Yes, I have blatantly stolen the concept and title from my Malthouse Blog mentor Neil Miller, but, in my defence, he stole the title from John F Kennedy.
The format is almost ludicrously simple, because I like things to be simple, almost ludicrously so: sit down with a worthy Malty staff member and ask questions about their life and career.
There’s been a crew change at the Malthouse over the past week. Old stalwarts are leaving, and new, fresh and optimistic faces are smiling behind the bar. Malthouse regulars will be quick to learn their names and ensure they know all about Malthouse’s generous loyalty points system, or, as us beer writers prefer to call it, our retirement fund.
This week bar manager Joe McGann introduces himself. Joe is an international type, and, according to his proud father, Wellington’s most highly qualified bar tender. McGann Snr could well be right.
Joe’s accent is hard to place, so, I started at the beginning:
Joe, your accent is hard to place. Where are you from?
“I’m from a little bit of everywhere. I was born in Oman, moved to Zimbabwe then Bahrain then the UK when I was about ten, then lived there until 2017 when I moved out here. My parents had moved out here and live in Gisborne so I thought, why not come and try New Zealand?
“They spend five or six months in Gisborne and five or six months in the UK chasing the sun, and they get more of it in Gisborne than they do in the UK.”
And how did you get into hospo?
“I have a Masters degree in History so that’s why I’m a bar tender. I was looking to do something in arts, culture and heritage in England but it was super-competitive and didn’t necessarily use my degrees. I got stuck working for a market research company which was kind of boring.
“So the best way to meet people and get a job was bar tending. I was working in a cocktail bar in a town called Bury St Edmunds. That was fun and I took to cocktails quite naturally. My background would be in classic cocktails. The owner of that bar was from Lyall Bay so I came with a few contacts in Wellington.
“The Lions tour was coming so I got a job in sports bar to give me a few months to get to know the city. So I met people through hospo and moved up to assistant manager at (rooftop bar) Dirty Little Secret. Then I moved to Bats Theatre’s little bar. It was really great fun – I got to go to the shows and I still work a couple of shifts there. There’s always different beers on tap there too and a lot of the patron base is kind of similar to the Malthouse.”
Hang on – a Masters in History?
“I’m a Master of Studies in Global and Imperial History from Oxford University. It was fun and I was taught by some very impressive people including (New Zealander) James Belich whose father was Mayor of Wellington.
“My Dad jokes I’m the most qualified bar tender in Wellington, just to needle me.”
What was your first impression of New Zealand craft beer?
“New Zealand beers were the kind of thing that I had never experienced. I’d be drinking a bitter back home in a pub, or lagers if you’re going out. I was aware of breweries like BrewDog – they were starting to gain a lot of traction and my brother was really into that and became a shareholder, and he put me on to that. It was wow, cool, I like these!
“Garage Project was the first local brewery I discovered, with the bright cans and flavours. It did take me a while to get into it because of all the flavour. I was not something I would have gone out of my way to have drunk but you get a taste for it, and working at BATS introduced more. Since I’ve started here I’ve been like a kid in candy shop – all these different beers to taste and styles to try.
“I’m learning the different styles and the subtleties between then, and drinking some really nice beer. I’m doing my homework, going to the supermarket and picking up a mixed six from different breweries to learn as much as I can.”
“I like a brut IPA, the dryness of that is appealing, otherwise a Pacific Pale Ale or an XPA, something that’s easy to get your nose around especially in this summer weather.
“But the other day I was drinking Feature Creep (Double IPA) and it was like ‘Wow! This is a great beer’, so I’m pretty much on my journey to become a craft beer head. I had a little taste of Deep Creek’s Gin & Lime Double IPA last weekend – wow that certainly does what it says on the tin.”
What about sour beers?
“Sours are something I’d never tried before and I quite like them. The sit somewhere on the spectrum between cider and beer to me. I’m looking forward to Sourfest because it’s something I’m getting a taste for and there will be a bunch of new releases.”
And on that bombshell, Sourfest 2019 is booked in, stating Friday 5 April and showcasing sours from all over the world plus brand new releases, one-off specials and much, much more.
Pucker your kisser and squint those eyes!