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 thoughts on “Dear Restaurateurs”

  1. 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’…?

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

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

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

    1. Bai­ley

      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.

  6. 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…

  7. 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.

    1. 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”.

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

  8. 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.

    1. 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”.

      1. 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.

  9. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. 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!?

          1. 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”

    2. 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

  10. You should’ve come out with me and the Mrs, Cook­ie. Cobra, no beards or san­dals. Full of Yanks tho. Can’t have every­thing.

  11. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

    1. 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.”

      1. 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.

        1. 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.)

  12. 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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