A good beer program and a versatile selection of brews can enhance any bar's menu. Certainly, having popular domestics and some seasonals on tap will put you ahead of the game. But beer is “not a commodity,” says Julia Herz, craft beer program director at the Brewers Association. “It’s the No. 1 fermented beverage enjoyed over wine and spirits.”
Knowing this, beer’s “popularity as a beverage alone should motivate any establishment to treat its beer program and presentation with care,” she adds. Satisfy your beer lovers by offering them myriad options but also educating them on the growing craft beer movement. If your customers see your passion for beer, then they’ll come back for more. “Set a goal to have your beer program become known and respected by beer lovers,” she says.
Herz gives more tips on how to run a successful beer program that can take your business to the next level:
1. Satisfy all beer lovers. No longer including American lagers from large brewing companies will satisfy all beer drinkers, says Herz. “Because of today’s small and independent U.S. craft brewers, we now have a localization of a beer movement where beer lovers expect to see diversity in a beer program and offerings from local and regional craft brewers, or (those customers) will dine elsewhere,” Herz says.
2. Expand your brands and styles offered. Herz advises bar owners to have local regional beers on their beer list, seasonal selections and an expanded number of draft offerings, as well as a great bottle list. “Create a back library for cellar/vintage beers that demand higher price points and age well,” she explains, adding that you should always promote your beer list using social media and your website.
3. Train your staff. It seems like an age-old adage, but it never gets old. “Create training programs for staff to be ‘staffed to sell,’ not just ‘staffed to serve,’” she says. “Nurture your beer-loving staff, and they will then nurture your craft beer sales,” she notes. Additionally, “consider adding some menu items that have beer as an ingredient and list this on the menu,” Herz says.
4. Glassware can make the difference. For draft beers, offer both small and larger portions, she says. “This will increase profit plus encourage” your guests to order more. Herz also advises against chilling glasses, because it can ruin the flavor or “cause foaming when pouring into a glass.” Ultimately, “stock stemmed beer glasses as you do for wine.”
5. Give beer the attention it deserves. “Establishments that give at least equal treatment to beer as is given to wine and/or spirits is then set up to best serve beer-loving customers,” she says. “Also, hiring beer lovers can help attract beer lovers.” Part of getting beer lovers to your establishment is by having beer promotions, including beer-themed dinners or guest brewers’ nights. “The passionate people at distributors and breweries want to speak with your customers and staff about why their products are so on fire and in demand,” she explains.