Tuesday, June 21, 2011

How I Switched Neighborhood Bars

Stella and I had a night out without the kids Friday night mostly to go to the Sporting KC game*. It was at least 90 degrees that day and until the sun went down behind the stadium, sweat was rolling off me. The great thing about soccer is that it takes 2 hours, not more, not less. You pretty much know how long you're going to be there. We were on I-70 by 10 PM, too early to go home, but too late to change clothes to go somewhere like Manifesto or R Bar, that means it's neighborhood bar time.

*Livestrong Park is simply wonderful. I don't think there's a bad seat in the place, you're close to the field everywhere in the stadium and the game is fun. The bad thing is, there's simply no beer worth drinking there. Sure you can get a Guinness but that seems like a bad choice on a hot summer night. Budweiser's products are the only other brand around and my days of paying $7.50 for a Budweiser ended when I became a legal drinker. So get your drinking in in the parking lot or The Yard House across the street, because you're not going to be doing any good drinking in the park.

In my neighborhood, we've always gone to Maloney's in downtown OP. They have a great patio and Goose Island Summertime and Boulevard Tank 7 on tap. That's about the end of Maloneys' qualities; patio, good beers on tap. The crowd is usually bottled Bud Light and Coors Light 20 Something douchey smokers with loud, obnoxious laughter and club remix music filling the air. Mostly we can tune all of this out because we're really only interested in talking to each other and drinking some good beer in some cool night air.


Well, after Friday night, I think we're done with the Maloney's patio. It's not because of bad service or problems with the douchery or too much cigarette smoke, it's because Tank 7 is no longer on tap. Apparently Maloney's no longer wants the business of people who actually care what they drink. Goose Island Summertime was still on tap so I was okay, but Stella wanted a Tank 7. Sure they had it in the Li'l Smokies bottle and that served the need (it was also really fresh which says to me that they sell quite a little bit of Tank 7). But, they have 8 taps and prepare to be underwhelmed; Bud, Bud Light, Bud Select, Bud Something Else, Miller Lite, Blue Moon, Sam Adams Summer, Goose Island Summertime. Two choices on draft for a beer drinker, 3 if I'm generous (and I like Blue Moon). We were surrounded by guys in tight t-shirts drinking Macro Light in bottles. I feel like I'm repeating myself here but, here goes, having good beer on tap excludes no one, because Macro drinkers don't care if their beer comes in a glass or a bottle. Not only that but craft taps make more money.

We used to not really have any choice in outdoor bar sitting in our neighborhood, but we do now. RJ's Bob-Be-Que has a new patio and bar called Mission City Limits and the Root Cellar. In this basement bar and patio they have a good craft beer selection with a couple of Boulevards, a couple of Free States, another craft tap and PBR. See that, of 6 taps, 5 are craft and 1 a macro. While there is no Tank 7, a Free State seasonal that is relatively rare on tap in Overland Park, works for me. RJ's seems to care about serving their customers good beer. And on a side note, if I'm hungry I can actually get something tasty to eat.

I feel like other neighborhoods, especially in Overland Park, Liberty, Independence or other beer deserts, have similar choices, maybe our readers can highlight these. But, this kind of thing really drives me crazy. For any bar with over 6 tap handles, more than 50% should not be macro beers. It's just bad business. You alienate no one because macro drinkers don't care (or don't care in the way craft beer drinkers do) and you leave money on the table. Your tap handles are valuable property. You have an advantage in Kansas City as everyone is familiar with Boulevard so you can really take an easy road and tap up Boulevard Pale Ale, Wheat and something else. Boulevard Tank 7 as a super premium option shows, to me at least, that you're really trying. If you're in Missouri, a Firestone Walker Double Jack tap is available for a super premium tap or try some Goose Island Matilda, something. If you're a neighborhood bar, a super premium tap really opens up your bar to a larger group of people and makes your bar more money. You're selling a glass of beer for $6 or $7 instead of $3 or $4 and making an extra $2/glass. Train your staff to sell it a little, I'm sure the distributor would give you some table toppers or something to help sell it and you've increased your sales on that tap by 20-50% depending on how quickly you can sell it through. If you feel you're alienating the macro drinkers, run a macro special or lower your macro draft price by a quarter, you'll make up for it with your craft taps.

What you shouldn't do is push craft beer off your taps, it signals that you don't want a growing segment of the population and a larger percentage of the population who goes to bars. Maloney's lost Stella and I, not that our $20 or $30/month is going to make or break them. But, I know at least 10 couples in this neighborhood that could go to Maloney's semi-regularly, but don't because there's nothing for us there. My neighborhood is no different than any other. Maloney's loss is RJ's gain. Generic neighborhood bars across Kansas City can suddenly become a pretty good place to get a beer in that neighborhood and it doesn't cost a thing to become a pretty good place to get a beer.

21 comments:

  1. We changed neighborhood bars about a year ago for the same reason. Love Tower Tavern, but the draft beer selection was mediocre and never changed - so we moved on.

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  2. Living in Raytown I have no choice but to drive somewhere else for a good beer on tap or just stay home. There are bars near my house they all just serve the same mix of macro brews with the added benny that smoking is still allowed in the bars which isn't that great if you don't smoke.

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  3. What was the Free State Seasonal they had on tap?

    And I will mention here, although it seems you may be averse to traveling to Lawrence, it is really worth it to visit Free State these days because since they started bottling they've moved the production of their major beers to that facility and now have anywhere from 3-5 specialty/seasonals on tap at any given time, the majority of which are usually good beers and exceptionally fresh.

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  4. Jason, I just know they carry a Free State seasonal, I'm not sure what it is right now but I think it is the Maibock.

    We went down to Free State the weekend before last and I had the Meuse River IPA. Not their best effort.

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  5. Great blog entry. It actually makes me *mad* to see ppl drinking macro beers --in a bottle-- at a bar, especially when that bottled beer is also available on tap. I can get why a macro beer drinker would get their favorite macro beer on TAP (good tastes withstanding), but can't these idiots do the math? - why spend $2.50-3.00 on a beer that they can get in a 6-pack for $6?

    Anyway, I am one of the more fortunates in the city, for my neighborhood bar is Barley's on 119th, just a few blocks away. But I use to live in Mission (and still work there), so I feel your pain. RJ's rocks anyway, so you're better off there (PS- finally sampled their breakfast last weekend and HOLY CRAPPOLA it was amazing!).

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  6. Bob,

    We had breakfast at RJ's Sunday morning. It's the best breakfast around here. The smoked bacon is probably my favorite thing to eat there.

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  7. I also have not been particular impressed with their Belgian style beers. Their American IPA's have been pretty good.

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  8. HOW DARE YOU SAY ANYTHING NEGATIVE ABOUT FREE STATE DON'T YOU KNOW THEY HAVE HOPES AND DREAMS?????!!!1111111111111111111

    On a serious note, you always pay a premium for beer in a bar. I assume that, like me, those idiots like to drink their beer at the bar rather than at home. At some (and by some I mean a lot) of bars, draught beer is a little di(a)ce(tyl)y. I haven't met a bar that managed to infect the bottles yet.

    Ray Daniels of Cicerone fame makes an interest point. Ever sit at a bar and notice that every beer pours foamy? Someone set that draught system up to be balanced (it isn't hard, even full retard homebrewers like myself can do it). So what caused it to get out of balance? Buildup in the lines. Tasty.

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  9. We need more certified cicerones getting paid in tips to fix this!!

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  10. John, I guarantee the guys in tight shirts drinking Bud Light in bottles aren't drinking those bottles because of diacetyl from the lines. A bar has dirty lines is a different issue than a bar with bad beer choices on draft.

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  11. I'm hearing there is a bar coming to Liberty called Conrads. It will be craft beer focused.

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  12. There is no worry of dirty lines if you are drinking boulevard draft beers in the metropolitan area. Central States beverage draft department does an extraordinary job of keeping lines and faucet clean. With regular draft maintenance I dont think you will be finding any diacetyl, lactobacillus, acetobacter, mold, yeast, or beerstone in any of their products lines. Often when a beer is foaming and off balance it isn't due to dirty lines it due improper temperature especially above 40 degrees. So cheers to clean lines and draft beer.

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  13. I'd be interested to know the cleaning schedule for Boulevard lines compared to regular macro lines. It isn't really an issue with shorter draft lines, but if you get into a place with a cooler in the back and the lines run all the way to a tap up front, all the beer in those lines is wasted when someone cleans the lines. Wasting more than a few pints of higher priced craft beer every two weeks may eat away at those profits and could be part of the reason some places are reluctant to have craft on tap. This is just a guess, I don't know how often macro lines get cleaned but I think two weeks is/should be the norm for craft beer.

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  14. I've had infected Blvd Wheat and Dry Stout at Trezo Mare before.

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  15. Anonymous, that is exactly what the ABI distributor would tell me if he came on here and anonymously praised himself in the third person.

    Other anonymous. The BA Draught Quality guidelines are cleaning every two weeks and beer stone removal every 3 months. A lot of people on the retail side praise ABI distributors in this regard, so I don't think this is an area where craft is necessarily better than macro.

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  16. Boulevard recommends beer lines being flushed with an alkaline chemical every 2 weeks and flushed with an acid solution quarterly. You are exactly right that there are some places that have long lines and do not want to waste product so it is at the accounts discretion. Cleaning is not always the issue with bad beer, allowing beer to sit in a broken cooler or warm can allow spoilage, bottom of barrels especially wheat, and improper pouring techniques can attribute to bacteria however none deadly haha. Were lucky that Missouri allows distributors to take responsibility of line cleaning, because in some states it is against the law for distributors to clean, therefore putting the responsibility on the retailer to hire out contractors and pay for it themselves. Craft beer requires a little more attention because it actually has flavor unlike light beer!

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  17. I know alot of my friends who drink Macro brews refuse to touch draft beer. They claim it always gives them headaches.

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  18. It sucks when you have to change bars because the quality of beer there doesn't match up to your taste and expectation. Yeah sure for every one customer leaving a particular bar there will be 10 more people to take their place, but this is rather a sad attitude to deal with!

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  19. Livestrong Note:
    If you sit in the Member's Area (GA season tickets) they offer $2 12oz Drop Kick Ale all night long.

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  20. I was just here yesterday and noticed that they had Bud Select 55 which means they have a CMB license. This could be why the selection is going downhill. They are able to sell whatever they want at 3.2% Alc and sometimes they will get a better price on the beer. I have seen other bars do this to get more profit and buy from less distributors. I hope this isn't the case.

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  21. How is this article even serious? You claim to be there to enjoy the company of those around you, but selfishly leave/"X-out" the bar because of personal beer preference. This is just your personal agenda to bash the Macro's and stereotype rather than educate and progress craft. That's a sad way to advance beer overall. Who's the real douche here?

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