For my second Top 10 list I’m feeling grumpy, due to a nasty cold that’s knocked me for a loop. So my list will reflect that, the things that drive me batty when out in public, be it at a beer bar or restaurant, anywhere really, where beer is served that’s a public space. I know most bartenders are hard-working men and women who deserve our respect — and I have a great many friends in such positions — but there are times when the bad ones really drive me balmy. Likewise, customers are often complete jerks to not only the staff but everyone else in the bar, too. I can’t stand to be around these dim bulbs for very long either. I’m not sure which is worse: that they’re being so incredibly rude and/or stupid or that in most cases they don’t even seem to realize it. Add too much alcohol, and the effect is magnified. Such obliviousness to those around them is perhaps the most annoying feature of immaturity, as children are naturally self-centered. As they grow, they learn to care about people other than themselves. But I find that the very idea of respect for others is becoming an old-fashioned, quaint notion. See, I told you I was feeling cantankerous. And I’m feeling old today. The half-century mark is itself one less than 50 days away, and I’m feeling it. I understand I should be thrilled that I have pain, because it should remind that at least I’m still alive. But it feels as if my body decided to remind me by visiting upon me every ache and pain I’ve ever had all at one go. Oh, the humanity! Anyway, here’s List #2:
Top 10 Pub Pet Peeves
|Smoke I normally don’t care if other people smoke, but it in an unventilated space like the average bar it gets in the way of enjoying the beer and the company. I know this is a controversial subject, but as smoke has a tendency to drift, smoking sections make about as much sense in a bar or restaurant as they did on airplanes.|
|Mobile Phones I know it’s the 21st century and I’m no technophobe, obviously, since this is written using a computer and I use a crackberry when out, but I don’t want to hear your phone conversation. If you get a call, take it outside, or at least somewhere more private.|
|Ordering Off-Menu I find this especially annoying at brewpubs, but to me it’s just as odd at better beer bars, too. When you go to one of these places it should be for the beer, if not the combination of beer and food. So why order a low-calorie light beer from a macro brewery (whether foreign or domestic) or even anything from one of those large beer companies. If you’re at a brewpub, you’re at the source, the place where it’s being made. It’s the reason the place was built and you couldn’t get a fresher beer unless you made some at your table. But still, every now and again you’ll see someone in there nursing his Bud Light, usually straight out of the bottle. It’s even more prevalent at better beer bars. If some bar saw fit to carry some of the tastiest beers money could buy, why on Earth would anyone settle for the ordinary? I suppose the likeliest answer is that person got dragged to the bar by his friends, but could he (or she) muster no better imagination than to order one of the most common beers on the planet? Is advertising and marketing that effective? Sadly, it probably is. And don’t get me started on the person sipping their glass of wine at the brewpub. Really, you couldn’t muster the courage to try the house special? I love wine, but if I’m at a beer place, I’m drinking beer.|
|Lemons If I wanted a lemon in my beer, I would have asked for one. Just because some people don’t mind — or have been persuaded to think it’s a good idea — to have a lemon wedge in their beer doesn’t mean everyone wants one. And once it’s in there affecting the flavor of the beer, it can’t be undone. So the sensible thing to do would be to ask first, or bring it to the table on a plate, thereby leaving the choice up to the customer. Now why is that so difficult?|
|Poor Selection This used to be more of a problem than it is today, at least where I live. But there was a time when many bars carried just the macro beers along with a few macro imports, and nothing else, not even Samuel Adams, Anchor or Sierra Nevada. Nowadays you’ll usually find at least one of those three in even the seediest bar. But would it kill a bar to carry just a few beers beyond those? Apparently it never occurred to the owners that people might want something else.|
|Untrained Staff There’s nothing worse than asking the bartender or waitress about a new beer on the menu and finding out they know nothing whatsoever about it. In some cases, they don’t know the first thing about what they’re serving at all, which I find bizarre. I just can’t imagine the lack of ambition or curiosity that would lead to such apathy. But beyond that individual server, I think it reflects most poorly on the owners who obviously didn’t care that the person representing their business knows absolutely nothing about what they’re selling.|
|Frosted Glasses What I find most amazing about this abhorrent practice is that it is usually presented as a bonus and when turned down, no matter how graciously, appears to completely confound. The bar that serves frosted glassware believes they’re giving their customers added value, a kind of bonus, while in reality they’re actually ruining the beer. I’ve been served Chimay in a frosted chalice and when I asked — politely — if I could have it in an un-frosted glass, my waitress looked at me like a dog who’d just been shown a card trick. Why would I not want a frosted glass?, her expression seemed to convey. She acted as if I’d hurt her feelings, and our service plummeted for the rest of the meal.|
|Just the Bottle Why do some bars bring just the bottle or can, forcing me to ask for a glass? Bars should always serve beer in or with a glass — and the appropriate one at that — or at the very least ask me if I want one when taking my order. Sheesh.|
|Beer Gone Bad and/or Dirty Lines Being served a beer that’s gone bad is a worrying sign on several levels. Is the beer unpopular or is the entire bar? Were the lines not cleaned recently? Most better beer bars understand how important this is, but many average ones don’t seem to get this simple fact. Or is it that they don’t realize the beer has gone bad? Either way, the end result is unhappy customers — or at least the ones who can tell the difference.|
|Too Cold Despite the marketing barrage trying to convince us that ice cold beer is best, I want to be able to actually taste the beer I’m drinking. That’s why I ordered it. And serving beer too cold seems to be the most pervasive problem in American bars, hands down. Beyond a handful of good beer bars that actually care about the beer they’re serving, most just don’t seem to get that their beer is too frigid.|
Also, if you have any ideas for future Top 10 lists you’d like to see, drop me a line.
Spot on, Jay, although I agree with number 6 a bit more than number 8.
Frosted glasses really bugs me.
As for smoking, restaurants in Maryland are all smoke free, so it hasn’t been much of a bother lately. Someone more clever than me said: “Having a smoking section in a restaurant is like having a peeing section in a swimming pool.”
I’d also like to see at least SOME knowledge of the beer. Once, after asking what beer was available, I received the usually litany of mass-produced American light lagers and their ubiquitous European counterparts, followed by “Sam Adams”.
“Oh,” I said. “Which Sam Adams?”
“The regular one.”
Did you mean to put poor selection on there twice? I couldn’t tell for sure. If it were my list I would put untrained staff at the top. I’ve seen this at microbreweries, even with beers that are regular pours.
My favorite pub in Portland is the Horse Brass. You can have conversations for hours with the staff about the beer you are drinking.
i would have put dirty tap lines as number 1. there’s nothing worse than taking a sip that tastes like a butter covered tent. plus the microbial party may induce an unpleasant hangover the next day. real bars should keep better track of this stuff.
Oh, darn. You fixed #8.
As for the new number 8, Brewer’s Alley in Frederick, Maryland, does carry Miller Lite and a couple others of that ilk. But you’ll pay five dollars for a 12 ounce bottle. Their own beer, of course, runs about $3.50 a pint (or less).
The Koelsch is very popular there. The head brewer calls it a “gateway beer”.
Tom Dalldorf says
J: Sitting in Anthony’s in Sea/Tac waiting for the anchorage flight and enjoyed your rant. I’d add to the bottle/glass problem that most venues will remove the bottle after pouring into a generic Andy Capp glass. Our Belgian friends would never allow that. Leave the frigging bottle so at least I can remember what I ordered. BTW, 9 taps, 4 are Bud, Bud light, Redhook you knw what and Widmer Hefe. The others are Alaskan amber, Mac & Jack amber, Manny’s pale and Deschutes Black Butte Porter. Guess which I’m enjoying? Hope the cold get’s mo betta…
Great list it was fun to read! I would agree with Eric that Untrained staff is my #1 complaint. It really started getting on my nerves when I was living in So-Cal. BJ’s was the closest brewpub to me and while they had friendly servers 9 times out of 10 they knew nothing about the seasonal brews, I even had one tell me the barleywine was no good… too strong… needless to say I ordered it 😉
While I agree with beer being served to cold, I think that has more to do with logistics than anything. Its hard and very costly to keep all of the beers offered at there recomended serving temperatures, especially the draft selection.
looking forward to next tuesday!
Drew B says
I’ve got one for you that’s been irritating me the past few months.
The small glass.
Now, I’m not talking the half pint or small glass for strong beer or the appropriate glass for a Belgian beer. I’m talking the new trend (at least here in LA) for trendy good beer places (gastro pubs and the like) to serve you a standard beer (ipa, porter, etc) in a 12.5 oz footed goblet glass and charging more than full pint prices for it. A few weeks back I was in a great place that charged me $7 for a glass of Green Flash West Coast IPA. Argh!
Hey! put the poor selection back in there twice again!
Mario (Brewed For Thought) says
#5. This reminds me of a visit to a bar in SF a few years back when I ordered a Vodka on the rocks. The brand I order was new then, and the waitress had no idea what it was. After 15 minutes, she brought me my drink telling me it was a promotional bottle and proceeded to charge me $10. She didn’t catch the irony in a $10 promotional drink. I chose to not leave a tip and find a new bar.
#4. My gym has frosted glasses only. I simply ask them to rinse it out a few times to remove the excessive chill. It avoids confrontation and gives a nod to a Belgian tradition. Plus, how cool is Racer 5 on tap at a gym? Gotta give them some credit.
#1. Jay, you gotta taste the the cold and enjoy the drinkability.
How about a genuine beer bar with untrained staff? Revisited the Gingerman in Greenwich CT this past weekend, after not visiting since my first unimpressive visit years ago. The barkeep, who admitted to being “new” to this beer thing…poured a bottled Hefeweizen into a Weizen glass sitting on the bar! Not tilted…nothing. 100% foam. Had to get another bottle and try again after the customer told him to try pouring it into the glass slow and at an angle.
Good list Jay. I printed it to show this barkeep.
I can’t believe how well you summed up the biggest annoyances of any bar experience. I think when I’m at a bar, my top pet-peeve is definitely smoking. How can I enjoy my ice cold beer when somebody is smoking right next to me??
I’d have to say there is little you can do to restrain a beer man’s emotion when he receives his drink with a lemon halfway soaking in his brew. But it doesn’t stop there. Oranges, limes even. Delivering slices of fruit on the side as an additive option should be an unwritten and understandable code for anyone who attempts to call their establishment a pub/bar.
Nat Webster says
Good list. This may not apply to bars, but I hate when restaurants try mess with glassware trying to sell less than a pint of beer for full pint prices. This seems to be the new norm, and I guess the economy is behind some of it. I think it is part restaurant owners guessing patrons won’t know the difference.