is an award winning
member of the North
American Guild of Beer
Writers. His blog
Adventures in Beerland
is now a regular feature of
|A cigarette that bears a lipstick's traces
An airline ticket to romantic places
And still my heart has wings
These foolish things remind me of you
A tinkling piano in the next apartment
Those stumbling words that told you what my heart meant
A fair ground's painted swings
These foolish things remind me of you
It only took a few words- “Alexa, play Michael Buble”. Don’t complain I could have asked for Screaming Trees, Fozzy,
or Iggy Azalea The second song of the mix was something straight out of the American Standards songbook, These
Foolish Things (Remind Me of You). It was written in 1936 by Eric M. Maschwitz who wrote under the name Holt
Marvel presumably because it was easier to spell. Interesting you say but has that got to do with beer? Not much
except that whenever I see certain things happening at a bar I’m reminded of one particular place. So Mr. Bad Pub,
here are a few foolish things that remind me of you.
Did you ever notice how badly some bars pour a Guinness? That’s anyone’s Guinness, not just yours. It’s hard to
believe how many bartenders stick a glass under the tap and flip the handle down then look at the clock, scratch
their rear end, flirtingly grin at a the nearest co-worker, or blow their nose. These folk have their priorities in order
you see. The bartender can’t waste precious time on tilting the glass to 45 degrees, pouring until it is three-quarters
full, straightening it out, allow the beer to settle, and then fill it up to the top. Instead he just lets St. James Gate's
finest liquid flow down and over the rim and over the rim and over the rim until the glass looks just full enough so that
the customer won’t complain. And that glass of course is the detested and ubiquitous shaker pint. The imperfect
pour in the inferior glass is what they do best.
It’s America’s greatest contribution to bar culture – the Happy Hour discount. Nothing beats beer except beer at a
lower price. Many bars proudly boast that every beer during Happy Hour will be one or two dollars off while more than
a few tout they follow the grand slam policy of discounts - half price beer. Woo-Hoo! Just be careful you haven’t
wooed that Hoo too soon. While some actually do follow through on their promise, far too many have put a huge
caveat in small print - the discount is for “Domestic Beer Only”. No problem you think. After all, almost any American
craft beer will blow away things like Heineken, Corona, and Forster’s. The only problem is that when you order an
offering from breweries like Founders, Stone, or Kane you are told those are not “Domestic”. Monetarily shocked
that Michigan, California, and New Jersey had been kicked out of the USA since you last studied American History in
school you quickly recover with an insightful and cutting reply: “Huh??”
Domestic to these bozos means Bud, Miller, and Coors. Bud is made by Anheuser-Busch which is owned by InBev,
based in Leuven, Belgium, and Sau Paolo, Brazil. Miller was owned by owned by SABMiller (South African
Breweries), and Coors was owned by Molson ( Canada) Coors Brewing Company. Then Anheuser-Busch InBev and
SABMiller merged although SABMiller had to agreed to divest itself of the Miller brands by selling its stake in
MillerCoors to Molson Coors. So the bottom line seems to be that some places outside the US really aren’t and some
inside aren’t either. Another “huh?” is definitely in order here.
With so many new breweries making so many different beers it’s the sage drinker who waits to see if he likes the beer
before plunking down his hard earned currency. The best way to do that is simply to ask for a taste. But what
constitutes a taste? If you ask ten people you might get ten different answers but I’m sure not one of them would say
a taste is a splash. A splash however is what you get from many bars. A splash yells this place doesn’t respect the
customer or the brewery. And you can be fairly sure your splash serving bartender will scowl at you with total
disapproval since he knows full well no one tips for a splash.
Most beer bars today seem to have at least 20 taps which is good. What is not good is that many use generic tap
handles most likely just to be annoying. Generic tap handles mean it’s impossible to see what beer is available so
you have to ask for a beer menu. And you get it. You order number 16 since the bartender wouldn’t know what to
do if you asked instead for it by name. "I'll have the Cypress Insane in the Grain,please" will be met with the question
"what number is it?" . Hey management, it’s not a number it’s a real beer. Off goes the bartender only to quickly
return saying that #16 kicked last night. Not to worry, you order #8, which is a great beer too. Off she goes only to
come back again with the sad news “we’re out of that one too.” As a final crushing blow she adds, “it was replaced
but I’m not sure with what.”
Multiple choice quiz: 1. Is it that hard for the bartender to at least tell you they’re out of something when you order it?
2. Is it that hard to update a simple printed menu? 3. Is it that hard for the bartender to at least carry a list of
replacement beers? Select either A (No) or B (NO) to answer each question.
Order a barrel aged stout, barleywine, cask ale, or any other serious beer and watch the first thing the bartender
does-he reaches for a chilled glass. That’s chilled as in ice encrusted, gelid defining, frost bite inviting, and flavor
destroying. Further insult to already severe injury happens when the frost melts and you begin to see a logo on the
glass; it could be only one thing, Bud Light. Yes, that Bud Light, the largest selling beer in the nation and the largest
distributor of glasses in the world. Bars use them because they get them for free. Bud sees it as grassroots
advertising. It’s almost enough to make you want to drink a Westvleteren 12 out of the bottle.
A recent survey in England showed that of 88 pints bought by trading standards officers at 30 pubs, bars and
restaurants only nine were served to the full measure. Simply said, a pint is not a pint across the pond and the same
is true for many a bar in the US. And it’s intentional. Selling pints that are not 100 per cent liquid enables brewers
and pubs to boost profits, by effectively selling air. Critics say that practice costs customers millions a year. Maybe
we should all seek out BYOA (bring your own air) places. Think of what we’d save.
Not only do some bars deliberately pour less liquid than promised they often use glasses that may look like a pint,
feel like a pint, act like a pint but aren’t a pint. These glasses have an extra large base and slightly thicker sides.
The logic is simple – the more space taken up by the glass the less beer it can hold and the less likely the customer
will realize it. Seeing should not mean believing. Case example from Marketing 101- a toothpaste company wanted
to increase sales. They tried everything but nothing worked until someone in the (clue) packaging department came
up with an idea that instantly worked. What did they do? I’ll wait……. sorry, wrong answer. They ever so slightly
increased the diameter of the hole the paste comes out of and customers never knew. After all, everyone looks at
the length, not the width, of paste on the toothbrush.
There are so many more foolish things that remind me of that one Mr. Bad Pub. Things like bartenders on the phone
instead of serving waiting drinkers, beers served in 10 or 12 oz glasses instead of pints, little kids screaming at tables
next to the bar, regulars not getting a buy back even after multiple beers, price gouging on special beers that break
the dollar an ounce threshold, dirty bathrooms, juke boxes blasting alleged music, no free salty snacks on the bar,
bagpipers, taxes, traffic, and crowds at the supermarket because of a snow prediction. Okay, the last 4 have nothing
to do with this but I was on a roll and couldn’t stop. Besides, I know you agree with me.
Unfortunately you’ll find at least one of those foolish things at bars and pubs around the world. When you see it think
for a few seconds and I guarantee you’ll be reminded of the same place I was thinking of. It’s _____________.
Fill in the blank any way you want. You have the correct answer because as beer people we each have our own
worst bar. The real question is why do we keep going there?
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