Jerry Cermak (Security)
What do you do at Rhinegeist?
I am the head of security, which entails everything from checking customers' IDs to making sure the brewery is safe from intruders and wanders — all about making sure everyone here, staff and customers alike, are safe.
You’ve got some experience in the world of bars and beers, correct?
In reality, I’ve been in the liquor business for 30 years. I got my first job as a bouncer in Kenosha, Wisconsin. I was 19 years old and one night my friends and I broke up a fight at a bar we always went to. Important to note that I was legal to drink at the time. The manager figured since I was there almost every weekend I might as well watch the door.
Also, my dad ran bowling alleys as long as I can remember and my mom was a cocktail waitress for 22 years. They met while he was in the Army and she was a civilian secretary at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
One day he bought his own bowling alley, which I ended up taking over when he moved out to Arizona. So I got to run my own bar for about 10 years.
So as the original whiffle ball ump at Rhinegeist, what are your tips for people?
Don’t argue with me. The umpire always wins, even if they’re wrong, they’re right.
What’s your favorite Rhinegeist beer?
Franz (Oktoberfest), before I started here I hadn’t drank beer in 20 years. I used to drink PBR and Stroh’s, then they sold out to bigger breweries and it just didn’t taste the same. So I went to cocktails until I started here. I prefer the beers that are maltier, less hoppy and more accessible.
What’s something about you most people don’t know?
I was a limo driver for five years and met a lot of people that way. I spent three full days with Snoop Dogg. I drove around Mike Singletary and R. Kelly. I’ve been backstage with Chaka Kahn and The Allman Brothers. I was also in a band that opened for Jefferson Starship.
No way, what was the band like?
We were called The Electric Lunatics and played 60s, 70s and 80s cover songs. What the Naked Karate Girls and Rusty Griswolds are to Cincinnati, is what we were for the South Side suburbs of Chicago, and Dick Holiday and the Bamboo Gang for the North Side of Chicago.
So what is your Rhinegeist story?
I worked with Jon (our General Manager) at 21C. After I left 21C for another job, which eventually fell through, I saw the ad on Craigslist for a job as a doorman at Rhinegeist. I contacted Jon because I had that connection, and he hired me over the phone. From Friday it turned into Saturday, and then into every weekend. I asked for hours wherever they could put me so I was on the canning line and doing a little maintenance during the week. Then this spring, with summer on the horizon and the rooftop opening, I was approached to take over the security department.
Do you have a famous lookalike?
John Goodman as Walter Sobchak from The Big Lebowski. A customer asks me at least once a week if I know I look like him.
Speaking of the look, how long have you been rocking your haircut for?
The flat top? I’ve had this flat top for over twenty years. I remembered seeing pictures of my grandfather, Buck, and he always had a flat top, so I tried it one time and it just stuck. But, before the flat top, I did have long hair parted down the middle with a feathered-back-Rick-Flair-look.
Is there anyone at the brewery who could beat you up?
They can try (he chuckles).
You added a lot of people to your team this year, what’s that been like?
Well, it’s been fun. This summer we added the University of Cincinnati offensive line because we didn’t know what to expect from the rooftop bar. I went for guys that are similar to me, guys that are wired to protect people, and once they started their season we brought on a full-time staff that we knew we needed for inside and outside safety.
What do you do when you’re not 'Geisting?
I have a five-year-old boy who is about to be six, so I spend a lot of dad time. I’m doing my best to get in better shape, and mostly family stuff with the occasional ball game or a movie.
If friends used three words to describe you, what would they be?
Funny, caring and headstrong.
What are some of the challenges that get thrown your way here?
The biggest challenge is usually the size of the building; you can’t be everywhere at once. With 4 floors, including the roof, and 112,000 square feet, it’s all about making sure my team is properly placed and covering the area.
Do you have a spirit animal?
Bulldog — very protective, very loving and very bullheaded.
What do you enjoy most about this place?
The thing I like the most is the openness and the friendliness. You come to work here and everyday someone is truly happy to see you, usually with a handshake and a hug. Everyone here is approachable from the top down, everyone can be walked up and talked to.
What do you think is the best part of your personality?
I believe it’s my friendliness, but people say I can be intimidating to approach. If you ask my wife, she’d say I’ll talk to anyone about anything.
Do you have a favorite sandwich?
Italian beef Chicago-style, the only way to have it!
What are you looking forward to about the future?
My wife and I raising my son in Cincinnati and being a part of this (he gestures to the brewery). Taking care of Rhinegeist and its people as long as they’ll have me. I don’t want to work anywhere else. I really enjoy this city and the people.