I regularly visit local, national and international beer bars and breweries, and over the years I’ve witnessed a fair share of bad bartender / beer server behavior. I realize that some of it is the fault of managers and owners, whether they’ve implemented bad policies or just refuse to train their employees, but these infractions still bother me nonetheless.
Below are the things beertenders do – or not do – that annoy me the most.
Minor annoyances …
NOT KNOWING WHAT THEY’RE SERVING
I don’t expect servers to know everything about every beer on tap, but they should at least know the basics. For example, if a bar has a beer called Clown Poison on tap, they should be able to tell me what style of beer it is and where it’s from. I understand this is difficult in bars that rapidly turn over kegs, but management should really keep employees informed. Employees, on the other hand, should also take the initiative to educate themselves about the beers they’re serving.
I get it, canning jars are inexpensive and durable, and they exude country charm. But they’re kitschy, ugly and clunky, and they make for poor beer vessels. They also have that awkward cap thread around the rim that does not dock well with lips, which can sometimes cause you to dribble beer down your chin when you take a sip.
NOT USING THE APPROPRIATE GLASSWARE
I do not consider myself a beer snob (I prefer beer enthusiast, beer fanatic, or even beer geek). Most of the time, I’m happy drinking beer out of any type of glassware (aside from jars). But certain beers really demand certain glassware. Belgian-style sour ales, barleywines and imperial stouts, just to name a few, should never be served in shaker pints. These beers deserve better, and so does your palate.
Major annoyances …
USING FROZEN GLASSWARE
Frosted mugs may seem like an ideal vessel for an ice-cold one, but if you care about flavor, mouthfeel and appearance, they’re disastrous. Ice crystals on frozen glasses cause foaming problems when filling and they carry undesirable flavors from the cooler. Then, as the ice melts, it kills the head and waters down the flavor and body of the beer. The icy glass also makes the beer too cold, causing your taste buds to be temporarily numbed with each sip, making them less effective at tasting. Additionally, the excessive coldness slows the volatilization of aromatic compounds, snuffing out hop aromas in IPAs, dulling roasted notes in stouts and muting subtle yeast esters in many styles, such as Belgian-style ales, hefeweizens, etc.
This is basic, beer-serving 101: Never carry a beer by its rim! No one wants to press their lips against something that has been handled by some grubby, money-handling fingers. Sadly, I see servers do this often, especially when putting together flights of beer, but I vividly recall one occasion when I ordered a beer from a bartender who had just walked in from a break. As soon as I put the beer up to my nose, all I could smell was cigarette smoke, which came from the bartender’s fingers, which made me want to puke.
DIPPING THE FAUCET IN THE BEER WHEN FILLING FROM A TAP
Whether bartenders are trying to control foam or just lazily resting the glass against the spigot while doing a one-handed pour, dipping the faucet in the beer while dispensing is a horrible practice that can lead to undesirable flavors and bacteria growth (especially if it’s not a high-volume tap). If it’s a foaming issue, it can be rectified by properly tuning the equipment, making sure the lines are chilled and/or using a glass rinser. Otherwise, this behavior just screams sloppy and untrained.
NOT USING CLEAN, CHIP-FREE GLASSWARE
This is pretty self-explanatory. Beer should never be served in dirty glasses, which can create unwanted nucleation points from food particles at best or unappetizing food / lipstick stains at worst. Chipped glasses also shouldn’t be used, for obvious reasons. And bartenders should NEVER refill someone’s beer in a used glass, especially if they’re faucet dippers!
NOT NOTICING ME WHEN I WANT TO ORDER A BEER
I have a lot of respect for bartenders, and I understand they work hard and they’re busy as hell. I’m also a very patient person. But when I go to a bar or a brewery, I’m not there to just stand around and look pretty. I’m there to spend exorbitant amounts of money on beer.
I don’t mind waiting for a bit if there’s a line, but when there’s not a line, I don’t want to have to wave my arms to get attention (which happens to be a pet peeve of many bartenders). I have actually walked out of bars – on many occasions – without even buying a beer, only because I couldn’t get one in a reasonable amount of time. That’s bad business.
I especially like bars that have a designated counter area for customers to walk up and order a beer – similar to a server station. When people know they’re in the queue, they’re much more relaxed and willing to wait, and I think it makes things easier on the bartender, too. Contrast that with trying to order a beer from behind people who are sitting at the bar. Or trying to get a bartender’s attention for many minutes, only to have someone walk up to the other end of the bar and immediately get served.
All of this said, I truly appreciate great beertenders, especially those that show a great respect for beer. In turn, I tip them well, and I implore others to do the same.