Monday, November 25, 2013

My Aunt's Idea of How a Brewpub Operates is Pretty Amazing

My cousin, I guess?
A few years ago, my family discovered a fun new tradition for the holidays: we get together, we eat our traditional Christmas foods (cheese fondue, shrimp, and cookies), and then my cousins and I spend the entire evening talking about beer and pouring homebrew. The rest of the family stares at us, their blank, weary expressions hinting at — I can only imagine — deep respect and rapt fascination.

Two of my cousins have been "into beer" at least as long as me, and were actually largely responsible for pushing me into the homebrewing hobby in the first place. My younger cousin — who I will refer to as My Cousin henceforth — has spent several years hopping around the country looking for work at breweries. Eventually, he settled in Pittsburgh. Thanks to the "family grapevine" effect, I learned he has finally found a brewery job through my mom, who learned this from My Cousin's mom, who learned this, presumably, from My Cousin. Except he seems to have been punking his mom, or else my aunt has a hilarious interpretation of how a brewery might actually function.

I do not relate this story to you, The Internet, in order to make fun of my aunt. She's awesome. She gave me a few minutes of solid giggling, a gift that is always appreciated. I could not possibly not share. Do you remember that meme that went around the other year with different panels explaining "what other people think I do?" vs. "what I actually do?" Every single friend on Facebook would share the same thing modified for their own profession, and it was all anyone posted for a freaking solid week. It was not very funny. Well, it should have been written by my aunt, instead.

"I guess somehow [Your Cousin] found a job where he gets to drink beer for a living. At a brewpub," my mom said, sharing this Family News with me over the phone. "Your aunt was really happy for him because it's all he's wanted to do for years, and now he finally has his dream job."

"Okay..." I said. Skepticism starts to set in, though at this point it is not directed at anything specific. "Most brewery jobs don't actually involve getting paid to drink the beer. What does he do exactly?"

"Apparently when a customer in the brewpub doesn't like a beer, [Your Cousin] will come out and drink their beer and figure out what was wrong with it. Then he tells the brewers how to fix it."

I pause for a minute to try to absorb this statement. "He finishes their beer? That the person was just drinking? To find out what was wrong with it?"

My mother can sense intense skepticism radiating off me through the phone, at this point. "According to his mom, yes."

"There is no one in the entire world that has that job," I point out. "That is not a job that exists."

"I'm just relating what she told me, Derek. I thought it sounded strange too, but she repeated it two times, so I know I didn't mis-hear her or something."

"There is no chance that there is a brewpub paying someone to taste people's beers when they don't like them. There's just... no. Are you sure that's what she said?"

"That's what she said! Ask your cousin about it next time you talk to him."

So there you have it. Somewhere in Pittsburgh, according to my aunt, is an establishment whose beers are so inconsistent, they must have a full-time employee tasting them after a customer complains, in a last ditch effort to figure out what is going on. Except, of course, there's not. I know very little of restaurant health codes, but this would surely violate at least 20 of them. It also would be a very inefficient means of quality control. The funny thing is (okay, one of the funny things) that my aunt suggested this was My Cousin's dream job, getting paid to drink beer for a living, but it would actually be kind of horrible. You know, just slightly gross.

I have since talked to my other cousin [My Cousin's brother] who backed up my speculation that this job does not exist. I have not yet spoken to My Cousin to get his take on his own job, but it sounds like he's just a General Helper-Outer employee, doing whatever hard-to-describe-to-your-mom tasks need doing around a busy brewpub. Some form of quality control is certainly involved, but the execution is, I think, quite different.

With a number of holidays fast approaching, I think you may want to get into some conversations with your family members about how breweries work. Ask them to come up with a few job descriptions. And if the results are as good as this, please do share.

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