I spent a good amount of time with the Beaker and Flask (from here on known as B&F) crew for this week’s feature and came away with hours of tape. The trouble was deciding what to keep.
One of the more interesting aspects largely left out of the B&F story is how Clyde Common plays into its development—a majority of the B&F crew worked in some capacity at the Clyde. In many ways, the downtown club connected to the Ace Hotel became incubator, training ground, and staging area for B&F. This oddity has begged the question, “Did the owner of Clyde Common (Nate Tilden) know that all these guys were going to leave?” The answer: yes, he did.
During my interviews with Kevin Ludwig, Tim Davey and Ben Bettinger, they never failed to say kind words about Tilden. All of them felt that the Clyde would be just fine without them. I was curious about what Tilden would have to say about B&F, so I called him to find out.
“When I hired Kevin [Ludwig] he’d been working on Beaker and Flask for years. I knew it was just going to be a temporary thing. In fact I feel like we got six months out of him that I wasn’t expecting.” Tilden says.
He goes on to explain that he understood how hard it was to make a living while trying to open a new place. “When I was opening the Clyde I was the poorest motherfucker in the world,” he remembers. So, in part to ease the financial burden Ludwig was feeling, he brought him on as part time bartender—promoting him to bar manager a shortly after—with no intention of trying to keep him on staff once the B&F project was close to finishing.
“It’s stupid to hold people down,” Tilden remarks.
A while after Ludwig was hired, Tilden brought Tim Davey on staff. Davey had previously been working at Uptown Liquors. “Tim was pretty green behind the bar,” Tilden says, but suggests that he did not have any problem with Clyde Common acting as a kind of training ground for the young bartender.
The upshot of the whole thing is that after working together at Clyde Common for nearly a year, Ludwig and Davey are completely in tune behind the bar. It will come in handy as they deal with the stress of developing a new business.
The only hint of remorse that I picked up from Tilden was when he spoke about Ben Bettinger. “We had Ben for the shortest time,” he said. “Which is too bad because he’s a great Sous Chef.” But Bettinger didn’t leave them hanging completely—recently he returned to the kitchen to cover a shift when the Clyde was in a bind.
Tilden told me that there was a bit of reciprocity from the B&F crew. As they were preparing to depart, Tilden asked whom they’d recommend as a replacement. The answer was Eugene bartender and booze blogger Jeffery Morgenthaler.
Currently, Tilden could not be more pleased with the staff he’s gathered. But is he concerned about his new competition across the river? Competition that he, in fact, helped to create? It doesn’t seem so.
“People who love well made cocktails might start going there,” Tilden says, “But if I went in to Beaker and Flask and saw regulars [from the Clyde]… I’d be excited about that.”
“I want Beaker and Flask to be successful,” he continues. “And on the other side, if they’re hitting snags, and I can do something, I will.”
Nate Tilden: nice guy.