When we spoke to Brian Weber from Bartender Journey, he was busy mixing cocktails for a new photoshoot. He rattled off a list of ingredients: American brandy, red vermouth, apricot preserve, orange bitters, and some muddled grapes. “Sounds pretty good, right?” he said. Brian is adept in the art of mixology, and we’ve come to discover that every cocktail he makes tastes ‘pretty good’.
We first met Brian when our CEO and Co-Founder, Rory Crawford, was featured on the Bartender Journey podcast discussing the complexities of bar management. Then, we had the chance to meet in person at the Nightclub and Bar Show, in Las Vegas.
Brian started working in the bar and restaurant industry when he was just 14 years old. Since then, he’s worked in this industry in just about every capacity: bartender, chef, beverage director, caterer, restaurant manager, and the list continues. So, combining his love for bartending with his experience in audio production made sense. He’s been producing podcasts every week since 2013, creating valuable content for both professional and aspiring bartenders and cocktail and spirit enthusiasts.
The Bartender Journey podcasts focus on education and an exploration of the industry. He covers basically every aspect of bartending, from craft cocktail recipes and quality spirits to interviews with some of the biggest names in the industry.
So, why are podcasts growing as such a valuable resources for bartenders? Let’s find out.
Before starting the Bartender Journey podcast, Brian says, “I didn’t know how much I didn’t know.”
“When I started this, I thought I was a good bartender. But I have totally evolved. I’ve learned so much by attending events and interviewing people for the show, so the ‘Bartender Journey’ podcast is the perfect name—it really has been quite the journey.” The first event Brian ever attended was the Nightclub and Bar Show, in Las Vegas. What a way to get started. “Tales of the Cocktail, in New Orleans, was also a huge event; it taught me so much.”
But the two big highlights of Brian’s career have been interviews with Dale DeGroff and David Wondrich. “I attended the BarSmarts Advanced course, a full-day event that involves exams and mixology tests. And who should be my judge? David Wondrich. I had to make several drinks for him, and if I hadn’t met him prior to that I don’t know what I would have done.”
“It’s kind of like bartending, or being a chef—it’s partly technical and partly creative,” says Brian. Podcasts are a creative outlet for Brian, but they’re also an educational, informative and fun one. “And that’s what I’ve always tried to do with this podcast—make it educational, useful and valuable for the people who listen to it. And that’s one of the nice things about podcasts: They can be whatever you want them to be, and there are no rules.”
Brian loves podcasts because they’re different to traditional media outlets. “Podcasts are similar to blogging, in that you have complete creative license over your own work. And they’re a great way to meet people who are just as excited about cocktails and bartending as you are.”
“A Negroni or a Manhattan, depending on the day and the weather.”
Brian explains how the industry has changed in the last 10 years. “I used to really enjoy audiobooks because they allow you to spend time being productive while you’re learning, and I think it’s the same for podcasts now.” These days, consumers want their learning and entertainment online and on their own time, and everyone has access to on-demand information.”
Brian believes that’s the reason why we’ve seen huge growth in the popularity of podcasts across this industry. “It’s a great way to multi-task; you can consume information as you’re setting up your bar or on your way to or from work.”
“I read a lot of books, and I often have the opportunity to add review copy to new books because of my podcast.” So, what’s Brian’s favorite bartending book? “Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s The Bar Book. It’s the first one I recommend, always. I love it because it’s all about technique, not just cocktail recipes.”
“However,” Brian explains, “There’s so much information on the Internet these days. Consumers don’t necessarily need to tune-in to or rely on any one tv show, magazine or blog.” He pauses for a moment. “I hope people rely on Bartender Journey, though!”
Brian believes podcasts will continue to grow in popularity throughout the bar industry. “I’m seeing more and more people listening in, but also more people producing them, so there is now more variety for listeners to choose from. Podcasts are just so convenient!”
For Brian, podcasting is an avenue for meeting people, and it’s also a gateway to other industry-related activities, such as events and branded jobs. Along with the Bartender Journey podcast, Brian produces the Tales 365 podcast for Tales of the Cocktail and works full-time. “The beauty of the podcast is that you own it and you can make it fit around your life.”
Brian believes—as far as the craft cocktail movement goes—smaller markets in the industry are still in catch-up mode. And this is something that’s only going to get better. “It was Philip Duff who told me this: There will be more establishments like The Dead Rabbit, in NYC (which has experienced enormous success), that encapsulate the fancy cocktail bar, the every-day pub, and the special-events bar, all under one roof. Why? Because this is a good way to generate income all day long, rather than running solely a cocktail bar that doesn’t open until 8 p.m.”
Whatever you create, Brian suggests making it useful and being considerate of your listeners’ time. “There are some podcasts that go on for an hour and a half, and I come away thinking, ‘Did I actually learn anything?’”
He also advises to try reaching a broad audience with your information, as the people who are listening to or reading your content are trying to learn and may be starting with very little. “It’s easy to reference a famous bar or quote that everyone knows, but I think you have to assume a lot of listeners are in a small market, and maybe they’ve never heard of these things. Treat your listeners or subscribers as you would guests in your bar.”
“The lesson I learned at my most recent management job, as a Food and Beverage Director, is to not let the job take over your life. If you’re not happy, maybe it’s time for a change,” he says. Brian also urges aspiring bar or restaurant managers to respect their staff and recognize them as a huge part of the team. “Staff have direct contact with your guests, so they’re probably even more important than you are. It’s important to respect them.”
“And the great thing is, staff want to keep learning, which is an excellent way to keep them engaged with their job. Ongoing education is a wonderful thing, and it’s a great way to keep employees loyal and make them feel invested in the business.”
Want to listen to Brian’s next podcast? You can find it here: www.bartenderjourney.com
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