20 Nov 2009 @ 3:09 PM 

Storytime. Flashback to my anniversary. My wife and I went out to dinner at our favorite local fancy-pants restaurant (fancy-pants because it’s fancy enough for me to feel like I should wear pants). It’s wonderful. Fantastic food, local ingredients, menu changes daily based on what’s available. It’s downright brilliant food.
A totally stolen picture of beer and food.
I knew ahead of time that they didn’t serve beer there (though they also do not sell local wine – only fancy French wine listed by vineyard), so it wasn’t a surprise to not see any on the menu, and while I enjoyed whatever syrah it was that the server told me would go excellently with the dishes that were served to me, I couldn’t help but pair each course with a beer in my head. It was easy, and it would have far outshone the wine in a couple of cases. It’s French food, it’s all heavy, creamy, fatty, brilliant dishes that would have balanced wonderfully with a number of excellent beers. For the most part, I even could pair every dish with a locally-made beer. It would have been a great addition to the menu.

But if you’re a fancy French restaurant, and it’s your M.O. to serve only French wines, I can’t argue… much… while I’m physically in the restaurant.

Would a Biere de Garde or Saison hurt, though? They’re in your oeuvre, and everything.

Flashback even further, in-laws are visiting. (They’re pretty much strictly wine people, but nobody’s perfect.) We are at a fancy-pants french restaurant in another part of town. They’ve got a wine list as long as my arm. And for beer?

Bud, Bud Light, Miller, Miller Light, Blue Moon, and an IPA. I forget which one. It’s not the point. I’ll come back to this.

Flashback to when I’m age 15. I used to be waitstaff at a crappy roadside restaurant in Northern Maine. At dinner, we had a wine list on the table. 6 or 8 whites and 6 or 8 reds, and then a handful of roses: the pink wine. We sold wine by the glass no matter what.

In the walk-in-freezer, we had two boxes of wine. A white and a red. They were some hopelessly generic wine. If somebody ordered a white – no matter which one – it came from the white box. If somebody ordered a red, it came from the red box. If somebody ordered a rose – I wish I was making this up – we put in 3/4 white wine and then filled the glass with red. Bam. Rose. It always amazed me how people would take a sip of their wine and say things like, “Oh, I love this one. We have it at home, it’s our favorite.” When nothing that was on the wine list was what we were advertising it was.

The beer selection at that place? Bud, Bud Light, Miller, Miller Light, PBR.

You see, that’s the kind of place that serves macrobrew. The owners are not discerning and clearly don’t care how the beverages that they’re selling compare with the food that they’re selling (which also wasn’t very great – mmm.. deep fried everything), and the patrons don’t care either. They’re looking for a cheap beer (it has its place), not for a dining experience.

If you’re an upscale restaurant, and you’ve put care into your wine list and your food selection and preparation, you should be embarrassed to be selling anything less than excellent beer.

Dear Fancy Restaurant That I Am Paying Through the Nose to Eat At,

I do not see Boon’s Farm, Night Train, Mad Dog or any Bartles and James on your drinks list. However, I do see beers that I would consider comparable. I presume that this is because of one of two reasons:

1) You don’t know better. But that’s kind of embarrassing. Presumably, you have a sommelier or somebody with enough wine knowledge to be able to pick out a decent enough wine list to serve with your food. In a pinch, that person should be skilled enough with flavors to be able to pick out comparable beers. If they really don’t, why not take the time to find somebody who does know? It shouldn’t be that hard to find somebody in your area to make recommendations. I might suggest starting with the roster of Certified Cicerones, but even a good chunk of the Certified Beer Servers out there would probably be able to help you.

2) You don’t care. But that’s beyond embarrassing. You care about your food, you care about your wine, you care about your dining atmosphere and your waitstaff, but you don’t care about the beer? You treat it like it’s some concession that you’re making rather than part of your experience. “Oh.. we have it because inevitably someone will ask for beer, but we don’t want to carry those pedestrian beverages.” It’s an insult. An insult to your customer base and even an insult to your own establishment that you can’t be bothered to care consistently about your image across everything that you serve.

Please follow through on the commitment that you’re making to the rest of your restaurant and serve excellent beer to go with your excellent food and excellent wine. It only makes sense.


This article is written with all due respect to my buddy Brian who brought this topic up to me earlier in the week. I haven’t been able to get it out of my head. So here it is, sir, my complete and utter commiseration and compassion for your business-travel-plight.

Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 20 Nov 2009 @ 03:09 PM

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