Friday, November 7, 2014

New position with North Island

As of this week, my main post with North Island Beer has shifted to the brewery in Ebetsu, with one or two shifts at the Sapporo bar per week. The change means, for now, a one hour each way car commute — soon to be on snow-covered roads. But it also means, except for especially busy periods, two days off a week. More than that, it means a chance to work in a completely new environment filled with things to learn how to do (there are a lot of things).

In my previous shifts at the brewery (usually just in the morning before heading to the bar) I did various things like kegging, keg-cleaning, tank cleaning, throwing out farm-bound spent grains (moo), and other cleaning-related tasks. This week, on the morning of a brew day, I found myself crushing malts in the mill and prepping hops.

As the days and weeks pass, I expect to see more and more tasks added to my workload. Eventually, I hope to get more involved in the overall brewing process, an area with which I have no experience (besides the bits of prep and cleaning noted above).

There's a lot going on at North Island, including two new full time staff members (one at the bar, one at the brewery). Some other exciting developments are underway, besides the always exciting limited and seasonal beer releases. Stand by for those items!

Meanwhile, I'll have my "first" bar shift since my position change tomorrow (Saturday). Today I'm off, but I find my free time is pretty much consumed by reading about — or consuming — beer. Tonight — although one day late for International Stout Day — I'm going to make beer batter chicken and chips and enjoy some other stouts and one porter who slipped in some how. Cheers!

Monday, September 15, 2014

A year occured, followed by some months

Since my previous post, a year and a couple of months went by, apparently without any warning of how busy things were going to get.

Here are a few blog posts crammed into one big one, separated by witty subtitles.

Chat man

When I started working at Beer Bar North Island in 2013, just about everything around me was new. I slowly learned the ropes of pouring beer, cleaning lines, taking orders, moving customers in/out/around, and keeping the bar stocked with various supplies. On top of that I started learning how to keep track of daily sales totals and other such work.

But the hardest thing for me is the talking. I like talking with people, be it in English or Japanese, but doing the keep-the-counter-lively thing does not come naturally to me, especially in Japanese. It's easy to talk with regulars, or when the customer starts up the conversation, but I always find it tough to jump in when I'm just not sure he/she wants to talk. But part of the job is at least making some connection. First time here? Drink craft beer often? Live here in Sapporo?  On your way home from work? The goal, other than simply being a pleasant person and host, is to get customers talking to each other. That way when I'm called away to take an order upstairs or I'm too busy washing glasses, the counter remains "active." I've gotten a little better at all this, I think. Grab a beer and have a chat, man.

Tank Man

Here's one of the new 2k
tanks (we got four of them!)
These ones feature semi-auto
cleaning so you don't have
to go inside.
A couple times last year, I was asked to help out at the brewery in the afternoon while still working the bar at night. It was a another round of new experiences, mostly doing some keg-filling and cleaning. Recently, I've been working at the brewery a few times a week, with a slowly expanding portfolio of things I know how to do. New additions this year include cleaning tanks — some older ones which you have to go inside to properly clean. I had to rediscover some muscle groups, but I can now dip in and climb out of your average 1000-liter fermentation tank.

This year the brewery added four new 2000-liter tanks (shown at right), adding to our capacity (but also adding to the amount of work that needs to be done). With the increased demand and the departure of one staff member, a full time job opened up in the brewery, and I jumped at the chance. The plan is for me to shift to the brewery as a main post, with a couple of shifts at the bar per week. We're working on hiring a new bar staffer — once everything is in place the transition will begin.

Diaper Man

Amid the double shifts of late, my wife Satoko was pretty pregnant. Our son Eugene (in Japanese kanji: 悠仁 ) was born on August 11th. So far, he shows little interest in beer, but he's doing well and he's obviously adorable, baby-wise. His arrival was part of the reason I wanted to move to a day shift, so I'm glad things are settling into place!

Here he is!

Beer Bar takes a week off

The beer bar will be closed this week from Thursday the 18th until the following Thursday, the 25th, as our staff (and a lot of our product) will be dispatched to Saitama for the Keyaki beer festival.