Saturday afternoon, I went to a 3-week-old craft beer bar on the fringes of Boston’s Faneuil Hall tourist district, which is a tricky location to open a place with dozens of exotic draft beers and no macro lager. I’m not implying that “tourists,” as a class of human, are bad at beer — Massachusetts is no more tasteful than any other state, except for Pennsylvania — but the location means you’re paying super-high rent and have to please a broader range of tongues than a typical beer-geek clubhouse does. Hell, my wife and I only wandered in because it was close to the aquarium. In a spot like that, you’ve got to serve all kinds of people, if not all kinds of beer.
Anyhow, I had a good time at the Ginger Man. Great selection, fair prices, the pretzel was no more dispiriting than all the rest of them are (do I have unrealistic bar-pretzel expectations?), and the eggplant sandwich was downright excellent. I had a Sierra Nevada strong ale aged in absinthe barrels! And the service was hauntingly patient with the crazy woman to my immediate left, who did not settle on a beer until her EIGHTH sample pour. It was stunning. After she pronounced number 5 to be “too cidery” (a common problem for a GODDAMN CIDER), the bartender fetched the manager over, and after a few false starts, he was able to talk her into some double IPA or another.
None of this detracted from my experience, so I don’t relate this story to complain about the bar or even the crazy patron, but rather to point out that, yes, the American tipping system is weird as hell and can lead to bartenders being drastically overcompensated relative to their food-service peers, but holy shit the things they have to put up with sometimes! Bars are the most magical places on earth, and we patrons should be on our best behavior whenever we’re allowed inside one.
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However, bars owe us a bit in return. I recently asked Twitter to pet their biggest bar peeves, the more insightful of which are presented below, along with a few of my own. What’d we forget?
1. Basic Beer Information
Please tell me what style I’m buying, how much I’m paying, how much I’m getting, and how much booze is in there. It’s nice to know where it comes from, and some people get off on IBUs, but at a bare minimum I can get by with style, price, volume, and ABV.
2. Clean Glassware
I’m not trying to be the sort of killjoy who points out every bubble sticking to every glass on Beer Instagram, but a scummy container wrecks whatever it holds. I say this with the authority of a man wasting a beautiful heart inside a beer writer’s body.
3. Half Pints
In my perfect beer world, every bar would sell 3-ounce pours of 78 different beers, as does the Great Lost Bear in Portland, Maine, but I understand that can be a huge hassle, and I don’t demand an endlessly customizable drinking experience. But if you sell a pint of beer for $7, there’s no good reason you can’t offer a half-pint for $4. I’ll happily pay a bit of a per-ounce surcharge.
4. Honest Pints
Please don’t try to pass off high-heeled, thick-walled 12-ounce glasses as “pints.” You have every right to make your standard pour whatever size you want, and to charge however much you please. But don’t be deceptive about it. “Pint” is a unit of measure, not a shape of glassware.
5. Don’t Freeze The Glasses
Most draft beer is served colder than ideal to begin with, there’s no need to compound the problem by garnishing the glass with shards of ice.
6. Clean Tap Lines
Draft beer lines should be professionally (or at least competently) flushed at least once a month, and ideally twice as often. And they should be outright replaced every year or so, too. They’re plastic, after all. You ever reheat lasagna in Tupperware? At a certain point, all the scrubbing in the world simply won’t get the job done.
7. Don’t Let The Nasty-Ass Spigot Touch My Beer
Just about every single thing in a bar that isn’t alcohol, bleach, or my mom is completely filthy. Please hold my beer glass below the tap.
8. Consistent Music Volume
Regular patrons deserve a fighting chance on guessing whether they’ll be able to comfortably read, talk, nap, or hear their tears plop into their glass on any given afternoon. Note that I’m not trying to dictate whether you’re a loud bar or a quiet bar, simply asking for some measure of consistency to the extent that you can control it.
9. Updated Menus
I understand that kegs kick mid-day and printer ink costs a fortune and the dude with the good chalkboard penmanship only works Tuesdays and Thursdays, but there’s no excuse to be more than a day or so off.
10. Don’t Ignore Women
This comes up every time I ask people what bugs them about bars. If such a huge percentage of women perceive that they are given poor service based solely on their gender … maybe they’re not all 1,000 percent wrong? If you’re too stupid to treat women as full people, maybe sell your bar.
11. Put Bag Hooks Under The Bar
While we’re here, might as well request that you give bag-havers a way to keep their stuff out of the way and off the floor.
12. Beer Nuts
I really like Beer Nuts.
13. Don’t Cram In Too Many Stools
If it looks like you can fit 15 stools comfortably, avoid the temptation to wedge in 18. Better to have 15 comfortable butts than 9 lonely butts surrounded by 9 butt-holders that no butts can squeeze into.
14. Don’t Carry More Beers Than You Can Sell
Don’t make me guess which of your 17 IPAs is least likely to have been tapped 6 weeks ago.
15. Sell Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
I’m suspicious of any place with more than a couple dozen total beer options (draft, bottle, and can) that thinks it’s too cool to stock the most important beer of the last 50 years. Similarly, you should also try to carry your area’s most iconic beer if it’s not a huge quality sacrifice. I’m all for trying different things, giving new businesses a break, and providing maximum choice for your customers, but there’s a fine line between being innovative and being needlessly contrarian.