Beer Counselor #1

“I don’t know what I want, just give me your favorite beer.” – Many, many customers

Hello, fellow beer travelers, this is the first installment of the Beer Counselor. Whether you are a craft beer geek, craft beer server, or craft beer newbie, I hope you can enjoy the friendly advice I plan to dispense here.

For the first question I want to take on “just give me your favorite beer.”  As a bartender I here this from customers a lot.  Honestly, that is a horrible thing to ask your beer server.  Don’t do it.  Please don’t do it.  It isn’t that is a bad question, it is an incomplete question.  If you go to any good craft beer bar, Craft Tasting Room is one such place, tell the bartender or server what beers you like or what kind of tastes you like.  They will give you recommendations and let you taste a couple of different beers and let you decide.  You can also get a flight with a few recommendations from the bartender and really explore a few beers at once.

There are two reasons “just give me your favorite beer” is a terrible thing to ask a bartender.  The first is taste is completely subjective and if your bartender is a beer geek he may have really weird likes.  What I like, another beer geek may hate (hoppy beers, sours, smoked beer, etc.).  I’m a beer geek, and we may like weird things that you will detest.  At any given time, there might be some single hopped American IPA, a lambic, or a smoked beer that I really love on tap.  If your favorite beer is Samuel Adams Lager or Stella Artois, and this is your first time tasting a sour, you probably won’t like it.

True story (anyone who works in a craft beer bar has similar ones), one Friday or Saturday night a customer tells me has never been to Craft before and is just getting into craft beer.  He asks me what my favorite beer is, I tell him and he says, “Great let’s go with that.”  I try to explain that this beer is a sour and give him an idea of what it tastes like.  Before I offer him a chance to sample it, he cuts me off and says, “Just give me the beer.”  I say, “OK” and get him his beer and he pays for it.  I go to help another customer, but out of the corner of my eye I see him flag down another bartender and gesture to his beer as if it is crap and ask for another beer.  Now, I’m sure instead of learning the lesson to ask for help from people who know a subject better than you do, he blamed me for giving him a bad beer.

That leads to the second reason it is a bad question.  Your bartenders and servers are there to help you have a good experience.  We want you to get a beer you like because if you get a beer you like and have a good time, you will give us good tips and you will come back. If you help us a little bit by giving us some parameters to advise you, we can help you a lot.  I don’t know if the guy I tried to help had a good experience or not, but I don’t remember seeing him since.

That is what this is about, you having the best experience you can when you go into a craft beer bar.  Whether you have been drinking craft beer for years and love rauchbiers or you heard about these crazy IPAs from a co-worker the other day and you really want to try one, let us help you find something you’ll like and enjoy.  So, in a nutshell tell your bartender what you like if you don’t see anything you recognize on the tap wall and ask for samples.

One last thing, be open to trying different things.  You may tell your bartender what you like and they will come back with something that doesn’t look anything like what you described.  Trust me, taste it.  If you have a good bartender who knows everything on the tap wall and knows what you are describing, he may surprise you with something you did not think you would like, but is actually perfect.  That is the joy of craft beer (and most anything actually).  Being pleasantly surprised and expanding your world just a little bit.

Until next week.


2 Responses to “Beer Counselor #1”

  1. Good points. Sometimes people don’t just learn to like something new, but How to like something new. Learning to like challenging beer styles is a process.

    • cueball Says:

      I think part of what we in the craft beer community have to figure out ways to give people who seem interested in craft beer an entry point.

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