Bar Tending & Beerspectives
by Matt Martinkovic
Brewsearch & Development - Northside Lounge, Manville NJ
Four years and several beers ago my boss and I made a critical decision to go craft. My
first article touched on the changes in tastes and preferences amongst our customers
and the diversification of our customer base. This one explores the dark side of the brew
and focuses more on the reaction of the staff. Not only bartenders, but cooks that were
aboard in this major change are chronicled. We'll also take a look at what we did to get
every player to adapt or, well, think Darwin. Grad school teaches publish or perish.
Northside Lounge has Brewsearch & Development.

When we bagan to expand our portfolio and get into the world of craft beer everyone
was spun around. As the previous article examined, customers were thrown off but it
was the staff reaction that was more critical from my point of view. At first there was an
unspoken reaction which I attribute to the staff not understanding the decision and the
products we were going to be selling. Then it shifted to outright confusion and a very
visible and vocal disinterest. I would use rebellion, but that's a bit too strong of a word.

From the very beginning my boss and I had to explain to the staff the direction the bar
was moving and the niche we were carving. It went well received because we were
exploring new territory for our town and area. As we moved on and began getting more
"obscure" products and the staff wasn't confident enough to sell them and in some
cases just strayed away from them and stuck to pushing macro beers. It got to a point
that a cook and a bartender were bashing the whole change at the house I live in. Yes,
the damn house I live in! They were sitting in our Florida room and I was on our back
deck in the dark. Unbeknownst to them I heard the whole conversation. I couldn't believe
the audacity and the testicular fortitude to downright refuse to look towards the future.
What was more alarming was that they were actually saying that the decision that my
boss and I made wasn't going to work in our area and that it was a bad decision all
around. As for the cook, I could care less at this point because he was useless to begin
with. You know who you are if you ever get your head out of your ass and read this.  

Something had to be done quickly to make our staff happy. An unhappy bartender
makes for a disinterested customer who will most certainly walk after one drink. We had
to make a move and decided to do in house beer tastings to educate a somewhat
reluctant staff. I suppose some people are truly afraid of or unaccepting of change, but
this did work. Even for the bartenders who don't drink beer and somewhat suffered
through a tasting based on the styles of beer, a positive reaction was gained.
The staff felt more a part of the change than outsiders looking in.

Other moves were made such as, writing up a draft board with the abv's and ounce per
serving glass. Basic descriptions and 2 oz. samples were also made available so
bartenders could quickly and easily get a basic idea and a first hand taste of what it was
they were selling. I highly recommend this. It proves very useful and the reaction by each
bartender was positive enough to enable them to have the courage and first hand
experience to sell and converse about the beers with customers.

Northside Lounge, 100 Brooks Boulevard, Manville, NJ 08835     908-722-7712
Matt Martinkovic is not only a recognized beer authority but a well known ecological writer whose
work has appeared in the The American Midland Naturalist (University of Notre Dame) among other
industry publications.  He also has been an agricultural consultant on, of course, the growing of hops.
More From Matt:
"The Dark Side of the Brew"