Luckily, I had older friends with more sophisticated palates. They shared different beers with me. It didn’t take long before I fell head over heels for some hoppy brews. I tried every type of beer I could get my hands on. Sometimes dinner would consist of a rather pricey beer alongside some ramen. I spent my money wisely.
Not my greatest moment. I was pretty damn naïve back then.
I was working at a glorified retail job on Michigan Avenue when a friend of mine asked me to go out with her to Bar Deville during Chicago Craft Beer Week. This friend happens to be a food writer and had just finished doing a write-up on this new brewery that had set up shop out in the suburbs--Naperville, specifically. That night they were having a tap takeover.
When we arrived at the bar, instead of ordering one of the beers on tap I decided to go with one of my favorite bottles: Bell’s Two Hearted. I remember thinking, “Who the hell is Solemn Oath anyway?” I figured I’d try ‘em out after I had my fair share of beer I knew wouldn’t let me down. My friend got to chatting with the bartender, and somehow landed on the topic of Malört. I had never heard of it before, let alone tried it, so it was deemed necessary that I do so immediately. Shots were dished out and I swallowed down the bitter liquid, pleasantly surprised. It was love at first swig.
Two Hearted continued to keep me company when my friend finally introduced me to one of the Joe, Tim, and Paul from Solemn Oath. I was feeling a little tipsy enough at this point to feel some liquid courage. They asked me how I liked the beer and I explained, like an idiot, that I hadn’t tried it yet but I was about to. I mean, really, what kind of idiot goes to a tap takeover only to order from the bottle list? Not my greatest moment. I was pretty damn naïve back then.
Apparently I hadn’t made a complete fool out of myself. Score.
Instead of bringing up something that would make sense for us to talk about, like beer (duh) or Malört (which all the guys are huge fans of), I proceeded to complain about my current job and jokingly say that I would love to work for them. Joe mentioned that they were looking for someone to help in the taproom. I tried to disguise my slurred speech and hustle for the job. I hadn’t even tried any of their beers yet. Foolish. My first Solemn Oath beer ended up being Kidnapped By Vikings, their American IPA. I totally dug it. Both the beer and the name were killer. Nourri Au Fourrage, their milk stout, came next. Hallelujah.
We chatted a bit longer before I decided it was time for me to call it a night and begin my journey home on the Blue Line, Malört still lingering in my throat. Honestly, I thought I would never see the Solemn Oath crew in the flesh again. A couple days later, I received an e-mail from Joe asking me to come in to the brewery and interview for a taproom position. Apparently I hadn’t made a complete fool out of myself. Score.
I think I drove up and down Quincy about ten times looking for Solemn Oath on the day of my interview before giving up and calling Joe, completely embarrassed, nervous... and sweaty (my car’s air-conditioning had stopped working a week prior). If you’ve been in the brewery during the summer time, you remember looking forward to a blast of cold air the first time you walked in. Then you also know that, instead, I was greeted with a hotter, more humid version of the already-tropical weather. And I continued to sweat. My interview was more informal than others I had been on, and I sipped on an ultrahighfrequency once it was through. Everything about the job seemed too good to be true. Despite my sweatiness that day, and my lack of serving experience, I was hired to work part-time in the taproom. I think I owe all my good fortune to that Malört shot.
Being behind the bar in the taproom felt awesome and completely natural to me right off the bat. I loved pouring beer and talking to the people drinking it. Even washing glasses was somewhat therapeutic. Back when I started at the brewery, our Beer For Friends board had a mere fifty or so names and I was the sole taproom employee. I worked three days a week and continued my job at that silly retail shop. In September, I was offered my current position as the taproom manager and eagerly accepted. I was beyond thrilled to quit my “side job” and focus on all things Solemn.
You never know what is waiting for you just around the corner. I almost didn’t go to Bar Deville that evening due to a shitty day in the world of retail but decided to suck it up last minute. Life’s too short to sit on your ass at home, washing down those Doritos with Coors Light, on that La-Z-Boy, while watching Law & Order: SVU. Believe me, I’ve been there, and I still enjoy a night like that every now and then (shh...). I’ve met so many amazing people in my life because of beer and the culture surrounding it. Solemn Oath is so much more than a brewery to me. Get out in the world, drink Malört (and beer), and don’t be afraid to act a bit foolish from time to time.
[Ed. Note: Two things. First, it was a breezy sixty-five that day; Erin was sweating because I'm a ruthless interviewer. Second, it wasn't the Malört shot that got Erin the job. It's her easy way with people and her adventurous attitude towards beer. She's doing every bit as good as I knew she would and then some. She's like the Big Mac of SOBs with a side of shitty music.]