Craft beer has become such a cultural phenomenon that virtually any major city in North America is going to have a wealth of choices for where to find a good pint. With all this choice, there are a number of factors that really help craft beer bars stand out from the crowd.
We’re not talking about clean tap lines, clean glassware or knowledgable bartenders, those are all things that should be ubiquitous at any establishment worth its salt. What really makes a beer bar standout are the more thoughtful details, the ones that you as a consumer don’t really think about but at the end of the day make you appreciate the bar that much more.
Offer a simple, but wide range
It’s very common for a bar to lean into the best selling styles, giving consumers a large amount of IPAs to choose from but very little options when it comes to the more niche styles like sours.
A well balanced beer menu is one that is going to offer a few selections in each style, not only giving drinkers the chance to venture outside of their typical choices but also experiment with different takes on those styles, so they can really understand the subtle differences brewers make with each.
Educate, but don’t overwhelm
That being said, it can be hard for drinkers to try different styles of beer if they don’t understand what they are. It’s not just enough for a bar menu to simply list the name of the brewery and the beer. Drinkers should be given a brief description on the beer, giving them an idea of the flavour profile, bitterness and even hop variety.
That’s not saying that each beer should come with a novel; overwhelming the consumer is going to end up with the same effect as not educating them at all, they’ll just stick with what they know.
Champion local, but don’t discriminate
In this day and age, there are a lot of great local craft beer options to choose from. While bars should absolutely support their local breweries, it would be to their detriment to completely ignore any outside influences.
Championing local breweries is one thing, but that doesn’t mean you should exclude excellent examples of styles just because they are outside your local area, or for that matter promote a poor example of a particular beer style just because it’s locally made. Drinkers should be presented with a well thought out design, one that gives the best-in-class beer in each style, no matter where it comes from.
Offer low, and high alcohol options
This should be a no-brainer, but there are plenty of bars that forget this. Drinkers are not all the same, and therefore there should be a number of options on the menu to reflect a range from the low ABV drinker all the way up to the heavy barley wine lovers. Even better if you can distill this down and offer a range of ABV within each category of beer you’re offering. Sometimes I want to drink a stout that’s low ABV and other times I want a high alcohol hefeweisen.
Beer’s great, but so is cider
Again this is all about remembering to give your customers a full range of choices. Speciality beer bars sometimes tend to forget that not everyone wants to drink beer all the time, so having other alternatives like ciders, wine and cocktails is important. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve skipped out on going to a brewery or speciality beer bar because one person in the group wanted something other than beer.
For that matter, bars should remember the non-drinker as well. Even offering a selection of non-alcoholic beers, kombucha or sodas goes a long way.