I’m normally a wine drinker, but when I was pregnant with the twins, I really started craving beer. I’d be drinking my hot water with lemon, but loved the aromas and color of beer in a way I never have before. Now that the kids are here, my husband and I enjoy a craft beer on date night. But it can’t be just at any bar, it has to be at a Good Beer Bar (GBB).
Here’s how to spot a good beer bar:
1) The offerings on draft are written on a chalkboard.
That means the beers rotate through the bar on a frequent enough basis that the bar has given up printing what’s on tap on their menus. Also, bonus points if the date that each keg was tapped is listed.
2) The offerings of bottled beers should be large.
I’m talking long enough to take up an entire page of a typically sized menu. Bonus points if the bartender hands you a three ring binder when you ask for a list of their bottled selection.
3) There’s a sweet spot for the ambiance.
A good beer bar is certainly not brightly lit, but should not be too dark to be able to read. It should also not have ferns of any variety. The music should be at a low volume as Beer lovers can be chatty and prefer to have their conversations at a lower decibel than the apple martini crowd.
4) A GBB will understand if a customer is overwhelmed by their selection.
In order to assist someone in making a decision it is common for a bartender to offer a shot-glass sized “tester”. This was a wonderful revelation to me.
5) An honest GBB bartender would be able to help you pair anything on the menu.
If you’re on the fence about the place, ask for a wine list. When the barkeep goes to retrieve it, consider leaving to search for a better bar.
6) Beer can be more than a lifestyle, it’s a calling.
Bartenders at a GBB are the “true believers” and should see their role as part mystic, part shaman, part educator. If you seem indecisive about a beer to choose from and the bartender seems uninterested in assisting you in your quest, then something is amiss. If you haven’t already, try #5.
7) A GBB will have beers that match the season.
Crisp, cool fall weather will pair nicely with spiced pumpkin ale. Summer time heat can be beat with a refreshing wheat beer, possibly brewed with a hint of summer time fruit. If you are looking at a summer beer on tap in January, it’s time to consider moving on to find a proper GBB.
8) Count the number of beers they have on tap.
A true GBB will have at least 8, preferably more. Remember to discard any domestics (especially light ones) from your count.
9) An “Around the World” beer club.
They’re not as in vogue as they once were, but an established GBB should be expected to have had an “Around the World” beer club at some time in its operation.
10) You can pour your own.
See photo above taken at Augustiner Bräu in Salzburg. Actually what I’m doing is cooling off the mugs under cool water so that when I take them to be filled the cool temperature will create a nice foamy head. But we all can dream can’t we?
What’s your favorite GBB? Be sure to include the city and your top pick!