beer and food

Dear Restaurateurs

We really enjoyed eating at your restaurant. We couldn’t fault the food, service or ambience. You have obviously put a lot of thought and care into every detail.

Oh, except the beer selection, obviously.

One of the beers you sell is undrinkably bad, despite the cute locally-themed label; another is pasteurised, filtered, packaged in clear bottles and stored in direct sunlight, and has thus also been rendered undrinkable; the rest of the list is made up of ‘international lagers’ brewed in Wales and England under license. You are selling bad, spoiled and fake beer.

You might not be at all interested in beer and that would be fine if you weren’t selling it. As it is, the careless way you go about it suggests a lack of taste and attention to detail.

You wouldn’t spend all that time, money and effort on the restaurant only to play nothing but Jive Bunny’s greatest hits on a loop over the stereo; or lay the tables with plastic cutlery; or decorate the walls with pictures cut from FHM.

What we’re saying is, your crappy beer list is not OK. It is a jarring note. It makes us wonder if you’ve also been careless in areas we know less about such as your wine selection or even the cooking.

Sort it out.


Boak & Bailey

PS. You could hire a member of the British Guild of Beer Writers to advise you, or read one of these books, or go on one of these courses.

41 replies on “Dear Restaurateurs”

Had lunch at Hix, Smithfield the other day and was pleasantly surprised by the selection there. Generally though, restaurants still struggle.

Is under licence really ‘fake’…?

Oops — just rescued this from the spam comment folder!

Do you think fake’s unfair? We’re referring to anything being marketed as, e.g., Spanish, but not made in Spain, and listed as “imported” or “international” on the menu.

Agreed, to market it under ‘export’ is just wrong and labelling should be clear You have to make a call as to whether ‘Spanish’ is the style of beer or the location it was brewed in…

However, there are many benefits of brewing under licence: freshness being the key one. I had the same conversation with Jim Koch the other day (we’re about to brew Sam Adams under licence). His point was he wants his beer enjoyed while it is in the best possible condition. He pointed out that a Sam Adams in the States could have been brewed in any of three locations, you could not taste the difference. The real challenge was ensuring consistency across multiple locations – regardless of national boundaries.

I agree with Phil below though…the other major challenge is presentation and service. It’s sad when beer is treated as an after thought.

We’ll be interested to try UK brewed Sam Adams. If it’s presented as American and it’s not clear (obvious, even) that it’s brewed in the UK, then we’ll be a bit disappointed. As it is, we’re skeptical that freshness is really the motivation behind the decision, although it might well be an added bonus.

We’ll do a mail out (likely to be the end of the year), so we’ll make sure you’re on the list.

Sorry guys but I have to bring you to task on this one. What’s wrong with Jive Bunny?

Anyone who is willing to sample the theme from Hawaii Five-0 can be the soundtrack to my mediocre restaurant experience any day of the week.

All too true. Coming at this from another angle check out this exercise in pretentiouness:

For some off reason this beer tends to fetch up at the Bruges beer
festival so the first time it appeared I gave it a try. You won’t be at
all surprised to know it is a pretty dull and weedy take on a
Belgian-style wheat beer.

Always a bit depressing, unless you’re eating at a self-consciously British place like the much-missed RK Stanley. You do get nice surprises, though. I was bracing myself for macro/nitrobeer hell when we went for a meal at Giraffe with the other parents of our NCT group. It’s not overdoing it to say I was astonished that they sell bottles of White Shield.

John — we didn’t totally hate Inedit but the packaging/presentation certainly do it no favours.

TIW — White Shield is a great one for restaurants. Being
brown-bottled and bottle-conditioned, it lasts (even better — it
matures) so if it doesn’t sell for a while, it’s not the end of the
world. It’s not too ‘weird’ — people often do just want a pint of ale
with their fish and chips — and it sells itself with a classy bottle
design. Would love to see more of it about.


Oh, I don’t hate it at all – indeed it’s all very inoffensive. It just comes with this huge mountain of hype and pretentiousness that makes it out to be something that it not.

Couldnt agree more. Loads of really good restaurants near me, but for the glaring blandness of their beers menus. The only exception is a French restaurant called Gazette which offers perhaps 30 French and Belgian beers and is therefore where I am normally found.

BTW, indefensible as it is, I reckon a restaurant playing jive bunny with FHM wallpaper and plastic cutlery would probably draw enough custom to survive…

Agreed. I went to a lovely local restaurant recently, and they had 3 beers from a local brewery. All nice beers, perfectly drinkable. A stout, a best bitter, and an IPA. The waiter advised us that they were all a ‘kind of bitter’. as much as it was nice to see a local restaurant promoting local produce in this way, the fact that they were totally ignorant about the beer spoiled it. They knew all about the fish, the steak, the wine menu etc… but somehow beer wasn’t given the same thought and attention as every other ingredient in the place.

We are now running one of the largest chains of imaginary restaurants and bars in Britain. We’re floating it later this year under the name “Equity for the Deluded”.

Oh, “Equity for the Deluded” has already been done but I seem to recall it was actually called something else….

I went for a meal yesterday with family, Sunday lunch as it happens. We ate at a local pub which I’m happy to say has a fantastic range of well kept real ales, plus a good stock of Belgian & continental beers.

The restaurant is upstairs and although it has a small bar area is sort of run independently. Sadly this is where it all went horribly wrong, when asked the staff (long term) had not a clue about the beer on sale and openly admitted it in a jokey way. As we asked for beer we had to get menus and point at beers so she knew what to fetch.

Ordering two Gouden Carolus Classics to go with the sweet course, the waitress returned to the table with two half poured bottles poured into coke style tumblers much to my Belgian father in laws horror (they do have proper glassware).

To get to my long winded point, the other end of the spectrum to your experience in the post, but just as frustrating. Having the beers available but having such poorly trained staff is just inexcusable.

A pub local to me has 5 ever changing ales and 2 changing ciders. They’ve just started to expand their bottled offering and now have Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Leffe Brun and Duvel.

When I first asked for a Duvel I had to specifically ask for a glass, where I was presented with a highball. This happened a couple of times with various members of staff.

To his credit the landlord/manager apologised, unprompted, about the glassware when he served me, saying how they were still waiting for a delivery.

It doesn’t take long to put something on the wall of the kitchen/cellar/store to say “We’ve got some new stock, this is how it’s served”.

Aaaaagh, beer in a highball glass. Worse than anything ever, much worse than dimple mugs, even the ugly little half-pint ones.

And before anyone starts, a Kölsch Stange is not the same as a highball glass.

Dear Beer Geeks.

You’ve got your multi ale pubs with 20 handpumps and pictures of steam engines on the wall. Enjoy it. Don’t be trying to beer geek up all the places us norms like. I don’t want poncy gay beer in my favourite curry house, I want Cobra Lager. It keeps the beards out.

Don’t worry, we’re not after a Belgian beer fridge in the chippy — just at least one beer that isn’t shite in the kind of places we go for a treat. If wine geeks get pandered to, why can’t we?

Having said that, De Koninck with fritjes and mayonnaise is quite nice.

Are you advocating a world where it is impossible to go out and not be assured of not being anywhere near beer geeks? I avoid my local 20 hand pump pub in order that I might not have to listen to rubbish about “biscuity malt” and “citrusy aroma” and drink grog that does not have a nomenclature offensive to women. I drink in the Spoons knowing that because the grog is cheap and they serve lager, real ale twats give it a wide berth. Same with Sam Smiths. Only 1 cheap bitter, no geeks, thumbs up.

Can we not enjoy a multi cultural society where beer geeks have beer geek pubs and norms have regular places with nice regular grog that doesn’t make you gag? We can co-exist respectfully, never the twain meeting.

We’ll keep norm gaffs out of any good beer guide by keeping the hand pumps below 5 and you guys stick to your beer guide.

We certainly don’t want you eavesdropping on our conversation when we’re having dinner in a restaurant. How close are you planning to sit!?

A separate geek section? I’d accept that compromise. A separate room decorated with pictures of steam engines. It would have to be sound proof. I have no problem saying to any bearded type that found themselves in my local curry house “geek room round the back, fella. Follow the smell of stale geek beer. Room with the train pictures”

I had a bottle of Vedett last night in the local curry house that was most welcome compared to the piss a lot of them offer

That Inedit lark is quite laughable. When I tried it with a friend of mine, it smelt gorgeous didn’t do much more than that for either of us. Wouldn’t bother again.

I know you shouldn’t knock other people’s tastes but I can’t help feeling a little let down each time a top chef comes out in support of beer, raves about how much they like it and then chooses quite boring ones to promote. Off hand I remember Gordon Ramsey and Marco Pierre White both going for quite boring beers when asked. Makes me think they are just paying lip-sevice to the idea.

Or maybe they are just at a different stage in their beer journey.

Having said that I like the Rick Stein chalky’s beers.

Professor — from what we’ve seen, there is no real beer geek chef with any status. They tend to like beer (but not as much as wine) in a casual, passing fashion. The Hairy Bikers did a convincing job in their recent series but they’re not chefs, as such.

Oh, there is Tim Anderson from Masterchef, I suppose — think he’s the real deal when it comes to appreciating beer.

I think that if (insert the name of brewery/beer you/beer geeks think is interesting) had enough money to pay a celebrity chef to put their faces next to their labels, you’d see them exalting the joys if drinking/cooking with said beer. I don’t know any of the cool micros in the Barcelona area who has as much marketing cash as Damm to hire Adriá and thus you have Inèdit.

PS: For what I’ve heard Adriá likes good beer, in fact, I’ve seen somewhere that El Bulli had a not too big, but pretty interesting beer list. He seems to like money a bit more, though.

“We live in a post-CAMRA world where beer is at its most exciting not in pubs but in a growing network of urban craft beer bars. In their enthusiasm for US and world beers, strong beers, stylistic hybrids, bottled and keg beers, these bars constitute a definitive break with traditional real ale culture.”

Hey ho. Here, let me…

“Some exciting beer can be found in bars that serve a lot of keg beers. Serving keg beers is a definitive break with traditional real ale culture.”

That Robin Turner article used the phrase “post-CAMRA”, too. I sort of know what they mean — CAMRA aren’t the only good beer lobby in town anymore — but they are still very much alive and kicking.

My edit was meant to remove everything in the original that was obvious nonsense. Not only is CAMRA still alive and well, but “real ale culture” is entirely open to “US and world beers, strong beers [and] stylistic hybrids”. It’s just lazy stereotyping. (And, as a Cost-Aware Enthusiast, I’d take 500 mls of London Pride over 330 mls of 5 am Saint for the same money any day.)

One of the establishments mentioned that are introducing ‘craft beer’ into their range, Byron, have separated their beer list into ‘craft beer’ and London Pride and Peroni

Wonder how Fuller’s feel about this?!

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