Exile Brewing Taps into its Taproom

exile brewing

The brew pub can be a whole other monster for a brewery, as brewers have a passion towards beer and not being restaurateurs. However, what the brew pub brings to the the brewery can be an essential monster worth taming.

Luckily for Exile Brewing in Des Moines, Iowa, R.J. Tursi, a co-founder of the brewery, also had years of restaurant experience, so the monster wasn’t so difficult to train — in fact, it could even be one of the stronger elements behind Exile.

“As you’re kind of seeing this old industrial building — the building’s literally about 100 years old — so you’re seeing that and the character just comes through even before you walk in the doors,” said Tursi. “Once you walk in the doors, you have that old industrial feel, but we have blended that with our Exile concept. So we brought in a lot of imagery from Ellis Island and from Liberty Island, because that’s all apart of our Exile concept.”

While patrons are immediately immersed as they walk through the door, the next step is to ensure they are met with quality service that is unmatched and beers that appeal to a wide audience. “As far as the beer goes, we definitely have a lot of unique offerings,” said Tursi. “Our flagship beers when we first started out were lager beers. We really won a lot of fans that weren’t into craft beer at the time, and that’s really the majority of people in the state of Iowa. So as where we were kind of knocked on by the ‘beer geeks’ the general public really started finding their way towards craft through some of the offerings we put out there. And just from the experience of being in the pub because we don’t have other beers on tap.”

In terms of the service, Tursi said that has been the one focus that he’s maintained since opening in 2012. “I grew up in the restaurant business, so I know how important it is to make sure you’re always putting the dish on a clean plate and it’s getting to the table hot and quickly,” he said. “From a service aspect we really try and hire people that are into craft beer and want to spread the message. They go through a fairly rigorous process. We want to make it more rigorous because we still get those folks in there that aren’t necessarily on board with what we want to do because they slip through the cracks of our interview process.

“We try to refine all of that stuff to make sure we’re only hiring, not just good people, but good people that really fit in with our company. Making sure you’re really working it on all four of those levels — ambiance, food, beer and service.”

What has helped Tursi in training employees for the restaurant has been to ensure that he and his team develop interview questions that analyze a person for their fit in the company’s culture. “Once you have those, you’re really looking for their passion for beer,” he said. “The percentage of an employee walking through the door in a good mood at a regular place is like 40 percent, maybe,” he said. “But if they’re a craft beer lover and their working at a brewery, the percentage of them being happy you’re looking at probably 80 percent. You really want someone that really loves beer because they’ll really love walking into a brewery every day.”

Tursi said it’s also important to find individuals that possess that second gear that can move once the place gets packed, but it’s on management and ownership to stay followed up with employees regularly to ensure everyone’s on the same page.

Finally, what Tursi believes has truly set apart his Exile brew pub has been a willingness to try new strategies and ideas. “Flesh out a process and flesh out a system, and then implement it and see if it works,” he said. “That’s just something that’s always happening there. I’m a big driver of that … because the more things you’re trying out, the more chances you have at being successful in one of those processes. If you implement a new process, it gives you just a little bit of an edge — ‘hey, that’s a great thing, let’s do that again and do it in a different area and give us just a little bit of an edge in this area now.’ So we’re just constantly bringing up issues that can be a little bit better; we’re just trying to figure out what they are and solve them.”



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