Last night I found myself in a new to me watering hole and got to thinking about what I like to see in taprooms. First off I don’t like to see the beers getting crazy expensive. It is fine to start a beer list with a $5 or $6 pint, but when the prices start to creep above $10 it really is not conducive to several enjoyable pints. I realize beer prices for kegs are high, but they aren’t that high unless this is some small batch whatchamacallit from BFE brewing and had to be shipped via camel across China and Europe. The best thing taprooms can do is change the glass size to keep the pricing steady. I see some do that and others who just keep escalating despite the glass shrinking.
My second desire it to not have a bazillion taps which aren’t moving. Sometimes less is more. I remember a restaurant in Blacksburg, VA which had four taps and all of them were something great. Not anything crazy or wild or obscure, but all well-chosen and awesome. There is a great restaurant in Asheville, NC which has two taps and the bottle list is NC brews and all well-chosen. I’d take that over 200 taps and 150 haven’t been cleaned since they were installed. I remember visiting a now closed taproom in Sandy Springs, GA which boasted 240 taps and I got a beer so bad I could not choke it down. It was obviously due to dirty tap lines and poor cellar management and they did not take it off my bill. As I think back on the place I’m glad they are closed!
My third desire is if you serve food to serve quality food at a reasonable price. I’ve been to far too many taprooms who have passable food, but not what you really want to eat and not well made. A local taproom started out that way and over the years decided they had to step up their game. The food went from not so great to average. My preference would be above average, someplace where the second thing I grab after my draft list is a menu.
Along that line my fourth desire is a freakin draft/bottle list. I remember a renowned bar in Ghent Belgium where we sat down and they did not even have a beer list. I asked for three or four things and the waiter finally suggested I go over to the wall and look at the list. It was pitch dark and difficult to see. I hated the experience and wanted to cause the waiter pain due to the poor service (something the place is renowned for having). It is pretty simple to have an up to date bottle or draft list and to be able when you provide it to say we are out of X or Y. One place I visit regularly in Charlotte, NC has a draft and bottle list and then an up to date list of what is off, what is about to kick and what is coming on. I believe they update their main list weekly and the secondary list every few days as things change. The very best draft lists have beer descriptions, but I’m good with just names, styles, ABV values and price.
So if you find yourself in an establishment with something which doesn’t meet expectations the best thing to do is find another establishment, and if you cannot, find the manager and let them know what they can do better. They probably will not appreciate the comments, but if they do you may have a different experience the next time you visit.