Josh McKenna Loves Beer, Silver City Loves Josh McKenna
By Bill Mickelson
Josh McKenna is arguably the most jolly member of the Silver City crew. The smile on his face is nearly ever-present. He’s quick with a joke and affable behind the bar. He pours a good beer and is a veritable craft beer connoisseur. Long before he started on at Silver City, he was a regular patron of the taproom. He used to inform the beertender back in those days when he’d stop in to have a few beers on his way home from work: “One day, I’m going to work for you guys.”
“Josh knew the beers almost as well as anyone on staff,” former taproom beertender Dan recalls, “there was one Saturday that our entire draft system went offline and a random busload of people showed up out of nowhere. I was the only behind bar that day, and Josh jumped up from his barstool and started greeting guests and taking down orders while I got caught up on growler fills and draft pours on a jockey box. What a great [flipping] dude. We knew right away he was one of us and we had to have him on our team."
Now formally on the other side of the bar, having poured at the Silver City taproom and been the brewery tour guide for just over a year and half, Josh was anointed crew member of the month for December.
For this interview, since he’s spent so many nights closing the taproom, I thought it’d be fun to take the beertender barhopping. One Saturday night after closing his shift at Silver City, we went from bar to bar, starting off of Auto Center Way, making our way down to the ferry dock. Though the notes from the end of the night were a bit fuzzy, I learned quite a few tidbits about Josh and where he came from.
Silver City Brewery’s taproom is his first bartending gig and his first-ever restaurant/service industry job. He’s Bremerton born-and-raised and still residing. He’s been a member of the Professional Disc Golf Association. His first beer was, coincidentally, Silver City’s Macfarlane Scotch Ale (the original) which he procured as a teenager at a keg party at his dad’s house. He played striker on his high school soccer team. He played the role of Brad Majors in The Admiral Theatre’s live cast of Rocky Horror Picture Show this past October… and before coming to Silver City, he was a long time staff member at the Farmland feed store in Silverdale.
Above all, I learned that Josh loves beer. Josh loves whiskey. And Josh loves the Seattle Sounders.
I followed up with him the night that The Sounders won the MLS cup. The taproom was painted neon green and blue by a cadre of Sounders faithful. Josh was behind the bar.
BILL: SO... HOW’S YOUR NIGHT?
Josh: “It was good…” Josh starts.
He gets in those three words before the drunk girl next to me butts in.
“Um… we basically won the Super Bowl,” she says.
AND HOW WAS THE GAME?
“It was…” Josh starts.
The girl interrupts again, “It was a… it was uh… it was a hail mary,” she says.
“I’m not even kidding... it was a hail mary,” she repeats.
“It was a hard fought defensive battle throughout,” Josh goes on. “And then it came down to penalty kicks. So it was basically about two hours of me being really anxious.”
GOOD GAME THOUGH?
“I prefer to see games that have a little more offensive pizzazz or whatever you want call it, but it was good, we grinded it out and ended up with the win. We had about group of about 25 to 30 people here [at the taproom] who showed up to watch. We had a big potluck over there, people were bringing in all sorts of good stuff. It was fun.”
…BUT YOU DIDN’T PAINT YOUR FACE SOUNDERS COLORS?
“I did not.”
Josh gets back to work, ringing up tabs, pouring beers and high-fiving customers. The girl whose team just ‘basically won the super bowl’ gives me her sampler flight since she’s not gonna drink it. Cheers and chants are permeating the din of conversation and post-game analysis. Josh makes his way back with the girl’s tab.
SO YOU SAID YOU USED TO PLAY STRIKER…
“Yeah… On my varsity soccer team in high school I was a striker.”
WHAT SCHOOL DID YOU PLAY FOR?
“Olympic High School.”
LIFELONG SOCCER PLAYER?
“Well, since I was about six, so pretty much.”
WHAT JERSEY IS THAT YOU’RE WEARING?
“This is Osvaldo Alonso!” he says with gusto, turning to display the back of the jersey.
IS THAT YOUR FAVORITE PLAYER?
“Not my favorite player of all time but my favorite Sounders player of all time. He’s been with us for years now, he’s our defensive midfielder. All you need to know is that his nickname is Honey Badger… he goes in and gets it. He’s smaller than most guys but he’ll battle anyone. He’s the enforcer. He’s the guy every team wants. Every team needs to have a guy like that.
SO YOU’RE A LONG TIME SOUNDERS FAN?
“Oh yeah… that’s my scarf hanging over there right above our crew picture. That’s from when I was a season ticket holder for their inaugural season. That was 2009. I had gone and watched a bunch of their matches when they were still a USL team. It was a little bit more of a drive then ‘cause it was up at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila. It’s a little bit easier now to just hop on a ferry, catch a Sounders game and then sleep on the way home.”
The taproom erupts again as a Sounders player comes on the TV screen for a post-game interview.
WHO’S THAT ON THE TV?
“That’s our goalkeeper, his name is Stephen Frei,” Josh explains. “He’s a guy from Switzerland, and I don’t know if they announced it or not yet, but he should be the MVP of the game. He made, I think, seven saves during the game. He made one where he was literally jumping backwards and his arm was behind his head. It was like the image of the game.”
HAVE YOU BEEN A FAN OF CRAFT BEER LONGER THAN A FAN OF THE SOUNDERS?
“I’ve been a fan of soccer longer than I’ve been a fan of craft beer…”
WHAT KIND OF EFFECT DOES WORKING HERE HAVE ON YOUR LOVE OF CRAFT BEER?
“A lot… Before, I liked beer. I liked craft beer. I would appreciate it. I thought I was a great appreciator of beer. But now that I’m here, I am surrounded by people that have such incredible palates and so much more technical knowledge of beer itself. So you get like that next level. It’s one of those things where I thought I knew about craft beer… and then all of a sudden I realize, ‘Oh, I don’t know a f*ckin thing.’”
IT’S A SCIENCE AND THERE IS GENIUS INVOLVED.
It’s true. And I think part of it you can practice, in terms of appreciating beer but part of it you can’t really, I don’t think. Part of it you have to have a natural good sense of taste and smell, I mean you can develop those things but you have to have that starting point. I’m working towards that… we’ll see.
WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE AND WHAT DO YOU DO HERE?
“I’m a beertender,” Josh says.
“He professionally slings beer,” Jorge, a Silver City Taproom regular, chimes in from the seat next to me at the bar.
“And I guess what I do here…” Josh smiles and continues. “I provide customer service, make sure people get beers promptly, that they feel comfortable and then I also educate people about beer.”
I SAW YOUR MYSPACE PAGE, I THINK I KNOW WHAT HE’S TALKING ABOUT…. WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART ABOUT THIS JOB?
“My favorite part: I love craft beer. I get to be surrounded by beer, I get to find new beers. Part of it is just that I get to do that all day. And part of it is that I’m getting my social in all day. I’m pretty extroverted so it’s nice that I get to get that out of my system.”
SO WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
“I can’t say it’s dealing with the people because most of the people who come in here are awesome. It really isn’t that bad, you know, if I worked at some--not that I don’t like to frequent them--but if I worked at some shitty dive bar, I’d have to deal with a lot more characters, you know what I’m saying?”
“My least favorite part though is sometimes the late hours.”
PRIME EXAMPLE, YOUR TEAM WINS ITS FIRST MLS CUP AND YOU HAVE TO WORK.
“Right, prime example. Because even though this was awesome, being on the other side of the bar would’ve been pretty damn rad too.”
BOTH SIDES ARE GOOD. WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE SILVER CITY BEER?
“Copper Mountain Bock,” he says from the register. “Coming back December 26! Cold One is one of my other favorite Silver City beers, both those beers are released on the 26th, it’s like I get two free christmas presents!”
“Copper Mountain Bock,” my drinking buddy says from down the bar. “I did not see that coming.”
“We brought it back last year for the 20th anniversary,” Josh explains. “And everybody liked it so much that it’s coming right back. Last year we did Cold One in both cans and 22 oz. bottles, this year Copper Mountain is replacing the Cold One 22s.”
WHAT KIND OF WHISKEY GOES BEST WITH COPPER MOUNTAIN?
“I’d do a side car of like a Buffalo Trace Bourbon.”
WHAT ABOUT WITH COLD ONE?
“When I’m in the mood for a Cold One I don’t usually want whiskey.”
HOW DO YOU SPEND YOU’RE TIME WHEN YOU’RE NOT POURING BEER?
“Hanging out with my dog, hanging out with my girl, disc golfing…” Josh lists.
My drinking buddy’s interest is piqued.
“Disc golf? What’s your home course?” the drinking buddy asks.
“NAD,” Josh says, “‘It’s right next to my house, so I’m there all the time.”
“What’s your best score?” the drinking buddy asks.
“So…,” Josh leads in, pausing with the air of someone who’s about to break a bit of bad news. “I shot a negative ten one time.”
“Excuse me, what?!” the drinking buddy exclaims.
“I shot a neg-ten one time,” Josh repeats. “By myself.”
“You mean with no witnesses?” the drinking buddy asks.
“No, no… solo,” Josh goes on. “Not ‘by myself,’ but not as part of doubles or anything. I had witnesses. Next best besides that one was a neg-seven, then after that a bunch neg-fives and neg-sixes. So that neg-ten was definitely an outlier. Not saying that I’m that good, but I was that one day.”
OK, LAST QUESTION JOSH…. WHAT IS THE KEY TO WORLD PEACE?
“Beer,” he says without hesitation and then heads back to the taps to pour another.
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