10 things bars, restaurants, some breweries, and maybe even you are doing wrong with beer
1. Know your craft. Blue Moon is not a craft beer. Leinenkugel is not a craft beer. I’m not offended you carry Macro-craft, but please don’t try to tell me these are craft beers. I know better and find it insulting that you need to lie to me. Or is it ignorance? I don’t know, I find them equally offensive.
2. Don’t drink from the bottle. I used to; I even preferred it at one point. But it’s really not the right thing for you or the beer. A typical beer contains about 2 – 2.5 volumes of CO2. What this means is that in a 12oz bottle of beer, it contains 12oz of beer, and 24-30oz of CO2. Pouring beer into a glasses releases a lot of the carbonation, keeping you from feeling bloated. And on top of that, it releases the rich aromas that would have otherwise gone to waste trapped in a bottle or can.
3. Pint Glasses. That’s what we usually call them at least. They’re really called shaker glasses, and aren’t really meant for beer. But a funny thing happened; bar owners discovered they were tough, stackable, and cheap. All great things for publicans, but not really great for the customer.Why you might ask? They do nothing for the taste of the beer.
The toughness of the “pint” glass means they have thick walls, which actually makes the beer get warm faster. Worst of all they don’t even hold a pint. Yes, you can coax close to 16oz into one of these glasses, but they can have no head, and will spill if moved just a tiny bit. I understand the reasons for bar owners to carry them, but if you are serious about your beer your should try to offer some better glassware. Or even offer the customer a nominal upcharge or maybe $1 to get premium glassware. I would pay a little more to get an IPA in a Spiegelau IPA glass.
4. Chilled glasses. Yeah, I’m pretty particular about my glassware. A lot of restaurants think they are doing you a favor by giving you a glass with a layer of ice on it. But the funny thing is that best case scenario you are watering down my beer. Worst case you are handing me a glass coated in frozen sanitizer which is pretty gross.
5. So I’ve been complaining a lot about glassware, and I promise this will be my last complaint. If I order a beer that is in a bottle can you at least offer me a glass? Even if it’s one of those “pint” glasses. I want to use it.
6. Serving beer too cold. This is related to item #4 in some ways. Coors Light ads have gotten people to believe that cold is better when it comes to beer. And it is certainly true when the beer in your hand tastes like shit. When beer is cold is prevents the flavors from coming forward, which is why Coors wants you to keep their products as cold as humanly possible. But with good craft beers you really should be serving them at 40° F or warmer. Beers like Imperial Stouts really want to be warmer than 50° F to get the most of them. Churchkey in Washington DC actually serves their beer at multiple temperatures from 42° to 54° to get the most flavor out of every beer they serve. I don’t expect many places to move to multiple temperature zones, but maybe increasing the temperature a few degrees could do a world of good for the beer.
7. This one not only applies to beer, but food as well. When you serve things to a customer, you really should serve them to the person that ordered it rather asking the customer who ordered what. I waited tables, and never did that. It really isn’t that hard to remember who ordered what. Once you get good at that, try to remember what regular customers order. It really makes people feel good when you remember them and what they like.
8. Make beer menus available online. I have two children, and can’t get out as much as I used to. So when I go out I will often choose where by what they currently have on tap. In a world of rotating taps and seasonal offerings being able to see current selections is a useful tool for both the consumer and business owner. BeerMenus.com and Taplister.com are two services that have sprung up for just this purpose. Other places choose a custom approach or have a PDF file available. While I find a PDF to be the least appealing it’s better than nothing. For instance I am meeting someone at Frisco Taphouse in Columbia Maryland this evening, and I am excited to see they have Allagash Interlude on draft currently.
9. Expanding on the beer menus a little. When you look at a Wine Menu it isn’t listed with all the wines together. They are usually at the very least separated into Red and White, and often separated to list by style. Merlot, Zinfandel, Shiraz, etc. But many beer menus don’t tell you anything but the brewery and beer name. While that’s fine to someone with an encyclopedic knowledge of beer like myself. Just a little more info is nice to help people decide, and I know some people that would prefer they be grouped by style. As at least one friend of mine is not a fan of the Belgian Farmhouse Ale, and will quickly skip over this section of the menu.
10. So I said I wasn’t going to complain about glassware anymore, but I guess I lied. Dirty glassware is something I neglected to mention. There is a term in beer circles called “beer clean.” When a glass has been properly washed, rinsed, and sanitized it is considered to be beer clean. And luckily for us there is a very easy way to tell if a glass is beer clean when it’s served to you. While not quite as obvious as lipstick on the rim of the glass. If you see bubbles clinging to the sides of the glass, that glass is not beer clean. It doesn’t mean that it’s disease ridden or really dirty, but it does mean that it either hasn’t been washed or rinsed properly. And if you see that you have the right to send it back.
My goal with this list isn’t to try to be snobbish and complain about everything, but rather to try to raise the bar (forgive the pun). I know many places that have at least eliminated most of these practices, but some places that think they are doing everything right are still missing a few of these. Sometimes it’s for good reason, like the space it takes to hold lots of beer glasses for instance, but more often it’s because management teams haven’t trained their staff properly, or simply don’t know that it should be done a certain way.