In his recent online article for Food & Wine, “Garrett Oliver on the Crimes Against Beer,” Oliver addresses five common injustices to craft beer in the restaurant setting. Oliver is no stranger to proper treatment of craft beer and its interaction with food. He is the longtime brewmaster of Brooklyn Brewery, author of The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food and a dedicated foodie.
Each of the “crimes” Oliver reveals in the article falls into one or both of two categories:
- Restaurant management’s lack of investment in server education on craft beer.
- Improper presentation of craft beer.
Craft Beer Consumer Knowledge
While beer produced by small and independent craft brewers is garnering an ever-increasing group of supporters, many restaurants still don’t recognize that their consumers are far more craft beer-savvy than their own staff.
“Despite what’s happening at the high end of restaurants and bars, beer is the only food or drink where if you go to a restaurant, the average customer knows more about the beer than the house, even if they have only 10 beers on the list,” says Oliver, “That’s a disaster.”
Presentation is Key
An extension of management’s failure to properly train staff about the beers they serve, or even craft beer in general, Mr. Oliver saves three spots on his list specifically for improper presentation of craft beer. Gone are the days when a server simply popped the cap and wrap a cocktail napkin around the bottle, providing a grip for the practically frozen longneck. Today, a properly poured craft beer requires a clean glass, served within the proper temperature range, and glassware specific to the style of beer.
As this customer gap continues to play out awkwardly at the table, the customer is often left with a bad taste in their mouth. Not only did they potentially have to settle for something they didn’t like, they’re often faced with a craft beer that was mistreated.
While Garrett only lists five, there are many more atrocities to craft beer that restaurants who take food and drink seriously would never commit if it were a wine. CraftBeer.com readers have weighed in on their own service experiences through participating in our polls.
CraftBeer.com Polls on Craft Beer Service
- You’re inappropriately served a craft beer in a frosted glass, what do you do?
- Does the integration of a quality beer list into a menu impact your patronage of a restaurant?
- Has craft beer claimed a place at the dinner table at restaurants?
Read about and participate in more CraftBeer.com Polls.
Media’s Role in Craft Beer
Though much of his frustration is focused towards the restaurants themselves, Oliver points the finger squarely at the media for his final pet peeve, “…the public is yearning for more knowledge about beer, and nobody’s giving it to them.”
The lack of craft beer-related news in the press might be puzzling to some. It seems like every other day we hear about the success of small brewers amidst continued economic challenges. Oliver however is referring to restaurant and food press who should be highlighting those establishments that have invested in their craft beer knowledgeable employees and procedures.
A Little Goes a Long Way
A teentsy-weentsy bit of effort to become more educated about craft beer and brewers by restaurant staff and food and beverage journalists seems to be one of the easiest ways to turn the tides of ignoring craft beer-savvy customers.
CraftBeer.com has outlined best practices for craft beer-serving establishments in articles like “Frosted Glassware Is Not Cool: Temperature Tips for Craft Beer Retailers” and “When Craft Beer Goes Bad: A Guide to Refusing a Beer,” as well as plenty of information geared towards those who want to increase their knowledge of craft beer.
Some Restaurants have even made CraftBeer.com’s Beer 101 Course required for employment, as it provides a good base for those who would eventually like to take their craft beer knowledge super seriously by pursuing the Cicerone® Certification Program, or other programs like it.
Restaurants, you’ve already angered Garrett Oliver, who’s next?
Andy Sparhawk, the Brewers Association’s Craft Beer Program Coordinator, is a Certified Cicerone® and BJCP Beer Judge. He lives in Arvada, Colorado where he is a homebrewer and avid craft beer enthusiast. On occasion, Andy is inspired to write on his experiences with craft beer, and if they are not too ridiculous, you might see the results here on CraftBeer.com.