Selection vs. Service - The Beer Bar Conundrum

Don't even THINK about asking her what's on the rotator taps
 Over the past couple weeks, I've had discussions with different craft beer drinkers that have all had one unfortunate common thread: the trend of beer bars having an above average selection of craft beer to choose from, but service and beer knowledge that is well below average. Now, this isn't to say that every beer bar in the Kansas City area is like that, because that's certainly not the case. There are plenty of places in the area that do an excellent job of educating their staff and making an effort to make craft beer an experience, not just a product offering. But sadly, there are places that fall well short of that mark.

I'm no beer snob. Far from it, in fact. If there's anything I hate, it's people who act pretentious and holier than thou with anything, beer included. However, that being said, if I am going to be paying a premium to enjoy my beer at an establishment outside my home, I expect a certain level of service. Just the other night, at a bar/restaurant that shall remain unnamed, I asked the waitress if there were any special beers on tap at the moment. She hemed and hawed momentarily, before pulling out a piece of scrap paper with a scribbled list, throwing it down on the table and saying 'Here, you can just look at this.' Really? Now, let's look at this from a different perspective. If someone had been there to eat and asked what the food specials were, I bet she would have rattled them off from memory. Certainly she wouldn't have thrown a handwritten piece of paper down and told them to read for themselves. So why should a beer drinker be treated any differently? Especially when the aforementioned bar goes out of it's way to market themselves as a beer bar with a great selection?

And it's not even just a matter of knowing what special beers are available. There's glassware. Serving someone a bottled IPA without a proper glass is like serving someone a steak without a knife. And to me, basic understanding of beer styles should be commonplace. I don't expect every waiter, waitress or bartender to be a Master Cicerone, but they should at least have a slight clue if asked about a certain beer. And don't forget about proper maintenance of the taps. A wide selection of beers means nothing when many of them are Old kegs or have dirty tap lines.

Of course, all of these things rely on the companies themselves taking the time to educate and inform their employees, which is the true core of the issue. It becomes pretty obvious which places are much more concerned about revenue and the bottom line than about customer satisfaction and providing a true 'exBEERience' (don't worry, I'm kicking my own ass for using that horrible pun).

I understand that the food and drink industry, like any business, is about making money. But the fact is, if I'm out drinking high dollar beers, chances are I'm going to rack up a decent bill. A decent bill coupled with great service equals a great tip. So, if a venue provides an equal focus on both service and selection, there's a much better chance that my beer dollars will be spent there and they will reap the benefits. But there seems to be a naive thought at some places that as long as they line up a wide variety of beers, people will come regardless of how lacking the service is. However, with the growing number of craft beer establishments in Kansas City, these places better start rethinking that concept.

Maybe I'm blowing this out of proportion a bit, but I'm sure there are people that will agree with me. As I said above, if I'm paying the extra money to drink my beer at your bar or restaurant, give me something in return, a reason to want to come.

What do you think? How important is service vs. selection to you when selecting a beer bar to go to?

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