Beeristas: Cross-Training Employees That Serve Coffee, Beer

​Adding additional outlets to enhance a consumer’s drinking experience can always be on a brewery owner’s mind. Expansions into various liquids (hard seltzers … anyone?)​ have been a big part of expanding a brewery’s portfolio along with food options — either in-house or working with a vendor to provide product.

For Olentangy River, the brewery in Lewis Center, Ohio wanted to be a community gathering space that just wasn’t in the immediate area.

“People would be like, ‘Where can we have a business meeting? Panera?’ asked co-owner Bethany Schweitzer. “We decided that we wanted to have a place for people to come together, hang out, have meetings, a baby shower, a bridal shower. And we realized that while you can order a beer at seven o’clock in the morning, it’s not something that most people want to do.”

So the brewery owners decided they wanted to have a coffee house there as well and teamed with a local coffee roaster to franchise the coffee side of the business, working with Columbus, Ohio’s Roosevelt Coffee for about two years now.

“The best way to equate it is if you go into a Kroger and you see a Starbucks. Those are Kroger employees, but it is a Starbucks. So we are a Roosevelt coffee house,” Schweitzer said. “They’re very community oriented, they really fit our mission of being about the community.” The brewery pays the coffee house a franchise fee to operate.

That means the in-house employees are trained as “beeristas.” Each employee is trained on both sides of the business, but Schweitzer said that some lean more heavily into one aspect over the other and they try to schedule accordingly.​

​”Our people understand coffee, and they understand beer,” she said. “Everybody is cross-trained … we make sure everybody knows both.”

A little over two years ago, Derek Campbell launched his coffee roastery — Ouachita — in the small town of Mena, Arkansas. Now branded as The Ouachitas, the cafe and brewery is open all day after opening its 15-gallon brewhouse to add beer to the menu along with pizza and breakfast foods.

That meant transitioning employees that started as baristas and helping cross-train them into beertenders as well.

“It’s a young staff. Not everybody here is just somebody who seeks out breweries or that new craft beer experience,” Campbell said of the town of 5,000 that is located on the Arkansas/Oklahoma border, about 130 miles west of Little Rock. “Educating our staff has been a huge part of our business, and not just educating our staff, but also our community. Everybody’s learning at the same time.”

When the brewery opened, Campbell said he brought in people to add some experience from bars or breweries, including brewer Traven Bayne.

“It’s a different setup for our staff as well as our community,” Campbell said, noting that the county the brewery is located in was dry until a 2019 bill allowing microbreweries was passed. “(We’re) helping people transition from drinking what they’re used to, to ‘Hey, let’s broaden those horizons a bit’ and offer some different things.”

Bayne and one other employee handle most of the taproom operations while the education of the rest of the staff continues. The brewery opening expanded hours from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. to now 10 or 11 p.m. to help encourage consumers to stay in the downtown area later.

Since opening in October, sales have gone well enough that Bayne said the brewery is planning to buy a larger brewing system to increase volume and the number of taps available.

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