I often will take subtle jabs at the non-production people in a brewery. They’re the people that wear suits, or the people that don’t listen to music, or the people that like math more than beer. Well, April Bates may like math more than beer (I didn’t ask), but she definitely knows her numbers and she definitely cares about craft beer. She’s my favorite beer accountant and she should be yours, too.
Did you always want to be an accountant or were you just following your strengths until you ended up counting things for a living?Absolutely not! Have you ever met an accountant? They’re boring and most have no personality. I guess in the end, I sold out. Numbers and accounting are my strength and that seems to be where I always land.
How does a person become a beer accountant?
You follow your personal and business strengths and look for a fun industry that could utilize your knowledge, skills, and abilities! What’s more fun than beer?
Is beer accounting different from other types of accounting? Would it be so different to be a toilet paper accountant?I’ve always said I could be an accountant for anyone, anywhere, and for any widget! Numbers are easy, and although the industry may change, the numbers remain the same; the numbers are just larger or smaller depending on where you land. A balance sheet remains and will always be a balance sheet. The biggest difference in beer accounting are the curve balls! For instance, the banking world doesn’t change. It’s boring and the same repetitive transactions and duties day in and day out. Brewing on the other hand is fun! You’ve got to be a mover and shaker in this world or you drown! Something new is always on the horizon that we have to learn and be willing to adapt or change. I can honestly say as a brewing accountant, I’ve been challenged the most! No day is ever the same. I get pushed out of my comfort zone all the time. In the end, I believe it makes me better at what I do!
What other jobs have you had that have prepared you for counting for a brewery?Oh, a slew of jobs ... intel analyst, financial analyst, a retail manager and a mom of strong-willed boys! Pull different aspects of all those jobs together and you get one eclectic brewing accountant!
What’s your favorite part about working at Ska?I love the people! I describe Ska as a big, fun, dysfunctional family ... they’re my family! I love them.
What’s the typical day in the life of a beer accountant look like?Cash, cash, cash! I tell folks that my No. 1 job is cash flows. Everything I do and every decision my department makes must be all about the cash. Cash is King!
Do you make all the other accountants jealous when they find out you’re a beer accountantYes, people say, “Well that sounds fun!” And my response is, “Most days!” Inevitably the next question is, “Do you get free beer?” Ummm ... YES!
As a money person, do you pay attention to the state of craft beer as a whole (growth rates, market trends, acquisitions, etc.), or are you more concerned with the health of the company in front of you? Yes, both! My No. 1 concern is always Ska – I want her happy, healthy, and thriving (not just the business, but also our employees). But it is important to be aware of the industry in which we’re in and what changes are occurring on a large scale so we’re prepared and can make adjustments to survive. Craft brewing has made a huge splash and we’re beginning to see the ripples of our mark! CANNONBALL! We have to be aware of what the Big Boys are doing, understand their strategy, and consciously make decisions to support and advance the craft brewing industry. We’ve pissed off the Big Boys – we’re taking away their sales, their shelf space and we’re brewing AMAZING beer – I’d be pissed, too! It’s important to remember why they’re buying out our brothers; they want to drive the prices of craft beer down so the independent breweries are unable to survive! Don’t be naïve and stupid. They know what they’re doing. I am just one to believe we are smart, creative, and catalysts for change! Beer is never going to be the same when we’re done! Craft Brewers Unite!
Robbie Wendeborn is the head brewer at Svendæle Brewing in Millerton, New York. He is also a former beer plumber at Ska Brewing.