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While barbecuing over the last summer, Colin Perkins often drank Lakefront Brewery’s seasonal Wisconsinite beer, which led him to think, "Why not try to work for the brewer? I’m drinking enough of it."
He didn’t waste any time emailing the brewery, inquiring if there were any job opportunities. Luckily for Perkins, his message arrived on Commerce Street at just the right time. By the end of the summer, he was hired on staff as a tour guide.
For him, the story of getting hired at Lakefront goes more like this: "Classic story really. Guy drinks beer. Guy likes beer. Guy gets a job where he yells about beer to people."
His training took about two weeks, during which he was given what was essentially a guide to the brewery, or as he described it, something like "Everything You Wanted To Know About Brewing, But Were Afraid To Ask."
"I followed other tour guides to pick up on the information," Perkins said. "The main thing was we needed to learn the information about brewing because it’s the top priority and then we worked on our presentation."
Perkins said each of the tour guides molds his or her own unique approach so that each time someone visits the brewery, the tour will be a different experience.
"We’ve had several people who go on many tours each year just to experience all the different tour guides and sample all the beers," Perkins said. "Plus, $8 gets you four pours of beer and a souvenir pint glass. I’ve met a few people, especially young couples, who’ve essentially furnished their kitchen with all the souvenir glasses they’ve gotten."
Once he felt ready and trained, he was given the opportunity to guide his first tour, which went over very well for him.
"I marked it like how anyone marks a historic event in their lives nowadays," Perkins said. "I took a selfie with my tour group. They all look really happy, so I’d call that a win."
He said he was a little on edge. "It was pretty crazy," Perkins said. "You basically grab a group of 40-60 people and you’re like, ‘Hmm, I’ve got to entertain them for about the next 45 minutes. Okay, let’s do this!’"
Perkins said when he’s not behind the bar in the brewery’s Beer Hall pouring the vastly popular Riverwest Stein, he said he tends to yell a lot and run around in the crowd while he’s guiding a tour.
"I like to get people excited about the fact they’re in a brewery, which is essentially an adult candy store," Perkins said. "If I can feel my heart rate increasing, then I know I’m giving my tour right. It’s sort of like back in elementary school when you had that kid who was really, really excited to do show and tell. Only that kid is now an adult and inviting you to follow him through a brewery."
Perkins graduated from UW-Milwaukee last spring with a degree in film. With his background and creative mindset, he said his tour tends to be a bit more film-themed than other tours.
"I often reenact historical events in brewing history as though they are excerpts from a movie script," Perkins said. "Nothing seems to get a laugh like an overly dramatized performance detailing what happened at a block party. I also slip in some subtle movie-related jokes whenever I can. I won’t go into too much detail about it though. We all know how much it sucks when a movie trailer gives away the whole plot."
If you’ve ever been on a tour at Lakefront, you’ll know that the tour guides often like to drink with the guests. Perkins' drink of choice is the brewery’s award-winning Eastside Dark.
"It’s a very easy drinking beer and almost tastes like dark chocolate," Perkins said. "It’s got a nice smell too, sort of like a mix of dark chocolate and coffee. It’s also one of the few beers I’ve had where I’ll still drink it at room temperature. Sometimes at home I’ll forget to refrigerate my six-packs and just pop one open. A lot of the sweetness of the beer actually comes out at room temperature."
He often uses that beer in his tour, too.
"It’s a fun one to talk about because it’s won a ton of awards. I sometimes go a little overboard and start to turn the awards it’s won into a hip-hop style chant. People usually laugh and get into it. But then I go straight face and say, ‘for anyone that missed my hip young spiel there, this beer has won a lot of awards. Check it out!’
"Most people have an expectation of what dark beer tastes like, but 'dark' isn't a flavor," Perkins said. "So people who don't think they like dark beer are surprised to find out that Eastside Dark is bit more like dark chocolate or coffee as opposed to a bitter flavor many expect."
Though Perkins has now learned the basics of craft brewing, he doesn't pretend to be an expert.
"I’m not even close to being an expert," Perkins said. "I try to present my information in a way that someone like myself could learn it. I try to keep it basic and fun. Let’s just be honest, it’s a craft that takes years and years to perfect so nobody can be an instant expert."
Perkins said his favorite part about the job is the people he gets to meet from all over the world.
"I remember I had this group of businessmen from Tokyo at one point and they had a translator on the tour," Perkins said. "They chuckled and had an amazing time while they were there. Afterwards, I had a few people from their group come up and say, ‘you actually got them to laugh! They never laugh! That’s amazing!’ It’s moments like that that make me really like this job. Just the idea that someone’s day just got made.
"In fact, probably one of the best compliments I’ve received was by a group of people from New York who told me, ‘you should be on Saturday Night Live,’" Perkins added.
"It’s just fun to see people getting into it and enjoying the jokes and the beer."
Colton Dunham's passion for movies began back as far as he can remember. Before he reached double digits in age, he stayed up on Saturday nights and watched numerous classic horror movies with his grandfather. Eventually, he branched out to other genres and the passion grew to what it is today.
Only this time, he's writing about his response to each movie he sees, whether it's a review for a website, or a short, 140-character review on Twitter. When he's not inside of a movie theater, at home binge watching a television show, or bragging that he's a published author, he's pursuing to keep movies a huge part of his life, whether it's as a journalist/critic or, ahem, a screenwriter.