer combo.

What’s your biggest accomplishment unrelated to your job?

Surviving until my 44th birthday, and marrying my wife 25 years into it.

What’s your favorite beer that your brewery does not produce?

I started brewing in an effort to clone a Guinness. For sentimental reasons, plus the fact that I really like the beer—especially in Ireland—I’ll go with that. The Extra Stout version.

What’s the most memorable travel destination at which you’ve had a chance to sample the local beer?

I’ve got to go with Ireland.

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