Thursday, April 28, 2011 at 12:03 p.m.
The Tender: Marcus Johnson
The Bar: Four Peaks Brewing Company (1340 E. 8th St., 480-303-9967) and Four Peaks Grill & Tap (15730 N. Pima Road, 480-991-1795)
The Pedigree: Johnson had several Joe jobs (mostly work for security agencies and retail) before landing a gig at Four Peaks nearly seven years ago. He bounced around the restaurant -- working the door, then serving, then delivering kegs -- before landing his job as barkeep, which he's now held for three years.
How did you get here?
I always wanted to bartend, but when I first started here I didn't know if I'd have the chance to do it here, since there are people who had been working here seven or eight years already. When I had the chance, I jumped on it. It's by far the best job I've ever had. I worked in different parts of the restaurant industry and bartending has appealed the most. It's the interaction with customers, people, stuff you see every day. You work at the same place every day, but it's always a different day. The outcome, the people you deal with, the conversations you have.
You log time between both the Scottsdale and Tempe brewpubs. Which one do you prefer?
They're both different. I partially like working here more because this is where everything's made; this is where it all started. Both locations are great, but this one just has that "wow" atmosphere with all the brew tanks. You can take people on brewery tours, and a lot of people come here because they want to see that. A lot of people don't understand how much beer is made here. It's interesting to me to just talk to people about the beer and explain it all to them. You get a lot of beer advocates here: people who want to know how we got started, how we brew certain beers. Here, you can take people around, show them the bottling and canning process, how the beer is made.
Are you a beer advocate?
I am. When I first started bartending, I wasn't. I was more of a vodka guy. But working here, I kind of worked my way into it. Wine used to be the big thing, but now beer has taken its place. You can pair beer with food so well, and I love going to other places and trying to find different beers to give a shot.
Do you get much chance to make drinks other than beer?
We obviously pour a lot of beer, but we also pour quite a few cocktails, especially toward the weekend. A decent amount of wine as well. When you get as many industry people in here as we do, you get the chance to make different shots and cocktails. People will just come in and say, "Make me something good or different." You have the whole bar at your disposal to make a shot, so sometimes when I'm getting off shift I'll mix up a cocktail or two that I've never made before.
What's the main difficulty of your job?
The hardest thing about bartending here is knowing how to multitask. We have so many regulars here, people who come in five days a week, people who come in once or twice a week. I talk to my regulars about anything -- vacations, girlfriends. You want to be able to build those relationships, but at the same time, it's a very fast-paced environment here. You have tickets popping up, you have the servers coming out of the wall, you have new customers sitting down who you have to show the proper amount of attention to make sure they come back again. The difficulty is trying to manage your time between all those things.
What's your least favorite kind of customer?
Someone who's indecisive. People who say, "Give me anything," and then when you give them a random beer, they don't like it. There are also a lot of people who come in and turn down the notion of trying something different. I understand a lot of people are used to their Coors Light or Bud Light or whatever it may be, but a lot of people don't really want to open up that door to microbrews. They don't understand our stuff can be just as good. There's always at least one beer on our pallet that can appeal to any customer, no matter what it is you like. Some people just don't want to step outside the box.
What's the best thing about being a bartender?
It comes back to meeting so many different people. It's not even connections in the industry, it's just different types of people you meet on a day to day basis. You could meet someone who has just enough money for one beer to someone who's a successful doctor, to someone who owns his own business. There are just so many different people who come here that no two days are ever the same. You have a great conversation with someone, and they keep coming back, and that person becomes someone else to add to the Four Peaks family. There are people you talk to who have never been here before, and before you know it you're talking to them about your family and your lifelong dreams. It's nice, being able to have people who actually care, who want to come in not just for the experience, but because they care about the staff as well.
What's something people on the other side of the bar would be surprised to know about you?
Probably that I love watching home building and design shows. I love HGTV -- I'm not afraid to admit it. I recently bought my own house, so I like being able to do my own renovations. I also like to play sports, I love to camp, I love hanging out with my dog and my girlfriend.
If you could have a drink with anyone, who would it be?
It would have to be Cedric the Entertainer or Eddie Murphy. I love going to comedy shows. I could listen to those guys talk all day. Someone like Michael Jordan would also be great. He's been my lifelong hero, watching what he's done for the sport of basketball. To be able to sit down with a guy like that, who's so competitive and knows that no matter what he does, he puts his whole heart into it. Being able to have a drink with someone like that would be awesome as well.