How to Tell the Craft Beer Bar You're in Isn't Really a Craft Beer Bar

By Aliza Kellerman |
FWX BEER GEEK OR BEER SNOB

© Chronicle / Alamy

Craft beer bars make darling first date spots, wonderful happy-hour locales, and all around awesome places to contemplate the last twenty-four hours over a cold one. Choosing the right craft beer bar will not only impress your Tinder date and coworkers, but will provide you with a watering hole staple for years. But there’s a problem. With great trends come deceitful imposters, and as is the case with phony craft cocktail and wine bars, there are a lot of beer joints that really fall flat. Don’t reinforce your boss’s suspicion that you don’t do your research and end up in a so-called craft beer bar that’s really just a limp keg party in disguise. Here’s how to sift the genuine from the meh.

The Only Beers Available Are Blue Moon, Shocktop, and Red Hook

Hey, guess what? None of those beers are craft brands, despite what they might have you believe. In fact, all of those beers are carefully marketed projects from beer giants like Anheuser-Busch. If you want to see a full list of fake-o “craft beers,” check out this map. Now, here’s the thing. There’s nothing wrong with these beers, but a real craft beer bar should have a fairly large selection of craft beer. That means beer made by independently owned breweries. Is it too much to ask a self-proclaimed craft beer bar to stock actual craft beer? We don’t think so.

The Tap List Never Changes

Some of the craft beer bars we enjoy visiting change their tap list every week. While that’s a lot to ask for, a real craft beer bar will have a frequently rotating selection of draught beers. That’s because craft beer bars are constantly bringing in new, exciting brews for you to try. Good craft breweries introduce new flavors and styles that vary with the times or seasonally, and craft beer bars are there to vend them to you. Just ask a bartender at a craft beer bar how many craft beer sales reps (s)he sees a week to give you an idea of how much of a (constantly shifting) selection is out there.

The Foam To Beer Ratio Is Frighteningly Low/High

The right amount of foam is a good thing. However, typically if your beer is overly foamy or has no foam at all, something is wrong. It’s either being poured incorrectly, the draught system sucks, or both. Pouring a beer properly is, believe it or not, pretty hard to master. However, if an establishment calls itself a craft beer bar, they should have that mastery down pat.

The Bartenders Don’t Know Jack About The Beer

While we wouldn’t recommend interrogating the bartenders about the intricate yeast behavior of your favorite saison, whoever is behind the bar at a craft beer joint should have a good handle on the beer list. They should be able to guide you in the right direction when it comes to selecting a beer, and probably give you a small sample upon request to confirm that you will, in fact, enjoy their suggestion. If you don’t like the sample, you can opt for a different beer. However, if you went straight to ordering a beer without requesting a sample and didn’t enjoy your beer, you should be able to send it back. Which leads us to our next red flag…

You Can’t Send Back A Beer

If you’re polite, and clearly express your order was a mea culpa, you should be able to send your beer back and order something else, as is the case with wine and cocktails. Hey, beers in general – and especially craft beers – range in taste. If you like everything on the beer list, you’re either a brew god or have no tastebuds. If you send back your beer courteously and your bartender looks at you like you’re the kid who killed Jon Snow, get out of there. This shows that besides lacking manners, the bar doesn’t understand that different beers taste, well, different – which is kind of a craft beer tenet. However, there is an exception to this test. If the bar is jammed, don’t send your beer back. The ensuing answer might not be a good indicator of how authentic the place is because of the extreme surrounding chaos. And honestly, it’ll be less work for both you and your bartender to just drink the six dollars.

Everyone Who Works There Is A Cute Girl In Short Shorts

Ain’t nothing wrong with a cute girl in short shorts, but if the entire staff is comprised of women who make you feel like you should really get back into doing squats, you may be at a sports bar.

Related: 5 Signs You're in a Good Cocktail Bar 
5 Boozy Beverages Hipsters Will Drink Now That They're Sick of PBR 
Meet the Man Running One of the Best Little Breweries You've Never Heard of

MORE FROM THE INTERWEBS
Comments