The Beer Nut: Bartender learns about England's pub culture

Norman Miller

Tammy Ferrara recently learned there's a real advantage to working at the British Beer Company instead of Chili's: the business trips are so much better.

Ferrara was one of eight employees of the Framingham, Mass.-based British Beer Company sent to England for a week to learn about British beer and pub culture.

"It's the best experience I've ever had working at any company," said Ferrara, 41.

Every two to three years, the British Beer Company chooses some of its employees from its eight pubs to send to England. The goal, co-owner Michael Fallman said, is to expose employees to what British pub culture is all about.

Fallman said it is an atmosphere all of the British Beer Company restaurants strive to emulate.

"The focus is to try to show our people what the real difference is between a restaurant and a pub," said Fallman. "You can tell them in so many different ways, but the best way is to just show them."

The trip is sponsored by British breweries Fuller's and Marston's. The employees visited those breweries, as well as 12 different pubs -- from brand-new locations to 400-year-old pubs.

"It's a wonderful thing for the staff," Fallman said. "They make us feel special, and we pick people who are very special. A lot of them were picked for different reasons. They learned a lot. At one pub, the bartender had been there for 35 years, and he's all over the place. He sits on your lap, he comes out with a fake glass of Guinness and pretends to spill it on you. It's a just a fun atmosphere."

Ferrara was an employee of Chili's when the British Beer Company took over her store's space, and the company gave her the option of keeping her job.

Since then, Fallman said, she has become one of the Framingham restaurant's most popular bartenders, earning the trip.

"She's a very, very special member of our staff," he said. "I must get three or four e-mails a week from people who encountered her at the bar. She's very funny. She's a real hot ticket."

Although it wasn't Ferrara's first trip to England, she said it may have been her most educational.

"It was very informative," she said. "I think I drank more beer in a week there than I drank in my life. It was interesting to try all of the different beers that you can't get here. It was great because we got to go to the places the locals went to, not all of the touristy places."

Some of the highlights included visiting the various pubs and watching how the beers were made, Ferrara said. One low light was breaking a bone in her foot when she dropped a heavy piece of luggage on it.

Ferrara said she also learned the proper way to pour cask-conditioned beer. Cask-condition beers are naturally carbonated and require a hand pump to dispense the beer. She said at her pub, there is a lot of wasted beer spilled, but now she will teach the other bartenders how to pour the beer without wasting any at all.

The food, she said, was surprisingly good. "By the time I got home, my pants were too tight," she said.

She also said she enjoyed the pub atmosphere.

"When you go to a pub, it's like 'Cheers,' because everyone knows your name," Ferrara said.

That's what Ferrara said she likes to do. She wants customers to want to come back and spend some time with her and the other bartenders, just as she said they do at British pubs.

"It's a different way of bartending, and it's what I try to make it seem like here," she said. "You acknowledge the customers and you want to have a home here. That's how it is there -- they don't rush the customers out. I like to talk to the customers and make them feel welcome."

Norman Miller is a MetroWest Daily News staff writer. For questions, comments, suggestions or recommendations, e-mail or call 508-626-3823. Check out The Beer Nut blog at