“Give a man a beer and he’ll drink for a night. Teach a man to brew and he’ll drink for a lifetime.”
These are the words that bartender Dylan Snyder lives by. In addition to his role as the lead bartender at Bar Ama in downtown Los Angeles and his weekly gigs at The Varnish, he is one of the co-founders of Beertender Los Angeles, a home brewing consultancy specializing in teaching the basics of brewing beer, bottling, kegging, partying, and building camaraderie through the joy of brewing.
First and foremost, I run a home brewing company with my business partners, Steven Zakarian and Ben Williamson called Beertender Los Angeles. We teach the basics of brewing to civilians and restaurant and bar staffs. We also run a consultancy that specializes in understanding Southern California’s vastly growing desire for drinks that are “craft,” be that beer, cocktails or wine.
Secondly, I’m the lead bartender at Bar Ama in downtown Los Angeles. Recently we have been written up in GQ and various other publications. We serve fancy yet approachable Mexican food and offer a vast selection of tequila and mezcal.
Finally, I work one day a week at The Varnish because that bar feels like home.
How did Beertender get its start? What inspired you to start the company?
Beertender was inspired by our friends. For a long time, we were just three home brewers who liked sharing our beer with people. Friends kept asking, where can I buy your beer? Collectively, we decided going the way of a brewery wasn’t our passion at this point in life, we wanted all the people who wanted to buy our beer to learn from us and make it themselves.
Why do you think people are so much more interested in craft beverages these days?
I think the craft movement transcends beverages. For a long time in America, we were told buying mass-produced items was not only better for us and our wallets, but better for America. Now we’re told support small business, support local craftsman, local is better for you and it’s about fucking time. Locally-made things are almost always better, though maybe not for your wallet.
What goes on at a typical Beertender brewing class?
Beertender classes range in size and style. The smallest being a very informational hands-on experience, with a strong focus on the basic techniques of good home brewers and an in-depth explanation of hops, yeast, and barley.
Large classes are more like a party. The education side at the larger classes is more like fight club, you must decide your own level of involvement. No matter what size the class, we are drinking beer, laughing and having a good time.
What is the atmosphere like on an average night at Bar Ama?
At Bar Ama, we have a mixed bag of neighborhood regulars as well as people driving from all over southern California to come and try the food and cocktails. Our seats are mostly occupied by young successful people; it’s inspiring to be surrounded by so many creative types.
What do you enjoy most about working where you do?
I’ve always loved working with my hands and being creative. Brewing and bartending allow me create beverages for people to enjoy!
How did you get your start as a bartender?
My parents owned a restaurant when I was born, so I guess you could say then!
What skills or traits should every good bartender possess?
People skills are the most important. Anyone can learn the steps to making great cocktails and beer. You can’t teach people skills.
What do you feel is the most underrated cocktail or ingredient?
Beer ingredients. Not beer itself, but the components of beer. Hops. Beautiful, delicious, fragrant, hops. I’ve only just started dabbling with hops in cocktails, but from brewing experience, I know you can imbue a lot of different flavors from a lot of different hops.
Oh, and malt too. I made hot toddies with some really malty beer wort that were just amazing in the winter.
Or rum… get your mind off Malibu and flavored rum, people. Rum is amazing.
Who is the most intriguing person to ever sit at your bar?
Tough one. Jessica Biel accidentally touched my butt at a private party, that was pretty cool. But seriously, Todd and Miranda. I served these two on their first date, on my first day at The Varnish. Now they’re married.
They have always supported me and Beertender in a way that means a lot. Their lives have always together have always captivated me and getting to watch two people fall in love over the years is really nice.
Almost makes you believe. Almost.
What do you drink when you’re not working?
Beer and rum. Any style of beer depending on my mood. Rum, neat, something aged at least three years. El Dorado 5 years would be my personal favorite.
As of this very moment, what are your three favorite beers?
Noble Ale Works, Naughty Sauce: a Golden Milk Stout infused with coffee. This beer is like a eccentric home brewers dream and is, in my opinion, perfectly balanced for the flavors desired in the final beer.
The Bruery, Sour in the Rye: a rye ale left to ferment with bacteria cultures in oak barrels for over a year.
Golden Road Brewing, Heal the Bay IPA: this seasonal India pale ale reminds me of spring every time I drink it. These three breweries have had a very strong hand in the shaping of what Beertender is today and where Beertender will be in the future.
If you had to offer one piece of advice to someone just starting out as a bartender, what would it be?
Find a mentor and watch how they work. Watch the hands move, the body language, the eyes, watch and listen to everything they do and then find another mentor and do it all again. Good bartenders are like kung-fu masters and the only way to be the best, is to challenge yourself to learn every style. Like Bruce Lee says, “Style without style.”
What are your short- and long-term goals with Beertender?
Short term, building our brand and helping shape the Los Angeles craft beer scene by embodying the spirit of the city and it’s people. Long term? Everyone’s a brewer, baby. Beertender for President!