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Executive edge: Eric Wallace

Eric Wallace’s love of craft beer began while living in Germany, where his father was in the Air Force. After graduating from the Air Force Academy himself and being stationed in Northern Italy and Turkey, Wallace settled in Colorado, where in 1993 he co-founded Left Hand Brewing Co. Starting as a home brewery in a condo in Niwot, it has become the 38th largest craft brewery by volume in the nation.

Wallace, 52, recently won an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and his Longmont-based beer has earned more than 21 Great American Beer Festival medals, nine World Beer Cup Awards and six European Beer Star Awards.

How did you get into brewing?

After the Air Force I moved back to the States and saw all these little breweries popping up. I was intrigued and decided to do something. My business partner, Dick Doore, and I brewed some home brew and thought this was going to catch on. So we started writing a business plan, did a lot of research, pooled our money, raised a little more from friends and family. It was a classic startup story.

You employ 96. How do you build a team that works?

We don’t look at it as just a job. We’re looking for a cultural fit with people. You’re not just here to make a widget or dig a hole. You’re here to be part of a movement – the craft beer renaissance.

How did Left Hand weather the floods of 2013?

It was absolutely nerve wracking. There was mud everywhere, but within four days we got the tasting room running; we started packaging beer a bit and just started chipping away to get back to activity as quickly as we possibly could. We put on the local Oktoberfest that raised $70,000 – funds that we could immediately put out there to help flood victims.

What’s a day-in-the-life look like?

I’m pretty psyched, but we don’t just sit around and drink beer all day. There’s the standard trials and tribulations that come with running a business.

You’re not supposed to pick your favorite child, but do you have a favorite beer?

No. It depends on the mood.

What’s your idea of the perfect Colorado day?

Right now I’m sitting here and I can see Longs Peak from my office window. Being up in the mountains is a classic part of my Colorado day – whether you’re up there hiking in the morning or fishing in the afternoon.

What’s your motto, in business and life?

Do the right thing. I try to live by that.

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Lynn Bronikowski

Lynn Bronikowski is a freelance writer in Denver.

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