Co-owner, Iron Duke Brewing; Age 34
Michael Marcoux never intended to go into the craft-beer business. He was actually working for the Pert Group, a marketing research company, when a beer-brewing friend, Nick Morin, asked him to look over his new business plan.
Marcoux liked it — a lot. Soon, the two were partners in a Ludlow-based venture called Iron Duke Brewing.
Marcoux says their philosophy is a celebration of hard work, which applies to both themselves and their customers. “Ludlow is an area where people know how to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty,” he said. “So our whole premise is celebrating a hard day of work by sitting down at the end of the day and having a pint.”
Customers visit the brewery’s taproom for those pints, but can also buy Iron Duke beer at more than 60 area bars and about 15 package stores — impressive distribution for an outfit that officially launched just two and a half years ago. But they don’t intend to grow too quickly. “The big thing for us is consistency — making sure we’re not putting out products that taste different four weeks later.”
Iron Duke keeps about eight styles in production at any given time, from light to dark brews, from smooth to hoppy; its flagship beer is a dark Irish porter. “I don’t think we realized how varied people’s tastes are, but that’s great for us; we get to experiment.”
That sense of experimentation has driven the craft-beer industry, which claims countless enthusiasts willing to travel to search out new styles. “People have had the chance to experience beer outside regular domestics — ‘what’s new? What’s different? What haven’t I tried?’” Marcoux said. “That’s the new mentality.”
He and Morin employ four full-time employees and four part-time bar staff, with plans to hire two more full-timers this year and perhaps reach 15 employees within five years. Meanwhile, they’re pouring their success into a number of nonprofits and community organizations, supporting the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, St. Elizabeth Church, the Special Olympics, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and local youth sports teams, to name a few.
Now that he’s working for himself, Marcoux says there’s little about his job that he doesn’t find refreshing. “The weekend is my favorite part, when I can sit down in the taproom and talk to people about beer and their experiences — where they’ve been, where they’re going next … just sharing a mutual love for beer.”