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Juggling Middle Management and Den Motherhood: The Life of a Tasting Room Supervisor With Kristen Wilson!

Juggling Middle Management and Den Motherhood:

The Life of a Tasting Room Supervisor

Before craft beer, my experience in the beverage industry was as front-of-house staff in various bars and restaurants throughout South Jersey.  The money was fast and there was little commitment; I tell everyone that if you can work in one bar, you can work in them all.  Being a ‘people person’ is a transferable skill that crosses all industries.  But what happens when you’re a people person, type-a, and painstakingly meticulous?  You end up in middle management!

Back in 2016, Eight & Sand Beer Co. posted to Facebook that they were hiring and my husband tagged me in the comments.  I studied the website and some craft beer blogs and nervously awaited my interview.  The tasting room was still under construction at this point, but I was assured that it was coming along quickly.  Despite swearing that I bombed my interview, I received a start date for training and I was pumped!  Our soft and grand openings came and went and the team was coming together.

As many places as I had worked prior, I had never opened a brand new establishment.  Getting to be part of a business as it grows has been really special.

I knew when I took the job that while both of my bosses had a wealth of knowledge and talent in their respective fields, they did not have bar/restaurant management experience.  I was so eager to learn and be a part of the process that I began offering to help, providing suggestions, and volunteering to take on more responsibility.  It was a few months later that myself and another server were officially promoted as Tasting Room Supervisors.  The role includes fairly standard supportive duties – opening and closing the tasting room, handling cash, and training staff, but it has been an ever-evolving position as we navigate the first years of business.

Fast forward to today.

Because we have a small staff and most of us have other jobs, all of our roles blend together.  Admittedly, this can be confusing, which is where my secondary, unofficial job title comes in: Den Mother.

Most of my week consists of communicating with everyone on some level.  This could be email, text, group chat, or Google Hangout.  It is usually all of the above, simultaneously, about different things.  I have a working knowledge of everyone’s position and act as a mediator across all levels, keeping track and collaborating with everyone.  I am responsible for scheduling our tasting room staff of about ten people, myself included.  That is ten different personal schedules and preferences, in addition to corresponding with the team for any reservations, on and off-site events we have planned – or that pop up last minute.  I often have reminders set to remind other people about things.

I am the gatekeeper of information.  The management team holds a weekly conference call to catch everyone up on the business.  It is then up to me to filter and disseminate information to staff, formally or informally.  This information-sharing goes both ways, as my staff confides in me things that need to be communicated to our bosses.  Part of this means advocating for staff on their needs.  If one of my staff members is frustrated or upset, it becomes my job to bring it to the rest of the team to figure out how to fix it.

Another layer of my role involves knowing non-work related things about my staff.  I know who is planning to have children, who definitely *does not* want to have children, I know who is getting engaged, and I know who needs tile work done in their bathroom.  If you were thinking that this sounds like normal friendship, I would say that you are absolutely right.  I can proudly say that I have formed friendships with everyone I work with on some level.  From my owners’ goal of having a successful business to my staff wanting to get more involved in craft beer, being a Den Mother means supporting everyone as they achieve their goals, whatever they may be and as much as they let me.

Some days are harder than others to carry the extra emotional labor that goes along with my role.  And while emotional labor is often an expectation of women in the workforce, this was not the case for me.  I nagged, badgered, and annoyed my way into this role because, 1) it is who I am as a person; and 2) because I believe in the value of being this person to an employer.  Any person with a high level of organization and empathy can help make a business successful.

I love craft beer.  I love the people in the industry and the people who enjoy it.  I never imagined that I could be considered “a voice for women in craft beer” – I am so new to this and I am not an expert!  Opening my own brewery or even home-brewing in my garage is not in my future, but what I will do is keep tasting new beer, talking to people about it, and supporting others in their journey in the industry – because that is what a Den Mother would do.

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Beerworld! A Short History of Ponderlodge Golf Course and It’s Beer Connection!

Beerworld: A History

Deep in the Cape May County peninsula there was once a lodge on a non-descript golf course referred to as ‘Beerworld’.  Located in Lower Township, this mystical place was born out of the Ponderlodge Golf Course and built by William H. ‘Billy’ Pflaumer shortly after he acquired the land in 1976.

Ponderlodge would shortly be dubbed, Beerworld by locals of Cape May County chiefly because of Billy Pflaumer’s day job: owner of Christian Schmidt & Sons brewery in Philadelphia (more commonly known to many simply as ‘Schmidts’).  Once known as the 9th largest brewer in the country, Schmidts was an American beer icon for decades along with Pabst Blue Ribbon and Anheuser-Busch.

Pflaumer himself did not drink beer or play golf, but built the 16,000-square foot building within Ponderlodge Golf Course for friends and family anyway.  First, as a private 9-hole course and then in 1991, Beerworld was expanded to 18 holes and opened to the public for the first time.  Pflaumer’s family and Lower Township locals alike would play the course up until the crumble of the Schmidts beer empire, and a bankruptcy that would mark a sad end to Beerworld in 1997.  

Schmidt’s Logo Tiled On the Pool

Today, although you can no longer step inside Beerworld for a fresh draft before conquering the back-nine, you can walk the land it once stood on before the lodges’ eventual demolition in 2011.  After Billy Pflaumer lost the golf course in bankruptcy, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection bought the land and made plans to restore it into a wildlife management area (WMA).  

The Cox Hall Creek WMA makes Ponderlodge almost unrecognizable now in 2018.  The golf cart paths are replaced by nature trails.  Ponds once resembling course obstacles have turned into handicap accessible fishing hide-a-ways.  Migratory birds visit the lush grasses and woods that once held drunken golfers cursing a dismal shot in the rough.  

Beerworld is no more, but the lore lives on!  Throw those clubs in the back and let’s find somewhere that still pours a draft!

Cape May Brewing Company

Ah, yes.  New Jersey’s fastest growing craft beer brewer.  Located in the heart of Cape May County and quite literally so close to Ponderlodge/Cox Hall Creek WMA that if golf carts where still on site, one could make the trip to the brewery within five minutes.

Established in 2011, in what could be interpreted as rising from the ruins of Beerworld, the Cape May Brewing Company has gone on to dominate the region since opening its taps to the world.  With a full tasting room, newly renovated outdoor lounge, and nearly two dozen craftsmanship awards from around the globe – Cape May Brewery is a must see, sit, and drink location.

Whether you’re into tastings or pints (I’m a pint guy myself) there’s plenty of brews to try and even more options to take home in the company’s ‘Brewtique’ store (A+ on the creative name convention).  Cape May IPA is the brewery’s flagship beer, and was the very first draft the woman who would go on to become my wife and I tried on a sizzling late summer day in 2012 in a little place called Cabana’s Beach Bar on Beach Avenue in Cape May.  This also happens to be the historic first location Cape May Brewery placed kegs in and sometimes, I like to think we drank a beer from that first keg.  

We were blown away that someone in South Jersey had created an IPA to challenge all IPAs, and even beat out quite a few of our favorites.  On our next visit we went to see this brewery for ourselves and where not disappointed.  Now we find ourselves making the trek down from Camden County as often as summer traffic and hectic schedules allow.

Cape May Brewery has grown a lot since 2011, but you can still purchase as much Cape May IPA as you can carry and so many beers since then.  Coastal Evacuation DIPA is one of my personal favorites while my wife enjoys the taste bud tingle of Corrosion Sour IPA.  

Photo Credit: Cape May Brewing Company

Other flagship beers include Devil’s Reach and Honey Porter.  The latter of the two is made with local honey that is certified Jersey Fresh by the state.  Sign up for the newsletter and check out what’s on tap often from One Off Wednesday’s (week to week one-time brews) to seasonal brews such as Follow The Gull and the much coveted Apple Bomb.

Beer Biz Profiles Podcast

The South Jersey Beer Scene Podcast: Episode 16-John Howard-Fusco of “Eating In South Jersey” and Author of “A Culinary History of Cape May: Salt Oysters, Beach Plums, & Cabernet Franc

John Howard-Fusco of the great blog “Eating In South Jersey“, and author of “A Culinary History of Cape May:  Salt Oysters, Beach Plums, & Cabernet Franc” (available on Amazon) joined us for this week’s podcast.  John has seen the rise of the Craft Beer movement in New Jersey and Philadelphia and how restaurants in the region have embraced (or not) it.  We talk great beer bars in South Jersey, what does a foodie order when he goes out, and how to tell a chef that you don’t like something.  We also talk about his great book on the culinary history of Cape May, and how it has become a food and beer destination.

You can also listen to John on the Small Bites Radio Show on Wildfire Radio!

Check out John’s Eating in South Jersey Blog!

Visit us on the web at www.sjbeerscene.com

If you like the show, please leave a review or rating on iTunes!

 

 

 

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From Pastime to Passion: A Journey to Craft Beer through Feminism

From Pastime to Passion: A Journey to Craft Beer through Feminism

Working in the New Jersey craft beer scene has been a wild (almost) two years.  If you came to me in 2012 and told me that I would be regularly drinking craft beer, occasionally brewing it, and talking about beer all the time, I would tell you to sit down and have another drink.

My foray into craft beer began at the 2012 Atlantic City Beer and Music Festival with my then-boyfriend, now-husband.  We had just started dating and I only went because it gave me the chance to be ‘the cool girl who drinks beer’.  Up until a few years ago, I believed the societal notion that beer was for guys and women only pretended to like beer to look cool (Go ahead – gasp and clutch your pearls.  I will save my Come to Jesus-I mean Feminism moment for another time.)

I was intimidated.  The only beer I had ever consumed at this point was some classically collegiate light beer and Yuengling Lager when the party hosts wanted to appear ‘cultured’.  Thankfully, my partner was aware of my palate (wine, please!) and introduced me to mead.  I think I spent the majority of the session between two meaderies (or in line for the bathroom) and felt like I was starting to fit in.  Over the course of the next four years, my partner made it his personal mission to find beer that I liked, and to my shock, I liked beer!  I grew comfortable looking at a beer list and learning which styles I preferred, and it became exciting to visit all the local breweries that were popping up like weeds.

This brings us to 2016.  Ever the stereotypical millennial with overwhelming student loan debt, I made the decision to get a second job.  With ten years of bartending experience under my belt and my newfound appreciation of craft beer, I felt confident in applying to a new, under-construction brewery.

Enter Chris Burke and Chris Mazzone of Eight & Sand Beer Co. – two friends who decided to open a brewery in Woodbury, New Jersey that focuses on styles that are traditionally European, with an American flair.

Eight & Sand is a 10-barrel brewhouse dedicated to its community.  Located on Evergreen Avenue, you are close enough to hear the train that runs through the city several times a day.  In the late 1800’s, trains were the main source of transportation.  Almost everywhere a train stopped, a community would grow around it.  This was the case for Woodbury, where three rail lines merged in the center of town, making it one of the oldest train hubs in New Jersey.  The name Eight & Sand is an old train term that means “quick and safe travels.”  Notch-8 is the fastest speed on certain trains and sand was thrown on tracks to prevent slippage.

I had no idea that starting a side hustle would turn into a passion, but Eight & Sand has been like a family to me, from my bosses to every person that comes in the Tasting Room.  Sure, I get to finish my full-time job and go right into a second one.  Many nights, I am responding to emails, scheduling staff, and thinking about social media, but who needs a day off when you get to do what you love every day?

It was Chris Burke that told me about the Pink Boots Society and encouraged me to join.  Founded in 2007 by brewmaster Teri Fahrendorf, Pink Boots Society is a non-profit organization created to assist, inspire, and encourage women beer industry professionals to advance their careers through education. To this end, Pink Boots Society provides scholarship opportunities, job resources, and industry information to its more than 1,500 members.

This year, I coordinated the second E&S Women’s Brew Day and our first for International Women’s Brew Day.  Nevertheless She Brewsisted is a hoppy Kettle Sour brewed with Buddha hand fruit to compliment the citrus and herbal notes of the Pink Boots YCH hop blend.  When collaborating with our head brewer to create the style, I knew that even though the female staff and I would be brewing the beer, I did not want to brew a “girly” beer designed to only be marketed to and consumed by women.  This is the same consideration we had when collaborating on We Can Brew It, our Lemon Wheat Ale.

Within the craft beer industry, pandering to female consumers and using sexualized images of women’s bodies to market products is not hard to find, but it is getting better (a lot in part due to the Brewers Association Advertising and Marketing Code).  From a server standpoint, I have had more sexist comments from those new to craft beer than those who have been around for a while.  The majority of my customers trust and respect my knowledge, knowing that my favorite part of my job is introducing people to new styles and tastes.

It is not hard to tell a craft beer newbie from someone more experienced.  I love asking people what they typically drink and finding a match in one of the 20 beers we have on tap at Eight & Sand.  Most recently, a new female customer told me cognac and coke is her usual drink of choice.  I will admit that this stumped me for a second, but our bourbon barrel-aged Belgian Tripel and Biere de Mars (respectively, Steel & Snow and Broken Nose) were winners that she enjoyed.  I can only hope that I inspired her appreciation for craft beer, as my partner did with me six years ago.

Even though New Jersey now has over 100 breweries (47 of which are in South Jersey), it is still on the list of states with the fewest breweries per capita.  This tells me that there is still more room to grow.  With this growth comes the opportunity for more women to learn and develop a passion for craft beer – whether that is drinking, selling, or brewing it.

Never forget – hop flowers are female!  Cheers.

Beer Biz Profiles Podcast

The South Jersey Beer Scene Podcast: One On One with Maureen Fitzpatrick, author of A Guide to New Jersey Craft Breweries: South Jersey Edition

On this episode, I go One On One with Author Maureen Fitzpatrick, taped live at Death Of The Fox Brewing Company in Clarksboro, NJ. We talk about the release of the 2nd edition of her book, helping organize a beer festival, and much more.

The book has a complete list of all the breweries in South Jersey including ones slated to open later this year.  We find it to be a great resource for beer lovers and highly recommend it!

Death of The Fox Brewing Company is the only Brewery in New Jersey that has a fully operational Coffeehouse in addition to a fantastic brewery.  This unique brewery features great beers and all of the coffee drinks that you would expect from a top-notch coffeehouse.  Chuck Garrity and his staff have put together a great sanctuary for beer and coffee lovers alike with their fantastic tasting room.  Thanks so much to Chuck and his staff for their hospitality!

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Buy the book on Amazon!