Working at a Brew Pub

By - July 13, 2013

Michael Kopczynski has had a number of bartending jobs, including employment at two of Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville restaurants (Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and Glendale, Arizona). In 2008 he moved to Cañon City, Colorado and began working as a bartender in the recently-opened brew pub, McClellan's Grill and Brewing Company. After moving away for a year he returned to work there again in 2010, and was soon promoted to general manager. I wanted to ask him about his experience, and specifically about the differences between a traditional bar and a brew pub.Michael Kopczynski

How many bars and restaurants have you worked at over the years?

I would say about 6 or 7 altogether, I've always been a traveler at heart. It has been hard to stay in one place when a job like bartending makes it so easy to move and travel around the country.

Can you tell us what is different about working at a brew pub rather than a regular bar? Is the job essentially the same, are the customers different, and are there other differences?

There is definitely a difference. Brew pubs are more for beer enthusiasts. They love the idea of having a homemade brew and not just your everyday "store brand". A lot of the guests love going on tours and seeing the various aspects of the beer making process. It's a different feeling in a brew pub, a different atmosphere. Most regulars will ask all about the beer making process, they know about hops and different flavors that "store brand" drinkers don't know about.

As manager, did you have to learn about or participate in the brewing process?

I didn't have to know or learn about it, however I sure wanted too. I spent much of my off time back with the brewer as he taught me things about brewing that I didn't know. I became his assistant so to speak, cleaning the tanks and learning tank transfer methods -- basically learning all I could about the beer we served, how it was made, and also doing the small little things to keep the taps flowing.

In service businesses, due to the tips they receive, front-line employees sometimes make more than managers. Was that true at McClellan's, and if so, when you were promoted to manager were you still able to work behind the bar in order to boost your earnings?

Yes, it never fails that tipped employees will eventually make out better than a manager at times, however I was able to escape this by working a few nights a week as the Manager/Bartender. This helped me make up the lost revenue I have always enjoyed as a bartender.

Did you enjoy your work at McClellan's?

I enjoyed the brew pub a great deal, met some great people there that I am still good friends with to this day. Learned a lot about home brews and brewing beer; that type of experience you can't get out of a book

What did you like about the job?

As always, I love bartending, getting behind a bar and slinging drinks never really feels like working. Managing wasn't too bad either. I got to basically make my own schedule, do bar orders and keep things up to my own standards as far as what I think a bar should be. It was a lot of fun.

Some readers will want to know how to get a job like yours, so maybe you can offer some tips. Sometimes managers are hired from outside the company based on a good resume, for example, but you were promoted from within. Do you think that is common, and is that something that a hard-working bartender can realistically hope for in a small brew pub?

Small brew pubs would most likely hire someone from within, bigger places will as well, but there you would have a lot more competition. I truly believe that any bartender anywhere can move up the ladder if they really wanted to. Key is patience; all good things in time.

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