Sunday, January 15, 2012

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?

46 comments:

  1. What works for me 100% of the time is supporting places like Gomer's, Red X and Royal who are more serious about their beer than even myself. And I'm serious about it. I'm a geek and have been for quite some time. Those guys know what they're talking about, are cool enough to share their knowledge and keep me in the loop.

    If I'm enjoying a brew on premise, places like Swagger are the model. Waldo Pizza has a great beer list too, but not all their staff is up on the beers. Flying Saucer is good if you sit at the bar. Grinders is also a great combo of good beers and guys knowing what they're talking about.

    What I run into at places like Beer Kitchen and others trying to be all beer-serious, is that you tend to get a waitron lecture on what they like vs. the other places. Grinders serves tator tots...they're not giving Michael Smith a run for his money. But they do have killer brews that are also available at most liquor stores in town. Beer Kitchen had some stuff that I've never seen at Gomer's and at $20+ a bottle, I wasn't about to experiment.

    KC has made some great strides in our beer culture but we have a long ways to go overall. But it should be a fun trip at least.

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  2. Waldo Pizza in Lee's Summit has quite a selection of bottled beers. I ordered a Founders Porter a couple nights ago and was given the bottle. Then when I asked for a glass, I was given a frosty pint glass. Do they think I don't want to taste the beer? In the end, it's not a huge deal, I just waited for the glass to warm up. But I totally agree, if a place has gone to the trouble of becoming a craft beer establishment, they should at least teach the staff how to serve it properly.

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  3. The only way it will ever change - bad service that is - is for customers to let management know. (Frankly that might not help either, but it's a better option than leaving and not saying anything). Too often people leave a bad tip and then servers walk away with a bad attitude which further escalates the situation and never learn from their mistakes. For all we know, management doesn't have a clue how to serve beer properly either and they can't fix what they don't know is a problem.

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  4. Someone just lumped Red X in with the good places? Seriously? I cannot tell you how many times we have walked into that place to have one of the two that work the beer section say they can't sell something because it's not in the system yet, and it won't be for a day or two. Either they have the worst work ethic in the city, or they lie because they don't want to say they are holding it. And then if you go in for a special release beer, they like to try and pressure you into buying something else. It has gotten to the point where I only go there out of desperation, despite the fact that I drive past it 5 days a week.

    You shouldn't have held back the name in the post, Pat. Barley's needs to know just how shitty of an experience they are serving up. Most of the staff is clueless. A decent amount of the kegs are old or have dirty lines. It's a straight up waste of 99 tap handles.

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  5. Chimpotle, you probably make a good point. I didn't initially call them out because I was trying to make the post as general as possible (because I certainly have had bad experiences other places as well), but Anonymous #3 is right in that the only way it will change is for customers to let places know. Maybe if enough people start saying something to Barley's/KC Hopps, things will improve. I'm not holding my breath, though.

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  7. I think most people practice this already but since I like to read what I write, vote with your dollars. Places like that wouldn't still be in business if people didn't support their shitty practice. I'm far from snobby about the beer I drink but I can get a bit pissy if the place serving it clearly has no clue beyond the price. I don't expect to go into {casual dining steakhouse} and get great beer-service from a knowledgeable staff, but goddammit if the name of your place suggests that you might provide some sort of experience specific to better-beer drinkers, then you sure as hell better not serve my beer in a frosted shaker glass.

    And speaking of Michael Smith, anyone ever ordered a beer at Extra Virgin? Is it standard practice there to do the magic trick, Miller Lite "Pour down the center" gimmick? Because seriously, nothing compliments pickled goat dick like a flat IPA.

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  8. I vote for naming names and encourage you to call or write someone that has a vested interest in making it better like an owner or manager.

    Although no place is perfect, I think often times no one says anything when things go wrong.

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  9. Nothing gets to me more than serving the beer at the wrong temp! You might as well order 2 beers at once & let the stout sit back. This happens way too much. Ordered Red Eye Monster for myself, wife got Ursa Major. Red Eye was great temp, Ursa was closer to lower to mid 40s. Ridiculuos temp for that style! Was at All Star Pizza last week. My Union Jack & Double Jack, same damn thing! And bad lines are another for me. I love those Firestone beers, but they tasted worse on tap than they do from a bottle. IPA's should never be that way. Knowledge is another gripe, but I hope that comes with time. And my number 2 problem is price. I saw Sunturnbrew for $26/btl at Beer Kitchen. They had it at Gomer's down the street for $10. Same with Fantome Saison. Sure we pay more in a bar, but not for a beer at wrong temp & for 3x the price! Not unless it's furkin or special release. Things do need to improve with the beer bar scene & I'm glad you guys are bringing this up. I'd like to see you start a rating system on these beer bars based on some of this criteria. Temp, Clean lines, Price, Knowledge, Service, Selection, Food. May change some things around town. Thanks guys

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  10. i was at red x this last fall to find sierra nevada harvest ale. they said they were all sold out but they had some of last years estate harvest left over. the beer clerk tried over and over to convince me that the beer was still good and fine and all. i live and work very close to all star pizza and i am no longer a patron due to service.

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  11. Good post, Pat. I read this yesterday and figured it would generate some decent discussion.

    I agree that service staff should at least know what products they have, especially if it's an establishment that focuses on beer and proper beer service. In the time I've spent talking at beer schools, festivals, dinners, tastings, and brewery tours, I've learned that there are two types of questions: those that seek knowledge and those that demonstrate knowledge. The second type of question sucks.

    When we were in our beer snob phase several years ago we thought it was fun to quiz the bartender. We thought it made us look smart and cool. We were wrong. We looked like jerks.

    Most of us can walk into a bar and choose a beer with minimal assistance from the staff. Sure, there are times where we can't see the tap wall or inquire if there's anything new that's not on the menu and that's when I ask. We're not going to encourage service staff to have better beer knowledge by pointing out how little they know and making them feel bad. I take it upon myself to strike up conversations with my server/bartender and am happy to be a giver of information. I've found that the level of knowledge of the staff does not impact the flavor of my beer in any way.

    The craft beer scene is Kansas City is really getting exciting, but the only way it's going to continue to grow is through the positive support of the beer geek community. I'm not saying we need to be touchy feely hippie types, but have some patience. We can't expect every server/bartender/even manager to have crazy beer knowledge, but if they're able to get you the right beer in the right glass, I think that's something.

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  12. Jeremy, I agree on all points. I think when it comes to the craft beer community, there's a fine line between being passionate and being arrogant. Hopefully, we can all remember to act and speak up with an attitude of the former rather than the latter. As an example, Nate and I were at Martin City Brewing Company the other night and struck up a conversation with the waitress about different beers. She was in the process of trying new beers and learning about them, and to me it was great even just having that casual conversation and exchanging what we liked and disliked. I appreciate little stuff like that.

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  13. The times I've been at Barleys it has seemed like any other KC beer bar. The bartenders were knowledgeable and the servers.. not so much. But I can always get up and walk over to the bar to check out the tap handles and make a decision based on my knowledge. With the limited number of beer bars in JOCO we should all be happy Barleys is trying, even if there is room for improvement. There is always room for improvement.

    As far as glassware, I'll take a shaker glass anytime. I like big pours.

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  14. Chimpotle, What off flavors are you getting that you can call Barley's out on dirty lines? I've tasted soap in some of their glassware because it wasn't properly rinsed but I'd have trouble discerning a dirty line from a mishandled keg or a dirty glass.

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  15. As far as getting your beer at the proper temp. I think that there are too many dynamics that have to occur. Unfortunately for beer to pour properly in a lot of draught systems, they need to go through a glycol system which is at about 29 degrees. If no glycol system is needed, it is possible to get beer to flow properly, but then how many coolers would you need. With that said, the industry standard is to pour beer at 38 degrees because that is what works best. In most situations, these bars are putting the kegs in the same coolers they put food in which generally needs to be around 38 degrees. I suppose bottles might be easier to regulate if you had the room to have 2 different bottle coolers.

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  16. I agree there are places where barleys could improve but I appreciate having a decent beer selection in overland park. Le Terroir and Saboteur were on for months, not a bad thing. popular ipas always seem pretty fresh so I guess I'm not seeing any problem with old kegs during my visits.

    Kind of off topic but if you want to control every aspect of your beer drinking experience then brew your own. If every beer geek really took the time to learn the craft and see all the work and dedication that goes into making a great beer there would be more appreciation and less snobbery.

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  17. I agree there are places where barleys could improve but I appreciate having a decent beer selection in overland park. Le Terroir and Saboteur were on for months, not a bad thing. popular ipas always seem pretty fresh so I guess I'm not seeing any problem with old kegs during my visits.

    Kind of off topic but if you want to control every aspect of your beer drinking experience then brew your own. If every beer geek really took the time to learn the craft and see all the work and dedication that goes into making a great beer there would be more appreciation and less snobbery.

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  18. berbiglia thomas westportJanuary 16, 2012 at 9:19 PM

    i find it important to know that just as fast as the expectations for beer stores change so do beer stores. if you think a place is awful one week, dont necssarily write it off the next.....maybe the have that interweb.

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  19. i remember when this blog wasnt associated with a retail store. that was fun. back then royal employees didnt get undercover jobs at our stores......


    nice to meet you brad.

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  20. thomas, Brad who writes for KC Beer Blog is not the same Brad that works at Royal Liquor, just so you know.

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  21. Ok, looks like we have a few things to clear up here. First, I am Brad Hargrave, writer for the KC Beer Blog. I am not Brad Isch, the Beer Manager at Royal Liquor. We are two different people.

    Second, if you are referring to the fact that we have promoted Royal Liquor by posting about their tasting events or mentioning that we found a limited beer there, that is not because we are associated with the store, its because this blog focuses on beer news and we feel that beer tastings and the availability of rare beers are things our readers want to know about.

    Brad (from Royal) is a knowledgeable and passionate advocate for craft beer in this town. We have asked bars, restaurants, and liquor stores to contact us if they have a beer event or receive a rare beer our readers should hear about and we will do what we can to help spread the word. As a reader of the blog, Brad knows this and so far, at least since Pat and I took over, he is the only liquor store representative to take us up on it.

    If any liquor store or bar in the city has a beer event they would like to promote, all they have to do is contact me and I will write about it. Its that simple.

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  22. Are Thomas Berbiglia Westport and Thomas the same person?

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  23. Brad at Royal does a great job of not only getting rarer selections and putting on events, but also of communicating directly with the public via facebook/twitter about said items (and with this blog I guess).

    For some reason, other liquor store proprietors and/or workers seem to resent this. Just the other day I had the proprietor of another establishment openly curse him when I asked if they had something stock b/c I said "Royal has it, but I was hoping to not drive all the way down there".

    Seems others could do themselves a favor by sharing his passion for quality beers AND his willingness to deal with what I'm sure can be frustrating side effects of that type of strategy.

    KCBeer Blog seems open to helping spread the word as well. Just the other day I dropped into Berbiglia on 103 and they had a wider selection of Green Flash than any store I've seen. Never would have known without the comment section of this blog.

    I'd focus less on resentment and more on communication with the public if I ran such a business.

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  24. Even though this blog is now sponsored by Royal, I don't have a problem calling them out. I've been in there a few times and have come across employees that had no clue what they were doing, and have offered no assistance.

    The first instance was when the Epic Brewing / Dogfish Head collaboration, Portamarillo, was released. A tweet was sent saying it was in stock, and I went in a few hours later to ask about it, and the guy looked at me and said, "I have no idea what you are talking about." He didn't even try to look for it, or anything.

    The second occurrence was last summer when I was looking for a bottle of Double Jack. I didn't see any in the cooler, so I asked the guy (different person than before) if they had any stored in back. His response, "How am I supposed to know?" Uh, because you work here?!?

    So, did I stop going there? No. I told Brad about these two events, he apologized, and said that he will make sure there is better communication surrounding new releases, and that his staff is better trained. I have yet to have any issues since then.

    Like others have said, tell a manager/supervisor what the issue is, and it will more than likely be resolved. If you don't see any improvement, then take your business elsewhere.

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  25. Greg, you are right, we are very open to spreading any information. But, as you mention, it's about places being proactive and letting us (and the public) know what's going on. There are 5 different ways to get in touch with me or Brad listed on the Contact tab.

    Also, if you pay attention to my comments on the blog or tweets, I've mentioned buying beer at Gomer's, Berbiglia, Price Chopper, Brown Bag, etc. Of course I enjoy shopping at Royal, but Brad just hasn't offered me an exclusive contract that is lucrative enough for me to bring me talents there permanently. Come on Brad, where's that beer blog payola!

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  26. This is Brad Isch from Royal. As Brad Hargrave mentioned we are not the same person. I am sure we can even produce a witness or two that has seen us both in the same room at the same time to corroborate our claim to be two entirely different people. I can also assure any concerned parties that Mr. Hargave, Pat, or even Bull E. Vard when he was running this blog, have ever been employed by or received payment(in any form)from myself or Royal Liquor. Nor have I taught any of them any sort of secret handshake. However I refuse to confirm or deny the existence of said handshake...but we should save that for an entirely different set of accusations that often get thrown around.
    All joking aside, if anyone has an issue with or question about the way I run the beer department for Royal feel free to contact me. I'm easy enough to reach through Royal's FB & twitter accounts or, Drop by Royal and talk to me, I'm there six days a week. I'm open to discussion and always looking to improve the store.
    Pat, Mr. Hargrave(as I shall now refer to you for fear of otherwise opening some sort of interdimensional vortex through which unspeakable horrors will descend upon us...who knew?), I'm afraid the only Payola" I can offer is a good selection and the promise to give a damn about the beer. I hope that will be sufficient.

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  27. Thomas from Berbiglia Westport and Thomas from 75th and Stateline, are both assistant managers of Berbiglia and have come into multipul liquor stores trying to stealing using their "beer knowledge" on newer employees esp on the night shifts. Thomas Woodward is his name and he used to brag about stealing evil twin from Royal when I worked for him...thats the spying he is reffering to.

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  28. SPIES! THE LOT OF YOU!

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  29. With great respect to the passionate readers of this blog, I question whether posts like this further your cause. The goal should be to have great restaurants offer great beers to enhance your dining experience. When they do, this should be applauded. These beers are generally offered with lower profit margins to cater to the people who enjoy them. Even in restaurants specifically built to cater to the passionate beer drinker, these beers make up a small portion of revenue (and a smaller portion of the profits)

    When you raise the stakes by calling out those who offer these products for not spending additional money on training, glassware, and advanced tap systems, you are coming dangerously close to biting the hand that feeds you. It was not that long ago that Sam Adams was about as much as you could expect at a restaurant. The restaurant industry is moving to provide you with rapidly expanded selections. This sort of backlash against them is more likely to reduce your options rather than expand them.

    I am one of those people pleading your case to restaurant owners. It is not the easiest sell in the world to explain why they should offer a product with less profit margin than anything else on the menu. I point to places like this to show that there is a market for these products. Criticizing those who are moving in the right direction does not make others want to follow suit.

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  30. Hi David, thanks for commenting. To me, the problem with your argument is that it suggests that we as consumers should lower our standards and accept subpar service based on fear that these establishments might stop offering the products we desire. To me, that is fairly baseless. To use a restaurant analogy again, that's like saying that if a restaurant constantly serves overcooked steaks and has servers that don't seem to care, we shouldn't complain and should just feel lucky that they are serving steaks and not just burgers and fries. The phrase 'the customer is always right' wasn't born without reason. Restaurants and bars are in the service industry. There is an obligation there for them to meet customers' needs and wants. Granted, the occasional customer takes that concept too far, but I think the requests and ideas I've outlined in the post above are not in excess, especially for places that go out of the way to market themselves as a craft beer establishment.

    You mention that we come dangerously close to 'biting the hand that feeds us', but the fact is, there are multiple hands available to feed us. This post was not directed at every single beer bar in Kansas City, as noted at the beginning. There are multiple 'hands' that have shown that they can feed us as well as provide great service, a knowledgeable staff and a genuine concern for providing a true craft beer experience. So why should we settle for less when it's been shown that it can be done? Why should we spend our money and time at places that don't want to make that effort when we can do so at venues that can and will?

    The criticisms above are not aimed at those who are moving in the right direction, but rather the ones who seem to be moving backwards or seem to be unaware of customer issues. These suggestions and concerns are raised because we WANT to have options, not because we want to shun them or shut them out.

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  31. I am not disagreeing with you in regards to places that market them as such, but there is a vast middle ground. To use your steak analogy, it would be like expecting every place that offers steak to live up to the example of the finest steakhouse in town. If the local bar and grill offered a steak on the menu to please those who enjoyed only steaks, it would be a service provided. If they were then told that they needed to buy special plates, have a dedicated steak chef, and offer a variety of cuts, they would most likely just stop serving steaks. That doesn't mean the steakhouse goes out of business. It just lessens the opportunity to enjoy a steak when you aren't selecting the restaurant. Eventually, there are less cows being sold and the entire industry suffers.

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  32. David, Thankfully you in KC have a multitude of choices in your quest to get your craft beer drank. Barley’s isn’t doing themselves any favors by not offering quality service to go along with their large offerings of beers. In the 4 years I spent bitching and moaning about bars, beers and distributors in KC, I’ve only had one negative reaction from the people in charge of a place I panned (and went out of business a short 3 months later). Many places appreciated and took to heart the criticisms and contacted me to thank me for the feedback. KC Hopps can either ignore this post and what its best customers are actually thinking or they can improve their service.
    Craft beer drinkers aren’t some shifty bunch of drifters that are lucky to be served, they’re an affluent bunch of customers that increase the bottom line by purchasing a high margin product repeatedly. We shouldn’t act as if bars, restaurants and liquor stores are doing us a favor by selling us the products we’ll drive across town to purchase.
    KC Hopps is a fairly big business that should be used to criticism on all fronts. They’ve decided to compete in the craft beer bar arena and they should either listen to fair criticisms of their shortcomings or they should not be surprised when all they’re selling is Blue Moon seasonals to an everchanging and shrinking clientele.

    (This was my response to the first comment from David, while I was typing he responded again. I'm not one to throw away a bunch of words so I'm posting this anyway)

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  33. Great debate here. I like seeing different point of views, even though I don't agree with all of them. Good to know about the temperature serving stuff too concerning the draft & glycol systems. Did not know about that. I'll continue to just order 2 beers at once & let the stout/imperial IPA sit a bit. And I also wish we had more places like Royal Liquors north of the river. Brad seems to be in touch with his clientelle & he was great the few times I've been in there. But without being snobs, let's DO bite the hand that feeds us if they continue to feed us scraps. We DO need to demand a higher standard in the restaurants, especially when we are paying so much for the product.

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  34. Let's put things into context.

    KC Hopps did not decide to compete in the craft beer bar scene in KC. They pioneered it.

    Are they as hardcore as Toronodo and Map Room? No. Are they as tapped in to the current beer geek aesthetic as The Foundry? No. Are they packed every night at every one of their restaurants with people that have different priorities than us and enjoy eating and drinking there? Yes.

    Dirty lines are a problem, but the way beer is sold at retail in 99% of the bars in this country (and I think 100% in KC), that is the distributor's job and not the bars. I'm not a fan of that practice, and I got ridiculed in these comments for expressing that opinion, so let's leave it there.

    The rest of the problems are just a matter of priority. The beer knowledge among typical waitstaff is no better at The Flying Saucer and not great anywhere in town (possible exception: Beer Kitchen but mostly because the place is small). Nobody in town has managed to put together a crew of 50 beer nerd servers. Everyplace has sketchy beer knowledge away from the bar. Why does everyone else get a pass if this is so important?

    Basically what I am getting at is that U2 didn't change, you did. Listen to Radiohead if it makes you feel better. But it is ridiculous to say U2 sucks when they are still selling out stadiums.

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  35. I don't want to give anyone a pass on their beer knowledge. And my complaint is not so much beer knowledge (what style of beer would go best with this menu item), but the staff at Barley's routinely cannot even tell me what seasonal beers are on tap. I could give a crap about glassware or temperature. If KC Hopps feels it's not worth their time to educate their staff, they should at least be putting inserts in their menus.

    The U2 analogy falls pretty flat. Bands change members, bars change managers. Barley's is far from posting sold out shows every night. Maybe they should look into pulling a reunion tour.

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  36. Likewise, 75th Street Brewery is usually pretty desolate.

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  37. I'll throw in my complaint. And it's along the lines of what Chimpo has said. My biggest, and I feel the most egregious problem, is not knowing what the hell beers you even have. How hard is it to make a list everyday, or have a big board, of what you actually have and what the freaking price is? Harry's in the River Market and Swagger I will call it, they only ever have about 1 out of every 4 beers I actually order. I'm sure it's a nightmare for the waitress because she has to keep coming back and getting a new order while ignoring other customers. Or I want to check on the price of something so I'm not charged $9 for a bomber of Deschutes that I can get up the street for $2.99 (looking at you Foundry). I don't really need a wait staff that is knowledgeable about beer styles and hop profiles and whatever...but freaking know what's available. Or managers of these places, make a freaking list everyday of what you have if you're not going to require the wait staff to know.

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  38. Agree, display your prices please.

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  39. Josh,

    I have found a perfect solution for warming up stouts and porters that can cut your waiting time from 15 or so minutes to 13 seconds. It's a simple solution that you probably haven't thought of - the microwave. In your comments on the Weekly Bar Buzz post, you referenced an article on ratebeer. Well, you must've overlooked this - http://www.ratebeer.com/forums/i-finally-perfected-the-microwave-for-long-necks_175831.htm

    As you can see in the comments of the post, many people have discovered this valuable trick. Try it next time and you'll never wait for beer to warm up on the counter again. I love getting those bold roasty, chocolatey notes down my gullet as soon as possible. As Mark Starr used to say, "Nuke the Hops!"

    Cheers!

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  40. Craft beer is almost never offered for a lower margin. If you are having to sell if for a lower margin, that's your own mistake. Usually it's BMC products you find at lower margins.

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  41. For the most part you are correct in saying that in KC the service staff doesn’t know much about beer. This is something that we are addressing at Beer KC, and something that we know needs to change. We try to hire only individuals with existing beer knowledge or those who are willing to learn, but that doesn’t always happen. We wouldn’t be able to staff our restaurants, which is why we have a beer training manual for every server/bartender, and they are required to attend 2 beer classes a month.
    It took me, and I’m assuming all of you, years to obtain the breadth of knowledge we have and the average tenure of a server in a restaurant is only a year and a half. Managing an ever changing beer list and getting the staff the information they need is a constant battle which is why we provide beer menus for our guests that list not just the beers and prices, but also list a brief description of the beer including abv, style, and flavor profile. This also helps our servers to guide you in the right direction. Some things fall through the cracks, and we do our best to fill those cracks when that happens.
    We are all in this together to continue positively growing the beer culture in KC. KC is still very new at this, and every person who posts on this blog is a part of it. If you have any suggestions please contact me personally at randyld@beerkc.com

    P.S. We clean our own lines :)

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  42. Thanks Randyl, for cleaning your own lines and letting me know that you do. I'll change my guestimate to 98%. For the record, I think the practice of distributors cleaning lines makes all the sense in the world for most bars who would do a much worse job otherwise. However I think that beer bars, or at least the best beer bars will take control of as much of the process as they can.

    I think that having a decent sized restaurant with an exclusively beer semi-expert waitstaff is an impossible standard. That doesn't even happen at, say, The Falling Rock and I consider that place the mecca (though a lot of people hate the style of service there, different can of worms). I just think we tend to forgive the odd transgression at the places we like and focus when it happens at the places we don't. If you don't like bar X you'll tell everyone everything that went wrong, if you like bar Y you'll tell everyone that everything went right. Anyplace that stays open is doing some things right at least for a lot of people. No place where you can spend less than three figures does everything right all of the time.

    Being able to figure out what is on tap is the most valid criticism of Barley's and one I agree with and one that they out to be able to fix. Whether it is with a reasonably up to date beer list (Foundry), leveraging the fact that most of their taps never change and putting the rotating ones on a board (Flying Saucer) or a live electronic beer board that shows an estimate of how much beer is left in each keg by tracking POS in real time (Bailey's). Okay, I probably shouldn't hold my breath for the last one.

    Almost all problems are solved by sitting at the bar where you can see the handles and where the most knowledgeable staff are. I realize that isn't a great solution for those with kids (although it's not a bar in Missouri if there isn't a toddler sitting at it).

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  43. CraftSuds,
    I did the microwave thing awhile back & had it down perfect, but then a friend of mine said that it messes up the molecular structure of your beer & throws things off. I'm not sure if this is true. Thought it sounded valid & he's a real smart guy, so I quit doing that. I should prob research it some more online. I thought I noticed a different taste after thinking about it but may have been one of those mind games.

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  44. Heating things is known to change the molecular structure of them. The microwave is not changing your liquid beer into gas though, so you should be OK...aside from the fact that you are microwaving beer.

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  45. Yeah that always felt weird to me too. I'd rather let it sit out for 20 min if I'm not at home. The handful of times I did it I wasn't getting it actually warm, just taking some of the chill out. Power level 2 for about a minute. It was better, but that molecular thing still lingers in my mind.
    I enjoy these discussions & hearing everyone's opinions. Have you guys considered having a diff style of forum for beer questions? You know where you can see the question/subject & hop in & talk about it. Although I love it now, I think that would make this site even better!

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  46. FWIW, I went to Barley's for the first time in a while last night to try Goose Island King Henry. Pretty good timing considering the debate on this thread. The waitress was not a beer geek by any stretch, but she did say that the servers were educated on the beer yesterday morning. She seemed interested in how I knew about the beer, what it was, and how I knew that they had it in. She served in the proper glassware and the beer was not served ice cold. Overall I was pleased with my experience and will give them a shot more often because of it.

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