| by Clay Moore
A. New Coke
C. The Opti-Grab
All three of the above probably made sense when first considered, yet
failed miserably. Similar bad decisions are made at local restaurants and
bars every day when it comes to beer selection. Unfortunately, most
places have the usual five to seven boring beers on draft. I'll refrain from
"naming names," but you know who I'm talking about.
Contrary to what Shannon Hamilton stated in Mallrats, the customer is
always right, and these days, craft beer is in high demand and no longer
kept under wraps. Even some of my friends who don't like beer have
been to festivals lately, so it's working.
The Big 3 knows this too.
The Somerset Hills Tap Room is the exception to the rule -- the result of
giving its beverage manager (Kevin Torpey) the flexibility to decide what's
on tap, and a place that employs staff who knows beer. A sixtel of KBS
drained in 43 minutes last month, so what does that tell you? (For more
information about the Tap Room, you can check out an article here).
There's no crap on tap.
Recently, I took a trip to Atlantic City and stopped at Fire Waters. Though
the tap selection of 50 was impressive given its location ("location" being
defined as walking distance from my hotel), you could sense that someone
else is making the beer decisions there.
In advance of my trip, I went on the Fire Waters website and noticed that
the beer selection online at all locations was eerily similar to what I saw
when I sat down. Seventy percent of the beers would probably entice the
casual beer drinker as being "craft" brews, but there was nothing that
shocked me. Nancie, my bartender, was well versed in beer styles, ABVs,
breweries, distributors and the industry. She enjoyed talking about beer
and keyed me into the fact that Smuttynose Brown was a very close
substitute to Fat Tire. Despite her knowledge, it was apparent that Nancie
did not have full control over the draft selection -- for if she did, I would
have been drinking some crazy stuff that day.
Pay no attention to the suit behind the curtain.
It's not a south Jersey thing either. A friend of mine at a local bar watches
pint after pint of quality IPA get sold, yet the bar still keeps 3 or 4 other
"craft" beers on tap that don't move for several months. Maybe we should
have freshness dating on tap markers.
Maybe those who offer "the usual suspects" know beer. Maybe what they
serve is truly what their customers want.
Or maybe they only care if the quesadillas sell.
The next time you order a beer, ask the bartender whether they have any
input in the beer selection. Then ask them what they'd recommend if they
And remember, the October word of the month is Reinheitsgebot.
Is the nationally
aficionado and the
behind the best
"beer for the ear"