Since joining the staff of Barley's Brewing Company Ale House No. 1 as a server five years ago, Sara Kohler-Merc has been schooled in the art of pouring, shaking and tending.
At Barley's, though, a lot of customers order the house brews, which are fermented in shiny, story-tall tanks on the restaurant's lower level. It's not a place where people drink many mixed shots, says Kohler-Merc, so sometimes she has to ask patrons who happen to order one if they know what goes into it.
"All I know is from Barley's," she said. "I think I have it down pat."
What do you think people like about this place?
I think we have a different atmosphere than some of the bars here in the area - more of a pub feel. And obviously, the beer ... is a big draw. Even if people don't know we're a brewery when they first come in here, they definitely know when they leave.
What are some menu highlights?
Definitely the sauerkraut balls. They sound funny, but they're really good. One of our other bestsellers is the pierogies with sausage.
What kind of crowd do you get?
It's very diverse. We get a lot of professionals that come in who either work for the city or for Nationwide. We have a lot of younger regulars that come in, too, especially on the weekends.
[Brewmaster] Scott Francis ... has quite a following, so people who appreciate his beer and what he does, they come in.
And you're right next to the convention center, but those aren't regulars at all.
It's funny, because now that I've been here for five years, they come back every year and remember me, some of them. One that sticks out in my mind are the turf-grass guys that come in for the convention.
And you learned how to bartend here. How was that?
It's daunting at first. I think it's more fun bartending than serving, but it's a different world.
What do you like about bartending?
Not to sound shallow, but the money is good. It really is. And again, not to sound cliche, but I really do enjoy interacting with different people at the bar, and I think that our diverse clientele makes that worthwhile.
What else do you like to do?
The usual stuff. I like to read and I like to work out, I like to go on long walks. And I guess I should say I like to drink Barley's beer, too.
Barley's Brewing Company Ale House No. 1
467 N. High St., Short North