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Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Beer Selection at High End Restaurants

Tonight I happened to eat at a 'what you may call a fancy restaurant' and the lack of quality beer had me shaking my head. I have noticed a number of these high end places boast an extensive wine menu, some multiple pages in length, but when it comes to their beer selection, it's over before it begins.

The place I attended tonight had three full pages of different wines to browse through while beer was reduced to a short paragraph, and even then there were no names, just the prices. Our server made his way over to our table and rolled through the draught line-up, "Molson, Coors Light, Rickards Red, Rickard's White, Heineken, blah, blah, blah." Creemore, my usual saviour in a situation like this, was noticeably absence from his words. I asked to hear their bottle menu and received the same line I hear so often: "Keith's, Labatt Blue, Stella, blah, blah, blah."

Our server was great, a really nice guy who seemed to really enjoy his job; but when I told him I felt like a steak and he mentioned that a nice cold pint of Rickard's White (even after I ordered a caesar to start) would be great with it, I started to wonder - If these places can afford to have so many wines, and the server's all seem to have some knowledge in their qualities, then they can surly afford to invest in some interesting beers to match, compliment or contrast their creative food menu, along with educating their staff.

Look at how successful beerbistro has been. Stephen Beaumont has helped many places with preparing beer menu's, and all for the better. From large widely recognized restaurants to places like the Abbott on the Hill, a place that serves amazing food and great beer. But what is taking so long, especially with these upscale restaurants. Will the customers shun craft beer? I don't believe so. In fact, I believe that pouring beers with character and putting a little bit of work into the menu (beer) would only increase sales and also help to bring in a new crowd.

Places don't have to convert to the beerbistro level, just offer something new, something bold, something to be enjoyed with your food. A good example would be Joe Biadali's in downtown Toronto. The place features a pretty straight focused clientele of bankers, financial guru's, lawyers and other high flyin people, and their beer menu consists of the Inbev and Diego brands. But recently Cameron's Brewing Co. had a keg hooked up and sales were fantastic. People are looking for change and I think the tide is slowly turning...slowly.

Another example is Fionn MacCool's. Now, readers of this blog know that I support my locals and tend to stay away from the large corporate owned pubs, but Fionn MacCool's newest marketing endeavour features some good beers that I think most people would endorse. Dogfish Head 60min, Brooklyn Lager and Anchor Steam are part of this new development and is great for beer drinkers.

I understand why some of these places stick to the big guys. Money. Simply put. "Hey, tell you what. You sell x amount of kegs this month and we'll be sure to sneak you in some extras next month." Everyone knows this happens, it's just not said enough. It's time to step up and get some of the good stuff on tap.

2 comments:

Mark said...

There is one local restaurant that is really into wines. The beer list is the usual suspects... BUT they also have 750ml bottles of Unibroue La Fin du Monde, Maudite and Blanche de Chambly, and they even bring them out in a wine bucket and give you nice glasses. In essence, they treat the Unibroues like wine, and I like this approach... it's primarily a wine place, so what better way to create a bit of a crossover for beer?

bcbrews said...

Vancouver is very much in the same boat. The two upscale restaurants with decent beer lists would be Boneta and Chambar. FigMint has done a handful of beer events that have been very well attended, but it's still early days. I am trying to educate the local restauranteurs, but the kickbacks from the macro brewers are hard to compete against. People will have to vote with their wallets once they raise their standards enough to refuse industrial swill. In the meantime, I'm working with smaller ethnic restaurants, like House of Dosas and Sate Satu, to educate them on beer pairing and improving their beer selections. I've found them to be very eager in using this as a competitive differentiator. Another case in point is the Alibi Room. At the beginning of 2008, they decided to focus their draught lines on BC craft beers. They now have 19 taps and have become a local beer shrine; excellent food to boot!

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