Garrett Oliver on the Crimes Against Beer

Beer guru Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery opens up about the troubling treatment of beer in America, from uninformed waiters to jelly jars.

Garrett Oliver on the Crimes Against Beer
Photo courtesy of Garrett Oliver.
    Despite what’s happening at the high end of restaurants and bars, beer is the only food or drink where if you go to a restaurant, the average customer knows more about the beer than the house, even if they have only 10 beers on the list. That’s a disaster. Can you imagine if you walked into a steak house and 70 percent of the customers knew more about steak than anybody who worked there? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked into a restaurant and asked what beers they have, and have them say “Oh, we have every kind.” My friends turn around and look at me, but I’m just like, I’m not going there. Cooking schools are only just starting to learn that they can’t send people out into the world with only three hours of beer training after one month on wine. Most people go into the restaurant business completely unprepared for the actual craft-beer-drinking customer.
    Many times you’ll go into a restaurant and they’ll have an array of nice glasses designed to taste wines. But brewers are to blame for this as well: The beer either has only a pint glass, or something like a jelly jar, a little fruit juice glass that a hotel might use to serve orange juice.
    A lot of restaurant dishwashers don’t leave the glassware in a state that we refer to as “beer clean.” Beer clean is cleaner than visually clean, and it’s important because even tiny traces of residual detergents will break down the foam. Foam isn’t just a big part of the visual presentation, it gives you a different expression of texture and flavor.
    Neither real beer nor real wine should ever be served ice-cold. Something that’s been buried under ice for the last half hour at 33 or 34 degrees will taste of little more than bitterness and carbonation. At 45 degrees to 50 degrees, that range is more likely to show most good beers in a much better light. The restaurant Birch and Barley in DC has two or three different fridges for beers at different temperatures. They even have a range of temperatures for their taps.
    Present company excepted, people in the media barely write about it. The public is yearning for more knowledge about beer, and nobody’s giving it to them. Even though craft beer is more popular than wine in the US, every major newspaper has a wine column, and almost nobody has a beer column. What’s wrong with this picture?
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