We always like to say that the biggest fans make the best employees, and that’s certainly true of our newest Brewtique Associate, Kara Kowalski.
“Kara is a quick study,” says Brewtique Associate Kaitlyn Smith. “She’s super motivated and eager to jump right in. Everyone in the Brewtique knows I love to mix stuff up and move things around, and on her first day, Kara helped me repaint one of the walls. She is super friendly, a huge fan of Cape May Brewing Company, and I think she is a perfect new addition to our crew.”
While she was at LaSalle, Kara was fortunate enough to travel to the Dominican Republic and to Honduras on humanitarian missions, building houses.
“We stayed there for a week, building houses and helping the community,” she explains. “That was my favorite experience I’ve ever had.”
Kara was actually in charge of leading both trips.
“I got to lead freshmen through seniors,” she says. “And no one knew each other at the beginning of the trip, but we were all close by the end. It was an amazing experience. I’d love to go back. It was great getting to know people I wouldn’t normally think I’d get along with.”
The experience helped her learn how to adapt to demanding situations and mold her leadership style based upon the personalities of whoever was in her charge. In addition, she was afforded the opportunity to experience a different culture, one very different from her own personal experience.
“But I think my favorite part was being able to come home and be like, ‘Dad, I know how to build a house now!’” she laughs. “So, now, he always asks if I want to come over and help, and I’m like, ‘Well…. I’m a little rusty!’”
Now, Kara’s in LaSalle’s graduate program for counseling.
“It’s all online,” she says, “so that’s why I’m here.”
“The high school level would be great,” she says. “Middle school is when their personalities are all crazy, but that’s what they need a counselor for.”
After living in Philadelphia for five years, Kara moved to North Wildwood with her boyfriend, friend of the brewery Sam Accardi, who runs Bikes & Beers. Sam’s originally from Stone Harbor, and, once they decided to move out of the city, the area seemed like a logical choice.
“I literally moved into my apartment for about a week before COVID happened,” she explained. “We just didn’t feel safe in the city. So, we moved the Bikes & Beers and ourselves to North Wildwood.”
After having been in the city for so long — and even growing up in Monmouth Beach — Kara says that she finds North Wildwood to be a new experience for her.
“Having gone from a Wildwood summer to now in the winter,” she says, “no one’s here. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to work here: I wasn’t going out, so now I’m just hoping to make some friends here.”
Kara had been assisting Sam with Bikes & Beers — those are her perfectly-manicured fingernails you see in the advertisements on Facebook and Instagram –, but she began feeling like she needed to do something else… in addition to grad school and helping her boyfriend run a non-profit.
“I love Cape May Brewing Company so much,” she says. “I already love the beers and I love the people here, so I decided to look to see if we were hiring. And — whaddya know? — here I am.”
While she was in Philly, Kara was a bartender at P. J. Whelihan’s.
“I bartended there for about five years, but I left when we moved,” she says. “I helped open five of their restaurants. The last one I worked at was Horsham, but I was at Blue Bell for two years, and I helped open two other ones.”
Kara enjoyed her time there.
“Good people there,” she says. “Good food, too. Tuesdays always make me sad because I’m missing Wing Night.”
When it comes to music, Kara’s favorite band is Gaslight Anthem, and she also loves 311 and Sublime. As for sports, she loves all the Philly teams but prefers the Flyers.
“Hockey is number one,” she says. “I love watching it.”
She loves snowboarding, having been on a team in her younger years, as well as surfing. In addition, she enjoys doing yoga, nearly becoming an instructor while she was in Philly, just before everything shut down.
“Yoga is one of my hobbies,” she says. “I do it online through Stone Harbor Yoga. They do YouTube videos that they post on Facebook, which has been so awesome. It’s getting me through the quarantine, for sure.”
But, really, more than anything, Kara enjoys sitting down and sharing a beer with someone.
“I miss that so much,” she says, “sitting at a bar and meeting new people. Or even trying new beers: that’s one thing that makes me happy. I love meeting new people; that’s what makes me happy, for sure.”
While she’s been tending bar for several years, this is the first time Kara’s worked for a brewery. However, she’s certainly not new to brewery culture, having worked in bars and with Bikes & Beers.
“I wanted to see what goes on at a brewery,” she says. “I wanted to see what a brewery was all about. And, so far, it has not disappointed, how much I’ve learned here.”
Though Bikes & Beers works with many breweries throughout the country, Kara specifically wanted to work here.
“I fell in love with the beers over the summer,” she says. “First of all, Cape May IPA is my favorite IPA. I’m not just saying that because I work here; it’s always been my favorite.”
While she was living in Philly, she didn’t have nearly the exposure to Cape May Brewing Company beers that she had once she and Sam moved to Cape May County.
“Over the summer, I had The Bog, and I had Crushin’ It,” she says. “Anyone we would hang out with would have Cape May beers, and I wanted to go to the brewery to check it out. And, omigod, I just love them all! I’ve never been disappointed by a Cape May beer.”
And she’s still looking forward to learning more about what goes on at a brewery, as well as growing with the company.
“I want to learn as much and I want to grow with the people I’m surrounded by,” she says. “I really just want to meet as many new people as I can. Wow, I sound really desperate. I swear I have friends!”
Working in the Brewtique, this is the first time Kara’s worked in retail, but she’s been enjoying it.
“The one thing I learned was how to fill a growler,” she laughs. “That machine is nuts. I did it fine. I think my anxiety about it is that I’m afraid that I’m going to put in too much, and then it overflows, and it’s all my fault. I keep having that nightmare.”
Her fear of Hans notwithstanding, Kara is loving it here so far.
“I’m having a great time,” she says. “It’s been a little crazy, but I’ve had a great time. Everyone’s been really welcoming here.”
But, most importantly, Kara has been enjoying easy access to her favorite beer: Cape May IPA.
“I like IPAs in general,” she says, “but Cape May IPA is one of the lighter ones, which is good for me. I can’t do a really heavy IPA; I can’t really handle that. But it’s a good go-to. Whenever you think of your go-to beer, mine is always Cape May IPA.”
That’s what we like to hear! Be sure to say hello to Kara the next time you’re in the Brewtique!