From server to manager: how one Circa Brewing Co. employee rose to the top at Downtown Brooklyn’s popular brewery
July 28, 2022
Circa Brewing Co. is known for being more than just a bar. Crowds flock from far and wide to Circa for some of the finest craft beers in the city, which are proudly brewed in-house. In the five years since it opened, the business has grown and developed alongside general manager Wilson Anderson, whose career in the industry began at the same time Circa opened. We spoke with Wilson about his experience working at Circa, how both have grown, and what Circa has in store for the future.
DBP: Tell us about the mission behind Circa Brewing Co. and how being in Downtown Brooklyn helps Circa achieve that goal.
Wilson: Downtown Brooklyn is filled with workers, tourists, and shoppers, and Circa’s mission is to be the go-to spot for them. The neighborhood has always been this way; I remember as a kid, this is where you came if you wanted to do anything fun but didn’t want to venture all the way to Manhattan. Circa is interested in building a local community that is brought together by beer and food. We host events and teach people about the process of brewing. These tanks aren’t just for show — they’re actually in use and the product is coming straight from here.
DBP: Has Circa ever considered selling beers externally?
Wilson: Our primary sales point is here — it’s one of the draws of coming to Circa: you can’t get our beers anywhere else… for now. If, in the future, we choose to branch out and get a separate space for production, that would allow us to develop that aspect of the business. But for now, we’re focused on using the twelve taps we have here.
DBP: When did you first start working here, and how did you “climb the ladder,” so to speak?
Wilson: I’ve been with Circa from the very start and have grown here alongside it. When I interviewed for a server position the space was still undergoing construction. I had just moved back to New York from Chicago where I studied dance and worked at a dance studio, and I was looking to make extra cash. I enjoyed working as a server, but after a year, I decided I wanted to move up. I spoke to the general manager, who encouraged my decision.
One of the first things I did was learn the art of mixology from our bartenders. They taught me how to make cocktails and other drinks, which enabled me to have my own bartending shifts. I also branched out and did solo bartending shifts, and that gave me tons of practical knowledge and experience in the field. Soon after, I was creating my own cocktails and putting them on Circa’s menu, which led to me taking on the bar manager role.
As a bar manager I had much more responsibility, but I also had a lot of fun finding ways for the bar to create more revenue: creating specialty drinks with beer, hosting special events — like one where we make and taste batch cocktails, then have attendees come back for a re-tasting after aging the cocktails in barrels for three months. From managing the bar, the owner offered me the role of general manager — and now here I am, exactly where I wanted to be.
DBP: You say that you grew alongside Circa — in what ways did you see Circa change?
Wilson: In the years since it opened, Circa has developed a strong direction and identity. In the beginning, it took us some time to figure out exactly what and who we were and our offerings were in constant flux. Now we can say with certainty that we are three things wrapped in one: we’re a brewery — we make our own beer; we’re a restaurant — everything in our kitchen is made from scratch; we’re an event space — we’ve hosted everything from weddings to bar mitzvahs, even parties for executives at Spotify.
We’ve also had some pretty big renovations to the space in recent years that has transformed the space, including giving the back area a more lounge-type vibe that you’d want to sit and eat at, not just drink. And when COVID hit, we built this beautiful outdoor area that seats 60, which is still in use now by customers who prefer to dine outside.
DBP: Which Circa original beers would you recommend?
Wilson: I recommend our flagship draft beers — they’re made using precise scientific methods by our brewer, Mike Kulha, who strives for top-notch quality. New customers should try our Quality Control Pilsner, the Spacelab Wheat (which won a silver medal at the 2022 New York Craft Brewers Competition and Governor’s Craft Beer Cup), and the Nitro Stout.
DBP: Any upcoming Circa events you’d like to shout out?
Wilson: We’re celebrating our fifth anniversary with a block party this upcoming Saturday, July 30. Lawrence Street will be closed off from traffic starting at around noon, but the fun really goes from 2:00 to 9:00 PM. We’re going to have bingo, DJs, giant chess and Jenga, a merchandise table, a raffle to win said merchandise, frozen drink machines, a beer station – it’s going to be loads of fun. We want to bring the community out and just have an awesome day.
DBP: That sounds super fun! Other than at Circa parties, where in Downtown Brooklyn do you like to hang out?
Wilson: The go-to for me is Livingston Manor. It’s close to work, it’s dark (laughs), and I know the bartenders there so it’s always a good time. They always make me and my friends feel so welcome. But I also like to hit up City Point and DeKalb Market Hall.
DBP: What big plans does Circa have in the works?
Wilson: We definitely want to add new menu items in the future. I don’t want to give away too many clues, but we’re thinking about opening up earlier on Fridays, expanding the bar menu, and we have a new cocktail menu on the way — we’re excited for our customers to try everything!
Circa Brewing Co. has no doubt become a staple of the Downtown Brooklyn scene, and thankfully, it seems like it’s here to stay. Make Circa a part of your plans the next time you’re looking for a place to go, say hi to Wilson, and be sure to celebrate Circa’s birthday on July 30! Upload a photo of your visit on Instagram with the hashtag #DowntownBrooklyn to be featured on our story, or on Twitter to be retweeted!