It all started in Prague.
As a cultural studies major in college, I decided to spend a semester or so abroad, and the program that looked the most off the beaten path, yet still had indoor plumbing, was a winter/spring in the Czech Republic. At the time, I chose the trip more for its looming cultural challenges than anything else. After spending eight months in the most amazing city in the world, however, it was not the challenge that made me fall in love. About three months into my trip, I started to sit down in pubs across Prague and really think about what it was that made this place so magical. When I could not put my finger on it, pub after pub after pub after pub, it dawned on me; it was these pubs, and the people in them! For Czech locals, beer is not just a beverage, it is a part of their culture. It is what they bring to their niece’s birthday. It is what they drink with breakfast. It is what they discuss business deals over and plan weddings around. I was fascinated that a community could revolve around an alcoholic beverage.
Coming back to California, I figured out that a conventional lifestyle was not for me. I promised myself I would never wear pantyhose or do anything that I did not love… Unfortunately, that did not leave me, a female with a college degree, with many options. It was not until my New York Jewish mother said to me, “Well, you like beer, don’t you?” that I began to wonder, “Was there a community like the one I left in Prague that I could be a part of here in America?” Little did I know the world I was about to fall into.
I set off to learn everything I could right where I had left off; sitting in pubs. Four to five days a week, I would go to different craft beer spots around Southern California and sit at the bar. I would taste beers, write in my beer journal and speak with whomever would speak with me. From customer to owner, bartender to brewer, I was grateful for any information I could gather. Tony Yanow was one of the first people I actually gave information to instead of taking from, although we have had a lot of give and take since. I met Tony in line for Ballast Point Sculpin at a beer festival in September of 2009. Tony told me he was building a craft beer pub in Los Angeles, but this was during a time when EVERYONE was building a craft beer pub in Los Angeles, so what made this guy so different? It was not until a field trip we took in February 2010 up to Northern California that I absolutely drank the Coolaid. We discovered we both believe local product always wins, the best customers are always the ones that live closest to you, and the most successful pubs are always built to bring those two things together. When I got a text message three weeks later that read, ‘We got our liquor license. Go quit your job,’ I did just that.
When I first started with Tony, I was slated to be not much more than a lead bartender. By the time Tony’s Darts Away opened, I was the General Manager. I have since gone on to open and general manage Mohawk Bend and The Pub at Golden Road, all craft beer establishments in Los Angeles owned by Tony. The fun for me, however, is in the beer. I am currently in charge of the ordering and maintenance of our draft systems and taps at all three restaurants. I am also in charge of beer events for our restaurants and training for all front of house staff. I am the envy of every boy that never dated me at USC. I am constantly travelling, and no day is ever the same as the one before it. I may start my week speaking to new staff members, then drive to San Francisco to pick up kegs, and end the weekend helping guests find the right beer for their meal at one of our pubs. Besides all the free brews, what really hits me every day about my job is the culture and community I have the honor of being a part of. I am, and will always be, fascinated by how powerful craft beer is and the people that make up the community. That is what keeps me loving my job, my company and my industry. That and… there is never anyone wearing pantyhose.
– Paige Reilly
Also be sure to check out the LA Weekly interview with Paige!