Good pubs, Good Beer, Good People

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

This Just In--Everything Old is New Again?

Brewer Mike Sella toiled at his craft for fourteen years at Uno’s on Rt. 1 South in Metuchen. While there, he not only produced great beers that were enjoyed by many, he spread his love of the craft beer culture through his dedication to regular, very successful beer dinners and well-attended cask ale fests. Well-liked by everyone, Mike’s departure was bittersweet for many. They were happy for him, as you won’t find a nicer guy, but they knew that his particular style of beer making would no longer grace Uno’s taps.

When he left to assume the brewer’s duties at then Basil T’s (now Birravino), he stepped into an entirely different beer-making environment. Though he continued to make beers that were enjoyed by patrons of the restaurant, the restaurant owner was focusing on the acquisition, promotion and sale of fine wines to accompany his top notch food and service.
Recently, Mike was notified that his services would no longer be required, and he was out of a job doing what he loves.

But, as could be expected, not for long. I sat down with him for this exclusive interview after learning the good news.

If you know Mike, you know he’s a man of few words. “Taciturn” and “Reticent” are probably under his high school graduation picture. So getting him to respond to any question at all with more than a sentence—or in some cases, a word-- was my biggest challenge.

PubScout: Well, this story had a happier ending than anyone expected. Does that include you?
MS: Well, yes, of course. I sure hope that me coming back will make some people happy but, none will be happier than I am. I'm really fortunate that this opened up when it did. 

PubScout: How difficult was it for you to make the decision to leave Uno’s?

MS: It was not an easy decision to leave at all.  I didn't leave because I didn't enjoy working there.  I made a lot of friends there. Lenny, of course, is still there, so it'll be great to work with him again.  Doug and Joy will hopefully be showing their faces. Coach still drops in when he visits from the land of Dogfish Head.  Nick and Doreen are still around.  Bob and Mary. Tom, Harry. It'll be great to see them a bit more often.  I never disappeared. I still dropped in once in a while, but now I'll see these people more often again which is great.

PubScout: Talk a bit about what challenges you faced at Birravino.
MS: I'd really rather not talk much about Birravino.  At this point it’s water under the bridge and I'll probably say something that I'll regret, or at least wish I had just left unsaid.

PubScout: Was the decision to let you go a complete surprise, or were there red flags?

MS: Total shock

PubScout: It had to be demoralizing to learn that you were let go. Were those dark days?

MS: I'd say stressful more than dark.  My wife is great and she did her best to keep me going in a positive direction.

PubScout: What other opportunities were offered or did you explore?

MS: I had one other concrete offer, and I feel bad that I'm not going to be helping those folks out, but that was just a part time offer.  I wish them the best, but there was no way I would or could pass this up.

PubScout: How long were you out of the beer making business before this new/old opportunity arose?

MS: Two months or so since I was let go.

PubScout: How did this return to your brewing roots come about?

MS: I was actually walking out of the place that had just offered me the part time job.  I hadn't even gotten to my car and my phone buzzed.  It was Zac [Conner] letting me know that he was getting ready to move on and that the job was open again.  I reached out and luckily found that they were receptive to bringing me back.  I didn't burn any bridges when I left the first time so there was not animosity on either side.

PubScout: Is the Metuchen Uno’s still the only one of all the 150+ franchises world-wide to produce its own beer on premises?

MS: Yes, it’s still the only Uno's with a brewery.

PubScout: Are you planning on introducing any new beers to the tap list beyond the old faithful standards?

MS: Sure. I'll do some new along with some of the old standards.  I've got something that I'd really been wanting to try for a few years now.  It seems like something that would be perfect for summer but by the time I get started, it’s coming up on pumpkin or Oktoberfest time.
Beer Dinner Girls...
PubScout: Will you start up those successful beer dinners again?

MS: I’m game if [manager] Jeff is.

PubScout: How about the cask fests?

MS: I'm sure the cask events will continue.

I had more (nosy) questions relating to Mike’s experience at Birravino, but Mike, understandably, deigned to answer them, remaining a class act to the end.

He was notified today that he is back in the Uno’s brewhouse where he started almost sixteen years ago. He'll be there one week from today. 

He seems to be very happy about this turn of events.
Almost as happy as his loyal patrons.

Good luck, Mike Sella!

Cheers! The PubScout

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