By: Brittney Thomas & Emily Smith
Meet Brittney Thomas, regional sales rep for Fordham & Dominion Brewing Company. To get to know her a little better, Emily Smith, manager at Smokin’ Betty’s took her out for a few drinks and some stooping education.
Stop 1: Varga Bar
After ordering some food, including the mac ‘n cheese that Brittney claims is “almost as good as Stouffer’s,” a few drinks, harassing Rich (bar-manager of Varga and Meet the Scene reoccurring character) and Brittney asking Emily a whole lot of questions, Emily finally kicks off her interview…
Emily: I’m here with Brittney Thomas of Fordham & Dominion Brewing Company at Varga Barrrrrr….I’ll will be the host. This is Emily Smith of Smokin’ Betty’s fame. First question: What was your first job in the industry?
Britt: (after a long pause) Bartending in Dover, Delaware.
Emily: How old were you?
Emily: That’s a little late to the game.
Britt: I was a little late to the game. I never really had a job in this industry. This was my first time. Literally, before I started this job, I didn’t drink beer. I would have the occasional Corona on a boat with a lime, actually three limes, because I hated the taste. Then I was introduced to beer and learned about it. Learned to appreciate it and now I love it.
Emily: How long were you in Dover, Delaware?
Britt: My whole life.
Emily: You grew up in Delaware? So you probably resent that line from Wayne’s World?
Britt: No! Wait, what’s the line?
Emily: The scene where they’re in front of the backdrop and the picture of Delaware comes up and they’re just like, ‘We’re in Delaware.’ You’ve never seen that?
Britt: (cracking up) No. I get DelaWhere all the time.
Emily: No, this is like classic Wayne’s World. I feel like Delaware gets a bad rap. It’s what you go through to get to something else.
Britt: If you knew it though, it’s just this amazing little state, with a great brewery, singular, not plural. I’m joking, don’t put that in there, Mat.
Emily: You’re like, ‘We’re shooting for total brewery domination.’
Britt: Dogfish what?
Emily: We can just eliminate Rehoboth Beach and Milton, Delaware. Just get rid of it.
Emily: How did you transition from bartending to becoming a brewery rep?
Britt: I was bartending in college and then lived in Switzerland for two years. I came back and bartended a little more, but my dad actually owned a restaurant so I was sick of the food and beverage business, family-owned kind of stuff. I wondered what corporate was like, so I got a job at a beach real estate company selling homes. I sat in a model home for like a year; totally bored, stagnate, wanting to pull my hair out, thinking of ways to kill myself in the house. Tonda Parks, who runs Delaware State News, went to the brewery and was talking to Jim Lutz, who is our CEO, about possibly getting some advertisements in the Delaware State News. He said ‘No, I don’t need to be advertising right now, but if you know anyone that would be a good salesperson, I’m looking for one.’ Small world, Tonda knows my mom. She calls my mom. My mom calls me. She’s like, ‘Oh my god, there is this brewery in Dover that’s looking for a salesperson.’ I’m like, ‘Mom, there isn’t a brewery in Dover. I’ve lived her for 25 years, and I’ve never heard of a brewery being in Dover.’ I Google mapped it. Jim called me and we set up an interview. I went there in stilettos, a pencil skirt and not having any clue what I was getting myself into. I walk in and there are grates on the floor and I’m falling, tripping over myself. Jim is looking at me like I have nine eyes. I’m like, ‘Where am I and why am I here?’ We end up sitting down and I’m honest with him–I’ve never drank beer in my life and I know nothing about it, but I’m a fast learner and it seems like an amazing job, I would love to work for a brewery. He said, ‘You know what, I’m probably going to get in trouble, but you’re hired.’ He threw me into the water, sink or swim. I went under a few times but I’m still here.
Emily: That was how long ago?
Britt: About two and half years ago.
Emily: How do you, as a brewery, keep evolving, while still holding on to the things that you do well? How often do you say, ‘Let’s try something new,’ to stay current in a competitive market?
Britt: We actually just recently did a revamp of a lot of our styles and packaging. For instance, we changed our Helles Lager to Gypsy Lager. It has new packaging and a new name. We changed the yeast in the beer. Those are some of our old recipes. With competition this days, its crazy, so you have to keep up and keep evolving. I think our brewers are super creative and love to try different things and Jim is actually really good with that as he allows it to happen. Another for instance, Double D was our first double IPA we ever brewed and we were like, ‘Oh shit, how is this going to turn out? I have no clue, but let’s do it.’ It was just one of those things where, I don’t want to say accidentally, but surprisingly, [it] just took off and we weren’t ready for it. For Fordham & Dominion, in Philadelphia, I’ll come and a lot of bars will have not even heard about us. It’s exciting because it’s new to them even though we’ve been in the market for 4 or 5 years. I haven’t really hit that hurdle of ‘Oh my God, everyone knows about me. How do I keep it interesting?’
Emily: I think it’s kinda like flashy brewing as I would describe it, but I think everyone is going to come down. I just want a pilsner.
Britt: I just want a lager. I want to sit here with a beer that I don’t need explained the 9,000 ingredients that are totally weird. It’s going to come back to the basics.
Emily: Before you know it, we’re all going to be drinking Corona again.
Britt: As long as I’m on a boat with like 9 limes, I’m good.
Emily: When you feel like you are overwhelmed by craft beer and you’ve just had too much, what trashy domestic beer do you reach for?
Britt: I’m not calling this trashy, but I would say, if I had a choice, I would definitely go with a Bud Light. Is that what you’re asking me?
Emily: That’s exactly what I’m asking.
Britt: I’m a Bud Light girl. Like, literally, I was just at a wedding in West Chester this weekend and, guess what was in the cooler on the coach bus during the reception… Bud Light, and I was like, ‘Yes!’ Sometimes, just popping open a Bud Light and drinking a nice, bubbly, easy going beer, I didn’t have to work hard for this is gonna get me buzzed after 8 or 9…it’s kinda nice.
Emily: I think everyone does. No one wants to admit it, but everyone has a trashy, domestic secret.
Britt: What’s your trashy?
Emily: I am interviewing you. You are the interviewEE. I am the interviewER.
Britt: What’s your trash beer?
Emily: I’m not telling you.
Britt: That’s rude…..that’s super rude. Now I’m offended. I feel like you know way too much stuff about me.
Emily: I haven’t even gone into your family issues yet. We haven’t talked about siblings. We haven’t talked about parents.
Britt: I don’t have any. Let’s just end it at that.
Emily: My trashy beer secret is probably Corona. It’s like a really hot beach day, who turns down Corona with lime?
Britt: You can’t.
Emily: It’s cold. It’s refreshing.
Britt: You get that little citrus…
Emily:…and I have friends who look at me like ‘You run a bar, how could you drink this?’ Because….it’s sooo good.
Emily: After Philly Beer Week, you probably drank so much beer, all day long for ten days straight? How much wine do you think you drank after that?
Britt: I’ll be honest, I drink a shitload of wine year-round. I’m still a wino. When I go home, I’ll occasionally have a beer here and there, but I drink beer all day, every day. It’s always on my mind. It’s like a person who sells hamburger meat going home and having hamburgers every night. I like to mix it up. I like to drink two bottles of wine…by myself. If I had to pick one thing that I’m drinking when I’m not drinking beer, I’d have to say Prosecco. It’s my favorite. I could drink that until the cows come home.
Emily: I mean it is delicious. You can mix it with juice. You can top it off on a cocktail. It’s so good. I think you could do like a beermosa with it.
Britt: What’s your favorite color?
Emily: Wait, why am I getting interviewed? No, I’m the interviewer. How many times are you going mess this up? This is going to be on record so many times where I’m like ‘Brittney, I’m the interviewer.’ My favorite color is yellow.
Britt: Oh God, that’s unique. I’ve never heard anyone say yellow.
Emily: What is your favorite color?
Emily: Really? Well, my backup favorite color is black. You have to have a backup.
Britt: Well, if you ask me what my favorite color is with clothes, I’m earth tones all the way, but if you ask me what color do I want to stare at all day? It’s aqua or bohemian ocean blue.
Emily: Oh yeah, like marine blue, that’s pretty amazing.
Britt: Sometimes I can get into purple and blue. Like, I like that blue on the Don Julio bottle.
They leave Varga Bar to go purchase 40s and take some photos on the stoop. There was a very apparent difference between them when it comes to sitting on stoops and drinking 40s.
Bar 2: 12 Steps Down
The conversation starts with discussing turning 30 and smoking (neither of them are 30 or smoke).
Emily: Ok, honesty hour. Do you feel or think less of me now that you know how acquainted with 40s I am?
Brit: No. Not at all. I think I like you more.
Emily: It’s not like an indictment on my personality?
Britt; No. It’s not like I’m going to not come to Smokin’ Betty’s and try to sell you craft beer because this bitch likes 40s. I’m going to come even more because you’re cool.
Emily: It’s compact, is what it is.
Britt: Yeah, it’s easy. It’s cheap. It’ll get you buzzed.
Emily: It’s portable, and how much was the bill at the Foodery?
Emily: Couldn’t have been more than $10. [With] Foodery markup it was $8. I think they have to markup the shitty beer to deter that element.
Britt: What element are you talking about, Emily?
Emily: 40 drinking hobos, you know. I mean it’s on the very bottom shelf. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but downtown there are a lot more people on corners, with signs, like our signs.
Emily: Is that the first time you ever had a 40 on a stoop?
Britt: Yes. That is the first time I ever had a 40 in my hand on a stoop. Actually, I’ve never even sat on a stoop before.
Emily: You’ve never stooped before?
Britt: I grew up on a farm, so we don’t really have stoops. We have fields with cow shit. That makes me feel really comfortable.
Emily: In your defense, I would feel equally uncomfortable if I was asked to drink cider on a farm.
Britt: And I would feel so comfortable.
Emily: So my question goes to music. If you have people over to your house, what music are you playing?
Britt: Like an easy-going dinner with friends?
Emily: A picnic.
Britt: Whatever you start off from, it’s always going into a hardcore party. So we’re going to start off with a little Michael Bublé. Then, we’re going to go from Michael to a little Skillet. Then, probably a little Papa Roach. Then, a little Rhianna and then a little Nicki Minaj. Then, we’re going to go balls-to-the-wall and end it with Macklemore. Also, throw a little Carla Bruni in there. She’s French, I don’t know if you know her.
This just led to an endless mocking of Brittney’s taste in music, which the interview never recovered from.