Friday, January 18, 2013

How to Lure a Beer Geek: A Guide for Restaurant & Pub Owners

The craft beer scene in the Vancouver area continues to expand thanks to our amazing local breweries as well as the valiant efforts of a number of craft beer agents/importers. But unfortunately for us beer geeks, a lot of local restaurants and a number of pubs/bars just haven’t seen the craft beer light. So if you want to know how to draw a craft beer loving chick (yes, me) into your establishment, here are some tips.

1.       Post your beer menu online

Perhaps harder to do for bars/pubs with lots of craft lines rotating, but it should be possible to post your list weekly on your web site or Facebook page. Please do it. And if you want to really get fancy, post a live list like St. Augustine’s and APEX Bar do. Pretty cool, huh?

Restaurants. For the love of god, post a beer menu! You spend a lot of time mastering your extravagant wine lists so how about putting a bit of effort into providing a beer list? If you don’t post a beer list, or if your list if full of macro crap, I for one won’t likely be dining there. So there.

2.       Educate

When your servers know their beers, they can make knowledgeable recommendations. It’s even better if they have tried the beers and actually like them. If a server tells me they hate IPAs or that I drink the “weird” beer, I’m not going to value their opinion. And believe me, I’ve heard both of those comments frequently. Recently we were at a popular restaurant, which has a large craft beer selection, and the server told us the rotator tap was a collaboration between Red Racer and Bear Republic. Whaaa? Uh, I don’t think so. After she left we figured out she meant Racer 5 IPA from Bear Republic. She’d been telling her customers this all night.

Some establishments are educating their servers through the Cicerone Beer Server Certification and/or having a knowledgeable beer geek give a seminar and tasting. In my opinion, this is well worth the time, effort and money to educate your servers if you really want to promote your craft beer.

3.       Taps

Of course a pub/bar with multiple craft beer taps is my hero. You’ll likely get a lot of my business as you provide variety, you change your taps often (as us beer geeks like new stuff all the time), hopefully keep your lines clean and you’re just as in tune with the craft beer scene as I am.

Switching up your tap menu is also a huge draw. Again, wanting to try new beers or revisit old favourites, I get all a tingle when I see new beer lists. And yes, often I visit your establishment just for the new beer you’re serving. See? It works to change it up.

What about all the macro crap you serve? Doesn’t matter to me – as long as you have a good selection of craft beer to choose from, serve all the Bud Lite Lime with a hint of dog shit you want. Knock yourself out. I don’t care what others drink, just what my choices are.

Restaurants – we know you don’t usually have too many lines but it’s great if you offer at least one or two craft taps, and there are a lot of great local and pacific northwest beers available in BC now. Look into it.

4.       Bottles

This one’s a no-brainer for me, especially if you don’t have a large draught line. Stock craft bottles, even just a few, to offer variety to the beer drinker. But here’s the kicker, make sure you actually put these bottles on your menu! I’ve been to one establishment, who will remain nameless, who has pseudo craft beers on tap and doesn’t list the three bottles of real craft beer they supposedly sell. Uh, how is anyone going to know you have it, let alone order it? And you wonder why your bottles aren’t selling. Genius idea.

If you’re an establishment serious about your craft beer selection, try to stock the hard to find beers as well. When the seasonals sell out at the stores, you’ll have people coming to your pub in droves to snatch the last bottle. We’ll try to keep the eye gouging and scratching to a minimum as we clamor to score the beer.

5.       Glassware

If your establishment thinks that two kinds of glassware is ample – i.e. sleeve and pint, you’re missing the boat. This comprehensive list describes what beers to serve in each style of glass.

Ok, I admint, that list is overwhelming. But you probably already have a similar glass in stock - like the tulip glass you serve caesar's in. And what about that brandy snifter? Here's another use for it. Barley wines can be served in white wine glasses. See? You don't have to stock 50 differnt glasses, just try to use the right shape.

Serving the beer in the proper glass enables the consumer to fully experience the aromas and flavours of a beer. You wouldn’t serve a Pinot Noir in a Chardonnay glass so why would you serve a Russian Imperial Stout in a pint glass? Just don’t.

Now, let’s have a chat about chilling glasses. For the love of God, stop it! I wrote a post previously on this as there are still some establishments that think the colder the beer, the better. Well, maybe a Bud Lite is better cold, just like water, but tasty beer should not be over chilled. The flavours and aromas are dulled when it’s served too cold and a number of beers are substantially more flavourful when they reach room temperature. So instead of taking up valuable fridge space for your pint glasses, stock that section with more tasty craft beers. It’s a win-win.

6.       Serving Size

And lastly, CAMRA Vancouver has been petitioning to have local establishments correctly advertise their serving sizes. It’s not appropriate to mislead your customers into thinking they’re receiving a pint (which is 20 ounces in Canada) when, in fact, you’re serving them less. If you’re only pouring 16 ounces, that’s fine, but it should be noted and hopefully the price is adjusted accordingly.

So maybe after reading this, you don’t want me in your local establishment. Aw, come on, I’m not asking for much I just want:

-          A beer list posted onine
-          Tasty craft beer and the more, the better
-          Educated servers - again, the more educated, the better
-          To know the serving size I’m getting
-          And my beer served in the proper, unchilled glass

Got that? Good. I’ll be right over to drink your delicious beers.