It is with a heavy heart that we share today an announcement from our head brewer, Chris Hainge, sharing that he has decided that he will leave Kyoto Brewing at the end of 2023.
While it is still some time away, we have decided to let this go public now in order to allow openness in our search for a new head brewer, and in the hope that it allows us to bring in the best person possible to fill this huge gap. We also hope that being open will allow us the freedom to make the best of the time we have left with Chris in the company.
It goes without saying that Kyoto Brewing, both in terms of our company culture and our beer identity, would not be what they are without Chris. For this, we are incredibly grateful.
Please find below Chris’ message to the public, followed by a comment from Kyoto Brewing.
To the KBC community
and wider Japanese craft beer industry:
For those of you who have supported us from the beginning, you will know that I am one of the founding members of the company and hold the position of Head Brewer. While the adventure of starting a craft brewery with two friends in Kyoto and growing it to this point has come with many rewarding experiences, for a variety of reasons I have decided to leave Kyoto Brewing Co. at the end of 2023.
Looking objectively at the company, the timing of my decision seems surprising, even to myself. We have worked incredibly hard to rebuild the company to emerge from the Covid pandemic stronger than how it went in, and the rewards from those efforts are showing themselves daily. We have a staff of highly talented and motivated people who are not only fun to work with, but also dedicated to the goals of our organization. Our beer is brewed to the highest quality standards of any time in our history, and our distribution network means that more people can enjoy our products more easily than ever before. The company is on its strongest footing ever, and we are finally poised for meaningful future success instead of being confined to the daily fight for survival.
While witnessing this transformation has been a rewarding one, it did not come without a great deal of sacrifice. I have dedicated more than 10 years of my time, savings, and energy to contribute to the success of KBC. I have learned immensely from this process and do not regret this sacrifice, but in recent years I have found it harder and harder to find enough gasoline in my tank to consistently fuel the commitment to the company. While no one in this position ever expects to find themselves here, I have finally admitted to myself that I am completely burned out.
Another reason is more personal and comes from the difference between the expectation and the reality of running a brewery of our scale day in and day out. When we began this adventure, my goal was to turn my passion of brewing beer into a profession and through that positively affect the Japanese craft beer industry. I feel that I have accomplished that goal and along the way helped guide Kyoto Brewing Co. to its position as one of Japan’s best breweries. While I take a lot of pride this achievement, I expected that my days would be spent researching, crafting, and refining beers that would be shared within a small, tightknit community; in reality, however, I spend most of my time managing a team and planning for things happening months into the future at a scale much larger than I anticipated. It is rewarding to know that this contribution has been appreciated by both the company and our customers, but it isn’t what motivated me to start a brewery. As that gap continues to widen, so does the divide between what I want to do and what I feel like I have to do, which is a situation that is not positive for either party.
Regardless of the reasons, we have been working very hard to ensure that this decision has no significant effect on the future of KBC. The current brew team is the strongest and most capable yet. There is redundancy within the team, and my role has shifted to one that mainly consists of guidance and planning. The team conducts more than 90% of our brewing operations without my assistance, and over the last year most decisions regarding production processes and recipe tweaks have been made based heavily on their input.
This strength carries over into our logistics and operations team as well, where most day-to-day operations are driven by our staff, including short and mid-term planning and implementation related to product development. In short, my departure will not disrupt any of the work at KBC that relates to the continued production of high-quality beer or the professional manner in which it is provided to our customers.
To further ease the transition and to also ensure that KBC can attain its goals in 2024 and beyond, we are actively searching for a new Head Brewer. We are confident that this hire will have even greater ability to ensure that KBC can continue to provide its customers with beers that exceed their expectations.
In closing, I want to thank all of you for your constant support of KBC and the Japanese craft beer industry. When we started brewing in 2015 the industry was still in its infancy. We were lucky enough to be taken under the wing of industry stalwarts like Minoh Beer and Shiga Kogen, something for which I will be forever grateful. We were also lucky to start among an amazing group of contemporary breweries like Y. Market Brewing and Ushitora Brewery. We have also been fortunate to collaborate with peers abroad like Heretic Brewing, Upright Brewing, Arizona Wilderness, Burnt Mill Brewery, and Knee Deep Brewing. Knowing that I can call the people in this industry my friends is one of my most prized possessions from my time at KBC.
Finally, thank you to all of our customers. I still remember running the taproom alongside Paul during our early days and getting to know the core group of customers who are still our regulars to this day. One of my most rewarding experiences was whenever customers at bars or events would take the time to mention to me that it was a KBC beer that first got them interested in craft beer and now they can’t imagine their life without craft. It is thanks to you that not only our company, but the industry as a whole has experienced such an amazing “second coming.”
Head Brewer and Co-Founder
Kyoto Brewing Co.
Whilst not a sudden decision, and one that we (Paul and Ben) have known was on the cards for some time now, today’s announcement is still a hard one for us. The three of us have been friends for over 18 years, and started the company excitedly, imagining naively that it would of course stay a company run by the three of us forever.
That said, we want nothing more than for Chris to work towards doing what will make him happy, and leading the life he really wants to lead.
While hard to picture at the moment, we know that we will in the future look back with pride at all that we have achieved together. While we believe we hit the ground running with our early beers, the quality and consistency has improved immensely since then. We also made many styles that we never imagined we would, and picked up knowledge and techniques through collaboration, some of which were little known in Japan, if not new to the country entirely.
We also know that off the back of this will be lots of opportunity for optimism and anticipation. We have enjoyed watching our talented group of brewers grow under Chris’ wing over the past months and years, and they have already stepped up to be able to take on all aspects of production. We are excited to see them take the chance to pick up further responsibilities, develop themselves further, and in doing so taking KBC on to the next level.
To help further this, we are also midway through the process of looking for the person who can bring further skills, knowledge, and energy to the company.
Finally, while we won’t pretend that nothing is going to change with Chris moving on, we know that Kyoto Brewing’s best beers and biggest achievements are still to come, and exactly the same can be said for Chris. Even if they won’t be happen together, we will still take great pleasure in celebrating both.