Originally posted at: bloglebrewski.blogspot.com
As MudHen's only assistant brewer (currently), I've been working two different - yet similar - jobs since last March. I'm behind the bar three shifts a week and with Tony in the brewery two shifts a week (or more, if we're canning). Soon, however, that balance will shift and I'll be taking on more shifts in the brewery and less behind the bar.
What better time to reflect on the differences between bartending and brewing?
Bartending, for me, is therapeutic. Even on my worst days, when life has run me over with a flatbed truck, put it in reverse, and run me over four more times, making drinks instantly puts me in a calm state of mind. It's methodical and helps me focus on things other than what life's putting me through. I guess you could say, that for the past almost-ten years, it's been my "happy place."
Because brewing is still so new to me, it's not so much a place where I can clear my head. Rather it's a full-body experience that involves my mind and my muscles in much different ways than bartending ever would.
Where in bartending, if you miss a step with a simple cocktail, it's not necessarily critical to add ingredients in a certain order. I can throw in triple sec before vodka or after. With work in the brewery, most order of things is absolutely essential. Hot rinsing before cold rinsing, for example. Turning valves in a specific order or ensuring the pump is at the correct setting are critical to prevent injury (both to body and to equipment).
Behind the bar, I pay attention to the feel of my shakers, the color of my drinks, and the smell of wine to ensure it's still good to serve. In the brewery, using those senses is also crucial for much different reasons. Perhaps one of the more surprising senses I utilize often in the brewery is hearing. If something is dripping when it shouldn't be, for example, or how the cycle of a vessel sounds - it can tell me right away if something is wrong or not working properly. Behind the bar, of course listening to customers, coworkers, and the printer are all important things, but it's nothing like using hearing in the brewery.
While it may take awhile yet for tasks in the brewery to become second-nature the way making a bay breeze or margarita is, I'm already much more comfortable performing duties given to me on any given day. I don't think I ever want to get comfortable enough to where I can shut my brain completely off but I will relish the day when I can confidently - without second-guessing myself - get through a day in the brewery.
My bar shifts are numbered, sure, but I look forward to continuing to make and serve Wildwood's best - and freshest - craft beer for people to enjoy.