I can't think of a better place than Pint Nine Brewing Company to be able to learn what it takes to be a craft beer server! Tammy Hynek, who is the marketing and events coordinator for Pint Nine, was nice enough to offer to spend a couple of hours to run me through a training session. I am not sure Tammy knew how much of a challenge I would be, but we will get to that later!
I have always been amazed at how much attention to detail goes into a craft beer from coming up with the recipes to getting a pint into the customer's hands. Having the opportunity to talk with Denny Hynek, who is one of the owners and brewers, and his wife Tammy was amazing!
So where to start ... I wanted to know a little bit more about how this young brewery got started. I spoke with Denny and he described how his partner James (Jim) Watson and him met. Jim was working at Empyrean Brewing in Lincoln and Denny was at Upstream Brewing in Omaha. They became good friends and then ended up brewing together at Upstream. These two very creative guys with a passion for making craft beer soon got the itch to have their own brewery. Four years in the making, Pint Nine opened in the summer of 2017.
Denny said one of the main challenges was finding the space they needed to be able to grow. Warehouse and strip mall space in the Omaha market over the last few years has been in high demand. After a long search, they found their home on 104th and Portal Road in Papillion. The location has many benefits including lots of potential customers travelling between Papillion and Omaha, great parking, wonderful neighborhoods all around, and another brewery - Kros Strain who is a next door neighbor. Having the two breweries so close together, makes this even more of a destination when going for a night out with friends to enjoy some craft beer. Overall being part of the Exit 442 community with Kros Strain, Nebraska Brewing, Infusion Brewing, Lucky Bucket, and Patriarch Distillery has been great and the events like the Groundhog Day Barrel Aged beer release really helps to get the word out about Pint Nine.
In walking through the brewery area, you can tell Jim and Denny put a lot of thought into the space they have. The layout has plenty of space to get to the brewing equipment and room for a canning line some day. I hope soon because the Grapefruit IPA would be a great beer on a warm summer's day while I am out fishing! So many great beers being brewed here that I would get the chance to pour.
I wanted to understand all the details I could on what it takes to be a good craft beer server. The first thing I asked Tammy about is how do you determine what glassware to use with each beer? Tammy enlightened me on the process of the key elements of choosing glassware. ABV is important because beers that are on the lower end of the scale can go into larger glasses whereas higher alcohol beers typically will go into a smaller glass like a snifter. A snifter also enhances the aroma of the beer with the wider top. I can completely understand that. For stouts, especially the imperial ones, I now understand why I enjoy them out of a snifter. Tammy went on to say that visual appearance is important also in the selection of the glassware. Take for instance how a tulip glass grabs your eye when you have the color like that of the Pint Nine IPA in it. I don't think it is just a guy thing, but I almost tear up see such a gorgeous beer!
So you have the glassware lineup, so the next question I had to ask is how do you keep the glassware clean and ready to go? Tammy took me through the process of cleaning, rinsing, and sanitizing several glasses. I now know how important it is to make sure that every glass is clean and that the final step of a quick rinse before pouring any beer into the glass is essential in order to remove any remaining residue.
I had a few more questions before I could feel comfortable going behind the bar. My next question was about optimal beer temperature. Denny took this question saying that for them, 35 - 37 degrees was best for tap flow and flavor of most of their beers. I remember a couple of summers ago making the mistake of not icing down my kegs early enough for a party. I now know that the beer wasn't cold enough because it was a painful first hour pouring foam!
Ok, so temperature is important to help eliminate too much foam, what other tips would Tammy have for me? Tammy told me to hold the glass at a 45 degree angle while pouring. That seemed easy enough to remember.
So when the next order came in, Tammy told be to go ahead and pour this one. This was getting pretty exciting for me! I wanted to see if I could pour a perfect pint on my first try. A swing and a miss! I stopped the pour too soon when the foam started to build up a little. I just hate to see any beer go to waste. Tammy told me to pour until the glass had just about a half inch of head at the top and the rest filled with beer.
Talk about having a saint of an instructor... Tammy had the patience of an elementary teach when dealing with me! After a few more tries, I finally got a great pour. I wanted to get this one to the customer in a hurry, but wait! There is one more step that can't be overlooked. I had to take the squirt bottle and rinse off the side of the glass where some foam ran down. It wouldn't be very professional or nice to hand someone a sticky glass now would it?
Besides just pouring pints, I got to learn also how to fill a crowler. A crowler is a 32 ounce can and there is an awesome machine that you use in order to seal the top of the can. I really love it when a brewery has crowlers. Many times you might want to take one of your favorites and have it later on like when you are barbecuing on the weekend.
What an experience! I had so much fun. I hope that I get a chance to do this again if Pint Nine would let me. I am slowing working towards becoming a certified Cicerone Beer Server and still have a lot to learn.