Monday, February 15, 2010

Does a server's beer knowledge affect the way you tip?

I've been going out to eat a lot over the past couple of weeks because I've been in the process of moving. Since we didn't have appliances in our kitchen until just this week, I had to leave the house in order to get a decent beer. With Barley's literally just around the corner from me now, it's the obvious first choice for me to stop in an grab a quick pint. After the past couple of visits I realized that I've had pretty good luck with servers at Barley's in Overland Park. Most of the servers there seem to be reasonably knowledgeable about what is new on tap, not just the name of the beer but the style as well. At a place like Barley's or the Flying Saucer I expect that from the wait staff though, and I'm sure they get training or cheat sheets for what's new on the tap (the girls at the Saucer have it easy with the big chalkboard above the bar).

Even when I go to a less beer-centric restaurant I still expect the server to be able to tell me what is on tap. I'm not looking for the waitress to be able to tell me original gravity or IBUs... I just want you to get the name of the beer right... I can Google the rest on my phone if I have to. Not everyone is a craft beer aficionado though, but what can you do? Well, there's always the tip... which brings me to my question:

Is it alright to tip your server less, or not at all, if they don't know what beers are on tap?

It may sound like a small thing at first but consider this... Wouldn't you expect a car sales man to know what new models were available on the car lot? What about a going to a book store, you'd expect the staff to know what new releases were on the shelves, right? Even if you keep the analogy within the food industry, would you tip a waiter the full amount if he didn't know what the daily specials were?

I'm a chronically bad tipper and I've never had to wait tables so my opinion may be a bit... biased, but if you've got beers on tap I expect you to be able to tell me what they are. Does that sound unreasonable?

Does the server's beer knowledge weigh in to your tip calculation at all? There have been times when I've had great beer conversations with the wait staff and I would have left a big tip... but like I said, I'm a horrible tipper anyways... It's a burden I have to try and live with.


  1. This is generally a socially unacceptable notion so I'll just throw it right out there and take the karmatic hit up front: I'm not a huge fan of the whole tipping thing. At all. On the plus side, this mostly reduces my tendency to add and remove dollars for my own petty reasons so I tend to stick to the plain (and easy to remember) rule of 15-20%, that is unless they do something to really piss me off. Generally the server's knowledge of what's on tap has little to do with this amount.

    Perhaps it's due to my drinking habits being mostly fulfilled at home and rarely at a bar, but I find it less offensive when my server knows little about the beer menu than I do when the suit behind the counter at Gomer's can't even tell me what the newest Smokestack bottle will be, assuming they've even heard of it.

  2. I tend to be a generous tipper, so I won't say that I give a bad tip if the waitstaff does not know squat about their beer. Let's face it - few even know what's on tap, and virtually none are knowledgeable. BUT, if someone DOES demonstrate some real knowledge, the tip goes up even higher.

    It drives me nuts that the waitstaff at Hoopers rarely know what seasonals they have on tap. I was at a brew-pub lately, where the staff usually knows its stuff, and a friend said he wanted some kind of lager. The waitress told him they had no lagers, and I piped in that I thought they had Bitburger as one of their guest beers. She said that they do, but it's not a lager. I expect better from bars that cater to a beer crowd.

  3. We go to that Barley's fairly often, and I am constantly depressed by how little our servers know about what is on tap. For a place with 99 taps, they always seem oblivious to me. I once got up from our table and went to the bar to talk to the bartender because I knew the server was giving me bad info.

    That being said, I'm like Dan and will say it doesn't negatively affect my tip. If they really impress me, I will tip more, but I generally tip $1 per drink no matter what. At Barley's, I generally have a 2-yr old who makes a mess of the booth, so what they lose due to lack of knowledge they regain in having to clean up piles of shit.

  4. At my bar (which will remain anonymous) the servers must know what is on tap and what bottles we have. They should also know the prices and what category each beer falls into. For example Thursday we have domestic pints on special. No, we don’t count boulevard as a domestic. My servers need to prevent that argument before the beer is delivered. We are definitely lax on some rules but knowing what product we serve is important. Now, I don’t expect them to know the qualities and characteristics of the beers. I think your tip should reflect the servers knowledge of the menu. Now if you don’t like your beer you chose (or my $9 specialty martini that is actually a great deal) you should actually pay for it and tip on it. We can’t let you just sample martini’s and beers all night until you finally give up and go back to bud light.

  5. So quick check:

    Sabmiller (South Africa) brands are domestic. AB-Inbev (Beligium) brands are domestic but Boulevard is not?

    I think its time to call the beer cheap or not cheap instead of wrongly calling it domestic or not domestic.

  6. The Beer Goddesses at the Flying Saucer have to go through 3 seperate exams before becoming a waitress there. Back when I used to live in KC, that was my favorite bar by far. Probably because of the wait staff.