Category Archives: beerbars

Huge News in the U.S. Beer World

If you live in the United States and drink craft beer, chances are you’ve come across, or at least heard of, one of the 39 outlets of the Yard House, a chain of beer bars each of which typically boasts one hundred or more taps. Based in Irvine, California, the company has been experiencing huge growth of late, opening new restaurants and breaking into new territories at a torrid pace.

And now they’re been sold. For $585 million. To Darden Restaurants, operators of the Olive Garden and Red Lobster chains.

Nation’s Restaurant News has all the details here, but the pressing issue for me is what Darden will do with the Yard House concept and how it will proceed with regard to its beer selection. I’ve known Yard House’s existing head beer guy, Kip Snider, for many a year, and whatever else might be said about the man, he has always placed quality beer and staff knowledge high on the agenda at the company, no matter how fast they opened new outlets.

Will Darden maintain the same focus on the “craft” part of craft beer? Time, I suppose, will tell, but in my opinion they’d be foolish to pursue any other course.


Filed under beer industry, beerbars, drinking quality

Sh*t Bartenders Do (But Shouldn’t), Pt. 2

1. Give a knowledgeable customer a hard time about returning a beer. It slays me how waiters will take back hundred dollar bottles of wine without comment, but tell some bartenders that a $6 beer is skunked or oxidized or riddled with diacetyl and you’re in for the fight of your life. Key words: “I know this beer and it’s really not supposed to taste like this.”

2. Pour a draught to overflowing and then set it down in front of the customer without a coaster or cocktail napkin (or three). My shirt may not be fancy, but it’s usually clean and I like to keep it that way.

3. Ignore a customer who just sat at your bar so that you can finish chatting with the waiter at the service bar. Gaz Regan calls it “mindful bartending,” and the man has a point. Pay attention, and if you can’t get to someone right away, at the very least make eye contact.

4. Garnish a beer without asking first. I know that some places like putting lemon wedges on hefeweizens and orange slices on Belgian-style wheats, but that doesn’t mean every customer wants it. Particularly when fulfilling at order at the bar, it takes no time at all to ask if i want fruit or not.

5. Serve a bottle of beer and then walk away without even asking if the customer might like a glass. Because, you know, not everyone wants to swig from the bottle all the time. Or ever.


Filed under beerbars, drinking quality, food and dining

Sh*t Bar Patrons Do (But Shouldn’t)

Yesterday’s post highlighted a few common bartender sins – and yes, there are still more to come – so in the interest of fairness, and in answer to Couzin Ed’s request from the Comments section, here are a few examples of equally lamentable behaviour by customers.

1. By all means, when business is slow, chat with the bartender. Part of the job description is socializing with the patrons, and assuming that you’re both reasonable people, it’s likely that some common conversational ground can be reached. But remember that when things get busy, your ongoing chat comes in a distant second to the task of getting other people drinks, and when it’s three deep at the bar, well, that may not be the best time to start up a debate over the relative worth of an American versus a British style IPA or the best gin for a barrel-aged Negroni.

2. When you have a specific way you would like a drink mixed and/or served, tell it to the bartender. Do not wait until she serves it to you one way to declare that you’d prefer it differently.

3. Never, ever click your fingers/wave your bills/yell “Hey buddy!” to get the bartender’s attention. Wait your turn, catch his eye, and be pleasant. You’ll get your drink faster.

4. Know what you’re ordering. As per another comment on the previous post, do not order a drink simply because you heard it in a song or saw it on a television show and then try to return it because you don’t like it. You bought it, you’re stuck with it.

5. Treating the bartender like your personal servant is not cool. “Please” and “thank you” go a long way.


Filed under beer & health, beerbars, cocktails, drinking quality

Sh*t Bartenders Do (But Shouldn’t), Pt. 1

1. It’s a given, I think, that martinis should be stirred and not shaken, but I understand that some easily influenced souls actually prefer a diluted, cloudy mess in their martini glass. Still, when I specifically ask you to stir rather than shake my martini, please ONLY stir it. Don’t give it a stir and then plop it into one of those precious tiny shakers for a good shaking up at the table.

2. A Manhattan contains sweet vermouth, and a sizable amount of it, at that. Please do not mix my Manhattan as if it were a very dry martini.

3. I accept that you may be a very clean-minded individual who washes their hands regularly, but I don’t know that as fact. So please don’t hold my beer glass by the lip when you’re pouring my draft beer. I have to drink from that thing.

4. And speaking of draft beer, when the foam you have poured off one pint settles in a separate glass, it becomes flat beer, NOT beer that is suitable for using to top up my pint.

5. If I ask for a call brand of booze that I can plainly see on your back bar, please believe me that it’s there and what I want. Do not stare at me as if I’m some sort of idiot because you don’t have enough professionalism to actually know the brands your bar stocks.


Filed under beer & health, beer glassware, beerbars, cocktails, drinking quality

Gift Idea #4: Craft Beers of the Pacific Northwest

One more book, folks, and it’s a good one!

I’ve been friends with Lisa Morrison, author of Craft Beers of the Pacific Northwest, for many years and have been anxiously awaiting her literary debut for most of that time. Thankfully she doesn’t disappoint. CBPN, as we will henceforth refer to this paperback, is an engaging trip from south Oregon through Washington state and across the border into British Columbia. It’s a beery wonderland and Morrison is a most adept guide.

Much like Max Bahnson’s Prague guide, which you might also like to get, Morrison’s…okay, I’m going to get all unjournalistic here and call her Lisa…Lisa’s approach is to put together pub crawls, within cities, between towns and along highways and coastlines. It’s the way most serious beer travellers plan their trips and makes sense in the vast majority of instances. (In BC, Lisa somehow manages to include Surrey’s Central City Brewing in a Sea-to-Sky Highway crawl, which any Vancouverite will tell you is more than a bit of a stretch.) The maps could sometimes be better, but that’s at best a quibble.

The real allure of this book, though, is Lisa’s voice, which is less guidebook-y and more let’s-go-drinking-together. Like Max’s book — which, again, you really should also get — it makes the reading pleasurable and thirsty work, drawing the reader to the locations in question like a moth to the proverbial flame.

The one thing I don’t like about CBPN is the colour scheme, which sees the sidebar brewery profiles and feature pieces, as well as the maps, illustrated in a yellowish-green that is none too easy on the eyes. But like the garish shirt your beer hunting buddy insists on sporting, it is a small price to pay for such good advice and company.

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Filed under beer & travel, beer and beverage books, beerbars, books, brewpubs, pubs

Updated Events Listings

I’ve finally gotten around to updating the events I’ll be participating in over the next little while, including all my Toronto Beer Week gigs. And don’t forget to check out the luxury beer and whisky/whiskey cruise I’ll be hosting in May of next year!

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Filed under beer & travel, beer festivals, beerbars, tastings & dinners

Back From Paris & London: Guess Where I Drank More Beer?

I spent the better part of two weeks in Paris and London, ending yesterday, which explains the absence of posts here. It’s not that I didn’t have my computer with me or experience things worth blogging about; it’s just that I frankly couldn’t convince myself that sitting in my hotel room blogging was a better idea that being out and about it two of the world’s greatest cities.

Were I to have blogged during my trip, I might have written something along the lines of what Ron just posted over at his blog, entitled, simply enough, I Love Pubs.

Because, while I might not be as much of a purist as is Mr. Pattinson — hell, who is? — I am a great fan of the British pub. I’ve supped in literally hundreds of the places, written stories about them, and hardly ever found a (studiously selected) one I didn’t like. The pub is a great, great part of why I have such affection for the United Kingdom in general and London in particular, even as pointless idiots try to burn both to the ground this week.

The pub is why I often find myself frustrated drinking in my home city of Toronto, since almost every pub in these parts is part of some cookie cutter chain or another, all of which believe that I pub starts with old brewery bric-a-brac and ends with overly cheerful servers in girl’s school kilts. (And what is up with that, anyway!?) Although difficult to explain, a pub is something much more than fittings and fixtures, more, even, that centuries of history and experience. A pub is a social entity, not a physical one, and that is something most patrons and, sadly, customers around these parts just don’t get.

Best first-time pub for me on this trip? Although there were many contenders, most notably the Prince Albert and Draft House, both steps from Battersea Park — and both proof that chains can run decent public houses! — I’ll have to give the nod to north London’s excellent Jolly Butchers, a recently transformed pub which provides ample evidence that cask ale and craft beer, old neighbourhoods and new interiors, families and ordinary punters can all co-exist quite happily.

I miss it already.




Filed under beer & travel, beerbars, CAMRA, pubs