is a two time winner of
the Quill and Tankard
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North American Guild of
Vince's column is now
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|Some people can be very sensitive at a bar. Try to take the beer menu from a person’s hands and they give you a
dirty look. Step on their foot on your way to the restroom and they mumble something not understandable but
definitely insulting. Nudge their elbow a bit to get yourself more room for your pint and they not too subtly nudge
back. Ask management to change the TV channel from the seventh game of the World Series to a preseason curling
match and they nearly decapitate themselves shaking their head in disgust. Loudly order a Coors Light and they
raise a finger that’s not exactly saying Coors is the #1 best seller around. Yes, some people can be really, really
sensitive. But when it comes to tender feelings being easily bruised at a pub the most sensitive person there is also
the most important person there – the bartender.
We’re not talking about seriously bad behavior of the kind that merits a field goal effort boot in the rear end and a not
too gentile toss out the door but rather various small little things that can get under the skin of even the friendliest of
friendly people working behind the taps. To their credit however, in calm moments, most bartenders would readily
admit that those behaviors, in and of themselves, would be fairly innocuous outside the context of the pub. In a pub
however they magically transform into a royal pain. Of course none of the things we are about to discuss have ever
been done by the considerate, caring, kind readers of BeerNexus or the lovely people in management who are
thinking about giving me a well deserved raise. I have a wonderful boss here who is nothing like one I had who said
his employees we would only get a raise if they treated him like the Pope. Well, one difference between that guy and
the Pope is that the Pope only expects people to kiss his ring.
To find out the real facts I took an unscientific, guaranteed to be inaccurate, predetermined outcome survey last
week – the same kind used by the pundits in the last election – of several bartenders to find out specifically what
types of things they disliked. If you heart begins to break as this sad tale of woe is spun please take solace in the
fact that to a person those same bartenders told me all their pain is easily made well with the Universal Balm of
Repentance (otherwise known as a big tip).
What really bothers bartenders, well, as Richard Dawson – wait, I’ve dated myself – as Steve Harvey would announce
– “the survey says….”
1. The educated palate guy. A customer firmly and enthusiastically orders a certain beer style. He’s promptly
served it. After a tiny sip he complains it’s too hoppy or too dark or too dry or too wet. There's no fooling fine tuned
taste buds. Case in point - someone squeezed next to me at a crowded bar recently and called over the bartender.
He said “give me a pilsner”. A perfectly poured glass of Pilsner Urquell was quickly placed in front of him. After a
single gulp he sent it back saying it had “too much flavor.” The bartender nodded and replaced the offending beer
with a pint of Coors Light. Another gulp and this beer guru spoke but one word: “excellent”. In a way he was right, ,
the Coors Light label clearly says it’s a “fine pilsner beer.”
2. The fruitcake. - Some bar patrons, namely those of the beer nouveau clan, have a firm belief in the veracity of all
things emanating from technology or to put it another way, if it’s on the Internet or appears on TV it must be true. So
thanks to every Blue Moon commercial in which the beer is always served with an orange slice and the every Corona
ads where the lime takes center stage, these folks ask the busy bartender for an orange or lime slice for their beer.
Any beer, from a stout to a Gueuze needs fruit. Of course the truly sophisticated drinkers in this group demand the
bartender use things like Papaya, guava, or kiwi. Maybe they have a point; after all, when’s the last time you ever
heard of these fruitcakes getting scurvy?
3. The clueless - For most bartenders a dreaded question is “what’s good here?” You can be sure the cringing
bartender is thinking, just about everything. Equally cringe inducing is a customer’s declaration “I like all kinds of
beer”. Of course he really doesn’t. In response to either question the good bartender will switch into Mother
Theresa mode and begin asking questions like: Which styles do you typically prefer? What brands of beer do you
normally drink?' “What flavors do you like in a beer?” Why did you even come here you loser? (Maybe not that one).
Proving that good deeds do not go unpunished after determining, for example, that the customer clearly loves the
flavors of an IPA that selection is returned because it’s “too bitter”. If he’s then given a beer with a more malty
backbone he’s likely to say, “give me something with hops.”
4. The cashless clowns -We’ve all seen groups of 3 or 4 or 5 meander into a bar and order different drinks. When
asked if they want to start a tab they so no, we’re only here for one. At that point the 3 or 4 or 5 each takes out their
own credit card. Ouch. That one really gets me angry too. Oh, not because I worry the bartender will work too hard
but now it’s going to take forever for him to come around for my next drink.
5. The rating reader -“What, you don’t have____? It’s rated 100; why don’t you have it?” Fill in the blank with any
beer you like. If the bar doesn’t have it, they don’t have it. No bar has everything expect of course the Heavenly Tap
Room upstairs where it’s always Happy Hour. Of course the bartender could explain about distribution and
production limits, the three tier system, and a hundred other things but the pouting customer couldnt care less. Of
particular note in this category are the folks who not only want the bar to have Pliny the Younger, Dark Lord, KBS,
and Heady Topper, they also want them all in a sampling flight.
6. The taster -High on the annoyance list is the person who asks for a taste of one beer, then a taste of another,
and another, and another until he’s tried just about everyone from every tap in the bar. Finally after a long period of
thought, reflection, and deep meditation he announces his selection – Yuengling.
7. The big spender -When the bill comes the customer looks at it, looks at the bartender, looks back at the
bartender, looks at the tab. He then says the amount, says it again, again, and again, each time his tone growing
louder and more incredulous than before with the last utterance ending in a crescendo of disbelief.
8. The device guy – This character asks to charge his phone and tablet as he spreads worksheets over the bar. He
puts his feet on the chair next to him and asks that the TVs be turned off so he can concentrate while he nurses a
glass of water for 30 minutes all the while promising to “order soon.”. For a grand finale he calls the bartender over
to show him pictures of his Aunt Sally’s neighbor’s toddler on his now recharged phone.
9. The mat mauler – The beleaguered bartender carefully places the customer’s beer on a nicely decorated coaster.
Within minutes the mauler has torn up most it. Once it’s replaced he does it again as little pieces of paper begin to
decorate the bar like confetti in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. Of near equal notoriety is the person who takes
the beer menu and uses that as a beer mat never thinking or caring that someone else might want to use it to order a
10. The inquisitor - pity the fool who asks the bartender questions like – can I have a free pint? Can you do any
tricks? Hey, pal, can I get some service? Is anything really cheap here? Can I grab a few olives from your tray?
Answers: no, no, no, no, and no. And the GLQ (grand loser question) prize goes to: Is this your real job?
It's important that each and everyone of us always consider how our actions affect the drinker's best friend - the
bartender. Always remember that they are people too. To quote the Bard of the Bar - Hath not a bartender eyes?
Hath not a bartender hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with the same food, subject to
the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as anyone is?
Hey, that's not bad. This Bard guy might make a decent beer writer yet.
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