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First Person Singular: Capital City Brewing Co.'s Mike McCarthy

Mike McCarthy, 36, director of brewing operations, Capital City Brewing Co.
Mike McCarthy, 36, director of brewing operations, Capital City Brewing Co. (Benjamin C. Tankersley)
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Sunday, June 6, 2010

In second grade, my mom sent in a picture of me into an agency. And I was exactly what they were looking for in the early '80s: a freckled-face, cute little white kid. We lived just 55 minutes out of Manhattan, and there'd be weeks we'd drive into the city four times. I'd be at school for half an hour, and this voice would come over the intercom: "Mike McCarthy, please come to the office. Your mother is here to pick you up." She'd have four miniature Izod shirts in different colors and OshKosh pants folded perfectly in the back seat, and off we'd go. I couldn't really act. You put lines in front of me, and I'd just mumble. I followed directions and made all the right faces, but I never really did anything. Once it starting eating into Little League practice, I begged to stop. I never saw it as a career, so I didn't miss it.

My dad, being a New Yorker who grew up two blocks from restaurant row and being in the business of food science, loved to cook. And when he was cooking, he always made a point to tell me why he was putting stuff into other stuff. If he put eggs in, he'd explain why that egg needed to be there. And the answer wasn't because the recipe said so. I became a pretty good cook because I had to. My dad worked a lot, my mom traveled, so if I wanted to eat, I had to cook.

I got my start here as a line cook. But as soon as I poked my head into where the brewing was happening, I wanted more. I wanted to know what they were putting into the vats and why and at what temperature and just everything. One Monday, the assistant to the brew master didn't show up, and that was my chance.

Being in those commercials definitely helped me feel comfortable in just about any situation. I can jump in and not be intimidated. If I'm sitting next to a lawyer, I don't feel any "less than" because I just brew beer. If I'm at the bar with someone drinking my beer, I can take the criticism and the praise and just enjoy watching someone consume what I just made 30 feet away. I'm pretty tough, pretty thick-skinned. Growing up in New York helped, but so did sitting in front of a camera all day.

I've never been in any of our commercials, and don't think I ever will. We like the beer to be the star.

Interview by Amanda Long


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