Friday, September 3, 2010

The Session #43- Walking into a New Kid's Place

The Beer Babe brings us Session #43- Welcoming the New Kids:
With the astounding growth of the number of craft breweries this year, chances are there’s a new one in development, or has just started out in your area. My challenge to you is to seek out a new brewery and think about ways in which they could be welcomed into the existing beer community. How does their beer compare to the craft beer scene in your area? Are they doing anything in a new/exciting way? What advice, as a beer consumer, would you give to these new breweries?

Take this opportunity to say hello to the new neighbors in your area. Maybe its a nanobrewery that came to a festival for the first time that you vowed to “check out” later. Maybe it’s a new local beer on a shelf on the corner store that you hadn’t seen before. Dig deeper and tell us a story about the “new kids on the block.” I look forward to welcoming them to the neighborhood!

In my life, I have had to make some radical changes in the last 6 months.  Buying a new home, moving, commuting 75 miles each way to work and preparing for a wedding (we are doing 90% of everything for this wedding).  This has taken up much of my time.  But I have been able to notice the brewpubs that keep opening up.  (Sure, we aren’t Portland, but we have grown in Central PA too.)

The last couple of years, my home area has grown with beer, and sadly (not really sadly) I have been absent of it, due to me living in Baltimore.  We always had Selin’s Grove Brewing and Bullfrog Brewing, which are great- but we were missing out on more selection. Now comes word of a new brewpub trying to open in Bloomsburg, as well as Bavarian Barbarian, Breaker and One Guy Berwick Brewing.

I am going to forgo talking about the brewpubs, you should all try your local one out, or go to one mentioned above.  I am going to talk about walking into a brewpub that isn’t your home base- and how you should be treated.

I love to travel.  I don’t do it as much as I would like, but I love to travel.  What brewpubs have to realize is that everyone walking into it matters.  My post takes me to a friend’s bachelor party in Morgantown, WV.  As the others were still on the golf course (I got there later than them), I was able to find Morgantown Brewing, which I posted here.  There are four things that I feel a brewpub needs to establish to be successful to all clients (beer drinkers)- Morgantown Brewing as some examples.

1.  Education- the bartenders/servers at the brewpub have to understand the beer.  At Morgantown, I asked for the beer list.  The bartender wanted to help out while I was browsing the list.  I got to the bar right as it opened, looking for lunch and a beer or two.  The bartender did not know my BeerQ level (Beer IQ), and did a great job explaining some of their beers.

2. Service- the servers/bartenders might be knowledgeable, but shouldn’t talk down to someone who is walking into a brewpub for the first time (or someone who they think is walking into a brewpub for the first time).  They should ask basic questions to understand the customers BeerQ, as to not insult them nor sound like an elitist.  At Morgantown, the bartender was nice.  She was able to go back and forth with me when I asked intelligent questions, or when I asked dumb questions about the beer.  I didn’t need someone to tell me what a Scotch ale was, just someone to tell me if theirs was hop heavy (it wasn’t) or malt heavy (it was).  Also along the lines of service, you cannot have a 40 minute wait between beers.  Sure if you are trying to serve a million people in a small bar, that is one thing.  But if I go to a brewpub, there is 5 servers for 20 people (at the bar and tables), I should be able to get a beer- this was not at Morgantown.

3. Good Beer- this should be obvious.  Good beer will always bring people back.  Go ahead and make the basic IPA, pale ale, stout, brown ale, pilsner (or “lager”), blonde and even throw in an Alt.  Those are base beers that most brewpubs have, but brewpubs that stand out take it to a new level.  Brew some great Belgian dubbels or triples, throw a marzen in the mix or just drop cherries/raspberries/chocolate/etc. in the beer.  Show me you are trying.  If it fails, it fails- but it will bring me back.

4. Regular customers- when you get people coming in once/twice a week, take notice.  These people will get others to come, who will tell others to come.  They can be welcoming to newbies or a deterrent.  They are some of the first people that I notice when I sit at the bar, because they are right next to me.  Granted, it is not up to the brewpub to supply the regulars, but with Education, Service and Good Beer, regulars will form.

Hopefully my thoughts made sense to you, and you can agree with me.  If you feel there are other keys to a great brewpub, let me know.

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