know your bartender: Khal Almousa

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Working at Imminent Brewing is a privilege. There are any number of people who have come looking for a job here since we opened last June, and even before then, management had a healthy number of candidates from which to cull a staff. Those of us lucky enough to gain employment here had to work hard to secure our position.

Legend has it, however, that nobody worked harder to get this job, than Khal Almousa. The Chicago bred-and born bartender started talking to the Brewmaster himself, Randy Clay, nearly a year before we opened our doors. The story goes that Khal and Randy didn’t know each other, but Khal knew what Randy and his cohorts were up to, and he decided that he was going to be a part of this.

A chance encounter began Khal’s long road to Imminent. Khal was a junior at St. Olaf College and Randy was wrapping up his tenure as a manager for the food service at St. Olaf, Bon Appetit. Khal saw Randy at a social function and made his move.

“I called him Mr. Clay,” said Khal. “It was ‘Mr. Clay, I hear you’re opening a brewery,’ and ‘Mr. Clay how long have you been brewing beer.’”

From there, Khal would make a point to talk with Randy whenever they crossed paths. “I think he liked my curiosity and my enthusiasm about what he was doing, but even more, I think he just realized I wasn’t going to stop asking for a job.”

Shortly after Imminent opened, Randy finally went to Laura Meyers, one of his partners and the front-of-house manger and said, “You have to give that kid a job. He’s not going away.”

It was a good move for management and for the brewery. Khal is an impressive and personable guy who works so hard behind the bar that he sometimes embarrasses some of the more senior (ahem) staff members.

That laser focus comes from a combination of life lessons and experience. Out of high school he started at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois, where he wrestled and had some early success. But by the beginning of his junior year things weren’t working and he withdrew. Back home in Chicago with his parents, and without a lot of focus, he drifted from job to job.

“Finally, I ended up working the overnight shift at UPS,” he said, “and that taught me a lot.”

“I saw a lot of South Side Chicagoans really struggling to make it. I’ve always had a strong family and a great support system, so for me to see addicts working just so they can make money for their next score, or fifty year old guys with back problems working 10 p.m. – 6 a.m. and then heading for another job after that just to support their families – it showed me a couple different things. It told me that I was going to be fine in the long run, but it also taught me ‘This is how hard people work.’”

Khal’s work ethic also comes from his experience as a boxer. “I love the sport. It taught me hard work. It taught me dedication. I had to work hard to get good at it. And once I did have some success, it just showed my how hard work can pay off.” His success was so good in fact – he was actually ranked 15th in the world at one point for his age and weight group – that he was offered a professional contract. Wisely, that was when he walked away.

“I love the sport, but I see what it does to people after a long time. I didn’t want that to be me.”

Meanwhile, during Khal’s time of soul searching, his younger brother had started at St. Olaf and was so enthusiastic about it that first his younger sister, and then Khal himself decided that it might be worth a try.

“I’d never been on campus, but my brother kept telling me that I should apply. And once I got in, I just took his word for it and enrolled.”

The rest is history. Khal will graduate this spring with a degree in Biology. He actually plans to apply to law school after spending a little time working either in Chicago or the Twin Cities. Eventually, his plan is to go into pharmaceutical law. He will tell you that the success he’s had at St. Olaf has been bolstered by his family’s support. Family is a very important thing to him, and, he says, it’s what he likes best about Imminent.

“This is a family place, and if anyone knows anything about me, it’s that I’m a family man. Management really cares for your well being here. We have a really good group of people. The staff really gets along well and looks out for each other. It’s just a great place to be.”