Views from the Bar: Tyler Jerome White, Mikkeller DTLA
Tyler Jerome White
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I’ve been working at Mikkeller’s bar in Downtown Los Angeles for a couple of months now, and feel like I’m at the centre of the beer world, surrounded by exceptional brewers, amazing beer fans, and generally one of the most welcoming, supportive communities I’ve ever experienced
I’m not from here though; I was raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and until a few years ago only knew Miller Genuine Draft and Heineken, because that’s what my dad drinks. Of course, that meant I wasn’t really interested in beer. But then I got a job in a small, lakeside craft brewery there, working alongside brewers, which changed everything.
It was a headfirst dive into the culture, and it was such a blessing because – unlike a lot of industries – in brewing it doesn’t matter where you're from and what you look like. I was a novice, I knew nothing, but instead of ostracising me or belittling me, they equipped me with the tools, resources and guidance I needed. And it worked: I went from being an auxiliary employee – which meant taking out the trash and working the gift shop – and worked my way up to become a tour guide, taking groups around the facility, explaining the brewing process and trying to make a few jokes.
It was so awesome, but drove me to think: why am I freezing my balls off in Wisconsin? I could be doing dope beer shit in California. So, I went out, bought a plane ticket, and came here to do dope beer shit.
I found my first job here on Craigslist LA, as a tour guide on a Southern California brew tour bus. I arrived in LA on 1 June 2016, and gave my first tour on 2 June; we're going all over the place and people are asking "where are we" and I had to admit I didn't know. But I knew there would be beer, and people seemed satisfied with that.
From there, I got another job with Angel City brewery – which is owned by the massive brewer Samuel Adams – but I eventually realised it wasn’t for me, and I probably wasn’t for them either. I’d been in LA for some time by this point, networking, meeting brewers and drinking every new beer I could lay my hands on, so on the day I walked out of Angel City for the last time, I went a couple of blocks to see my friends at Mumford Brewing.
If you’ve never heard of Mumford, by the way, you should have. They’re on skid row – there's homeless people sleeping outside – but they make some of the most astounding beer I've had on this coast. Out of all of California, they're without doubt the leading juice-makers, the haze crazies, and one of few locals even trying to brew NEIPA. They've got one on just now called The Method, which is just flawless, plus you get to go to the bar and say, “pint of meth please”!
So I walked the couple of blocks to Mumford and said, "hey guys, I just quit Angel City Brewery," and they were like, "cool, do you want to bar tend here?" I walked four blocks, got a new job.
They really helped me out of a jam, but we both knew they didn’t really need any more bar staff – that’s just the kind of amazing guys they are. It wasn’t long before they put me onto this guy, Will Sperling, who was opening a new bar in an old discount tyre store, and asked if I’d ever heard of Mikkeller…
I’ve been here at Mikkeller DTLA since it opened four months ago, and it's been an intensive experience; learning the people, the culture, the general vibe and just how broad the spectrum of beers is. I basically work for an international beer cult, but in the best way. You could be in Thailand, Singapore, Berlin and if you see a Mikkeller bar, you know it's going to be something special.
Every morning I'm like "Tyler, don't fuck it up," because this job has easily changed my life. And, hopefully, if I can keep not fucking it up, it'll change that trajectory even more. I'm just having too much fun working in this industry, because every day we get to do something cool, or someone really neat comes in.
This culture in LA – and in the beer community across California – is a real thing. It was LA Beer Week recently, and we had a couple of thousand people on the next block for the kick-off event. Where did they go afterwards? Here. There was a queue for nine hours. In four months, we've already won a best beer bar award from TimeOut, and in this past month alone, we’ve had takeovers from Bottle Logic, Alesmith, and Pizza Port – all really popular local guys. We’re just getting started.
When I left Milwaukee a year ago, I was in the fortunate position of having a family that loves me, food in my belly and clothes on my back. I was extremely blessed. But I also know I'm worth it. As individuals, we're constantly given the opportunity to reassign our value; people aren’t just given a number at the start of their life and then stuck with it. It’s not like anyone says, “you're this good, or you're this person” – at least, nobody worth listening to.
Especially in America, and especially in beer, you can always reinvent yourself. You can go from a standing start to being in the middle of everything, and pick yourself from every setback to go do something better. You just have to choose.
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