It started back in 1992 when I was a skinny(yes I used to be skinny) kid, finally old enough to work behind a bar. I had this ridiculous romantic notion about drawing a pint of cask ale from a handpump and how good it would feel.
Now, back in the early nineties all I really wanted to be was an actor and working behind a bar was helping me save up for drama school.
From behind the bar I saw all sorts of things, served all kinds of people, got all sorts of abuse from assholes as they got more drunk through the evening, from the person waving that £20 note in my face as I served someone else, thinking that might get them served quicker to the person at the end of the night trying to have a fight with you because you weren't serving them any more of the bland fizzy piss they'd been drinking all night.
Starting off as that naive, shy kid behind the bar I soon learnt that only the strong survive behind a bar and I had to be able to give as good as I got and take care of myself. Even though I was now over eighteen years old you could basically say that I grew up behind the bar.
Working behind the bar also taught me what I really wanted to be so when I had to leave drama school due to lack of funding, although I was devastated because a part of my dream was dying before my eyes, working behind a bar had shown me that there was a different kind of performance to do every night. The pub was my theatre, the bar was my stage and on it I would never be 'resting'.
Over the next few years I would have many jobs in various businesses but I'd always go back to pub work, I just had a natural affinity to these places. They kept drawing me back for another hit, like a druggie with a habit.
In 2000 I started working for a mate in a Firkin pub in Wandsworth Common, my local pub, I was working in an off-license a few doors down and Dan came in one afternoon for a pack of cigarettes, we'd gotten to know each other reasonably well and he offered me a job. My first shift for Mitchells & Butlers(Allied Domecq I think they were called then) was behind the bar with Dan Fox (Now GM at the legendary White Horse Pub, in Parsons Green just the two of us, thousands of thirsty customers and a few regulars collecting glasses for us on a hot Sunday night in late May, it was proper backs to the wall, no stopping for fags, no time to stop and an Adrenalin hit that told me that I'd found what I was looking for. Now of course we didn't want to be getting shafted like that every night so we went about hiring a team that was to this day was one of the best I had the pleasure to work with. I met my wife there, that's just how good it was!
Fast forward eight years and a jaded, cynical and overweight 34 year old me was sick of working for a multi million pound company and getting nowhere. Pub after pub I was applying for and getting nowhere. I ended my Mitchells and Butlers career as I had started it, working for Dan Fox, this time at the aforementioned legendary White Horse, this time as a duty manager.
Now one of the suppliers of the White Horse's beer range is Utobeer and I met Mike Hill and Richard Dinwoodie, the owners of Utobeer once before Dan called me into the office and told me that the two of them were looking for a bar manager for their bar The Rake, only two years old at that point, The Rake had already won a couple of awards when I started there in September 2008 and stepped into the brave new world of 'specialty beer' as it was known then. I had found my personal redemption, craft beer was calling and the rest as they say, is history....