The time when you could safely list your beers on the menu divided into “Domestics” and “Imports” (charging a dollar more for those fancy imports, of course) is long gone. Before the craft beer revolution really exploded in the 1990s, the only options available to you were cheap, mass-produced domestic lagers and more expensive mass-produced imported lagers. So there was a time when the domestic/import division was useful — about 20 years ago. Now, many domestically brewed beers are of higher quality and are more expensive than many imports. The old dividing line is worthless.
I am actually offended if I look at a restaurant’s beer list and see Sierra Nevada and Sam Adams listed as “imports.” These are American classics! Every beer list needs a section for “Specialty Beers” that includes anything not brewed by a multinational corporation. Prices on these will vary per beer, just as they do with wine.
Next, if you have 10 or 15 different beers, all of which are mass-produced lagers such as Bud Light, Coors Light, Miller Lite, Amstel Light, Heineken and Corona, and a customer asks “What beers do you have?” the correct answer is not “We have everything.” You do not, in fact, have everything. You have 10 different representatives of just one style of beer I call “macro lager.” There are over a hundred different styles of beer in the world and many hundreds of beers now sold in Alabama. Beer lovers would be eternally grateful if you added just a few of the beers that have become available since the Gourmet Beer Bill became law in May.
On a related note, if you run a Chinese, Japanese, Italian or Mexican restaurant, the beer that pairs best with your cuisine is not the macro lager made in the food’s country of origin (Tsingtao, Sapporo, Peroni or Corona). Of course you need to have those beers available for the sake of tradition, but there are beers out there with radically different flavors than can be found in any of those lagers, and some of those different flavors perfectly complement the food you serve. You’re missing out on a great opportunity to enhance your customers’ dining experiences. You need to try different specialty beers with your food to see which ones make the best pairings.
And finally, I beg of you, please ditch the frozen glasses. Or at least offer them only when a customer requests one. When drinking a watery light beer, having your taste buds frozen numb is no big deal. But those of us who drink beer for the flavor want to be able to taste our beer. That frozen glass makes the beer so cold it is impossible to enjoy. The entire American obsession with having the coldest beer possible is absurd. No good beer should be consumed colder than 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and most are even better as they warm up to 50 degrees or more.
Please, show beer some respect. Doing so will be good for business.
“Hopped Up” is a weekly brew review by Danner Kline, founder of Free the Hops and co-organizer of the annual Magic City Brewfest. Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org