Sylvain Chiron, MBA ‘96
Owner, Brasserie du Mont-Blanc
Hometown: Tresserve, France
Cultivated pallet: “Before opening the brewery, I was drinking the French equivalent of Budweiser. Then I became a beer enthusiast.”
Sylvain Chiron’s bubbly career has covered attaining his Fox MBA to taste-testing award-winning craft beers at his French brewery.
Sylvain Chiron promises that the best part of his job isn’t taste-testing his award-winning craft beers.
Chiron, a French native, opened the Brasserie du Mont-Blanc in the French Alps in 1999 and sold his first beers in 2000. The 45-year-old has since become a pioneer in France’s small yet expanding craft beer market. At the 2015 World Beer Awards, Mont-Blanc’s La Blanche was named the best white beer in the world, allowing Chiron to join an elite club of eight winners. Mont-Blanc’s La Rousse won the title of world’s best amber beer for the second time, at the 2014 Global Craft Beer Awards.
“We didn’t look at price to make our product, just at what it takes to make the best beer possible,” Chiron said.
Chiron developed his taste for craft beers as a finance undergraduate student at the Fox School of Business. When he rejoined the Fox School as an International MBA student in the late ‘90s, he recognized an emerging beer culture hunting for a more-dynamic taste to their brews. Chiron returned to France to create a product to capture their discerning palettes.
“I was just 30 years old at the time and I was crazy,” Chiron said of his decision to open his brewery, “but you need to be a little crazy to start your own business.”
Chiron got his start by purchasing a Belgian distillery that was operated by Trappist monks. Through that connection, he learned how to brew properly. The brewery, one of just nine like it in the world, is a centuries-old establishment where monks held the nuances of beer brewing in similar esteem as their piety. Chiron learned from them before taking their techniques to the Brasserie du Mont-Blanc. The brewery is named after the mountain serving as its primary water source. Using refined and pure water, Chiron explained, allows him to infuse his beers with a unique taste that keeps consumers reaching for another bottle.
In addition to his award-winning white and amber beers, Chiron offers a specialty malt, La Blonde. Indulging his creativity, Chiron created his own Genepi-based beer, a bitter blend that is literally green. Its cousin, La Violette, is a cranberry-colored blend with a dash of vanilla. For the winter season, he offers Le Brassin d’hiver, which he describes as a full-bodied malty attack.
“People are bored of industrial products; they want to buy local and buy natural. They care about the taste,” Chiron said.
Chiron, who comes from a long line of entrepreneurs, never saw himself working for someone else. He credits the Fox School with helping him hone his skills at seeing the big picture while also nit-picking the details. He’s got his hands in everything, from marketing to production to management.
“It’s what’s in the bottle that counts, but don’t think it’s only about drinking beer,” Chiron laughed. “It’s a business like any other and it’s a lot of fun.”