At Somerville Brewing Company (also known as Slumbrew), it’s not just about the beer, and it’s not just about the food. It’s about finding a community space that offers something to beer nerds, newbies, families, and everyone in between. Caitlin Jewell owns the space along with her husband, Jeff, and walked us through a busy day keeping everyone’s glasses full.
I hit the deck before anybody because I’ve got to get two small children ready for school and out the door. I usually work a pretty late night so I'm exhausted, but, the kids still have to get to school. They’re enrolled at something called an innovation school, which is a really neat public school concept, but they have uniforms! We’re out the door by 8.
After dropping the boys off for school, my first priority is coffee. You look at your expenses at the end of the year, you know, and you wonder what you can cut. We cut a few big ticket items in our spending recently, and we thought we’d try cutting Starbucks because it costs, like, $3,000 a year. We lasted about ten days with that. I just love the ritual. My husband Jeff and I have worked together for over 20 years, and we’ve had two different companies together. Our roles are different so it’s good to connect in the morning and figure out how we can help each other through what we see as challenges. Coffee gives us the time to do that.
First, we check on our brand new Foley Street location, and by 9:30 we’re at the brewery. By 10, we’re into the office. In the summer, we also stop by the beer garden. We make that loop three or four times a day.
In the office, I’ll start off by checking in on the brewing needs for the day, like asking if the brewers have all of the ingredients they need and if all of the kitchens have food for the day. Most importantly, I’m troubleshooting anything from the night before and making sure that’s all wrapped up before we get too far into a new day—mostly bookkeeping.
I’m also trying to put proactive HR into my day because in the restaurant business, you’re always hiring. Boston actually has less cooks and servers available than the number of jobs, so it’s really hard to find cooks. We take chances on people based on their potential, here. A huge number of my staff are in the sciences, teaching, education, and from all over. They’re moonlighting. The thing is, I can teach anybody to carry nachos, but I can’t teach you to be lovely with our guests. I can’t teach you to be excited about beer, either. And you absolutely cannot get through an interview with me without being excited enough about a few beer styles and breweries.
I taste things with the brewers and that means my palate has to be clean and on point because I’m about to taste a variety of half-finished beers in various stages of the process. We have a whole team of about five of us who do QA and plan the pipeline. I like for my guests to know that they’ll find something new in our taproom really every week, so we’re doing about fifty releases a year. That's a lot.
We’re also dealing with reservations and group bookings at our locations. I interface with Michelle who is our events and programming person. Michelle and I share social media responsibilities, and we just started using a calendar, which is a big step! If I’m not paying attention, we can go three days without a Facebook post, so we started scheduling it all. I like to think of these things day of, but it’s just important to schedule that stuff and stay on the ball.
So around 2 or 3, people start to call out for the night shift, which is when I put my HR cap back on. I also usually find out that certain foods are out around this time (even though I check in the morning). A grocery run might happen, a restaurant depot run might happen. Whoever’s available, me or Jeff, that's who will go. We might also need props from Target, or some really random stuff from the regular grocery store.
Also! Menus. Our menus are daily disposable because they change so often. So that’s insane. There are four people creating the menu for one location, and a different group of four creating it for another location. The specials need to be proposed by Tuesday to go onto the menu for Thursday. It’s all a big process. And of course, it has to be changed on the website, because God help you if something’s wrong on the website.
I have an incredibly fun social life because my friends come by our locations, but I’m always trying to make sure I’m not shorting my boys when it comes to spending time off with them. It was easier when they were babies, but now they’re people! People who notice things.
Around 4, I deal with entertainment scheduling for the beer garden. That means negotiating with our great partner who runs Major League Bocce. I also talk with bands because we have music every Friday and Saturday. I have a children’s singer on Sunday. I just had to break his heart and say no more 'Wheels on the Bus'. But when he does Octopus’s Garden, hey, that’s great.
Twice a month, I’m prepping to teach my artisan rosemary spent grain bread making class. The class itself has to align with a day that we brew, which we don’t do every day. So that’s kind of hard. I grab 300 pounds of grain from the brewers and teach 36 people. It’s a demolition derby of baking. They do an intensive lesson with me in the brewhouse and then six people at a time mix up bread, and then it’s rising by the time they leave. Students tend to be home brewers who have a lot of spent grain and don’t know what to do with it, but lately we’ve also been getting a lot of people who are incredibly accomplished, like, with three masters degrees, but who never took home ec. So it’s super fun to make bread and drink beer with them, and it’s a really special thing we’ve been able to do. It’s been every single month for two years. We also do a spent grain dog treat class, and that’s very popular.
I’m sometimes printing beer menus, or I’m running between locations to get events underway. For example, we do a comedy club. We change furniture, we set up spotlights on stage, and that takes up a ton of time, to get a real show on the road.
I also like to spend time around the end of the day getting to know our staff. It’s about 60 people now, and it’s important to me to know what they do for a day job, what they’re aspiring to do, who they are. I love asking people what they want to be when they “grow up”, even if they’re technically already full-grown adults.
I like to make sure one load of laundry goes in the washer before I go to bed. It’s the only way it happens, but I get one load a day done seven days a week, no matter how tired I am. It’s my own rule. Even if I come home tipsy in an Uber, we do it. Hangovers are hard at 44, I just can’t drink that much beer anymore.
—As told to and written by Oset Babur for The Thirty-One Percent