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Beer Reform Your City

Would you trust a high-end restaurant whose wine list consisted only of White Zinfandel out of a box? Then why would you trust the same restaurant if their beer list consisted of nothing but industrial light lagers and mega-brand imports? At least as much as wine (though I’d argue even more so), craft beer offers a wide and diverse range of flavor profiles that, when smartly employed, can greatly enhance a dining experience. The Chef who ignores craft beer is the equivalent of the Chef who thinks Prego is “good enough” for his sauces. Time to hold Chef’s to a higher standard.

As reported by Beer Business Daily, from 2009 to 2011 the number of breweries in the US increased by 22%, and the number of available packages increased by 25%. Meanwhile, shelf space increased by only 3.6%.  On-premise dining will play a huge role in the future growth of craft beer. The Brewers Association’s Julie Herz notes that in 2010, only 169 of the top 250 restaurant chains features craft beer on their menus, highlighting the growth potential available in this segment.

It doesn’t surprise me, however, that craft beer is slow to make inroads as massive chains like Chili’s. Economies of scale dictate centralized buying decisions for big chains, which in turn makes them slow to respond to trends (even if, in the case of craft beer, the “trend” has been going on for over a decade). That doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Even Applebee’s [edit: spelled Applebee’s wrong, showing how much I go to Applebee’s] is starting to take a per-location based approached to their beer list, making the effort to focus on local brands. Major win.

My beef is with the artisan chefs who are often locally celebrated. These chefs are the respected as innovators and pure representations of a community’s local flavor and terroir. Sadly, I see far too many of them with beer lists that look like an Orwellian blend of a 1970’s suburban sports bar and a college frat party. Why do we accept this as consumers? Not only do they do a disservice to their cuisine and clientele, but insofar as they are viewed as culinary leaders, they set a poor example for other restaurants in their community. Major fail.

Reform Your City

Today I’m announcing my personal quest to reform the beer landscape in my town, San Antonio. I won’t stop until all of my city’s top restaurants and most celebrated chefs are smartly featuring craft beer. If a chef or beverage program manager feels lost in the world of craft beer, I personally volunteer my services to help you establish a quality beer program. [Note, I can’t legally sell you beer from my own brewery, so there is no secret agenda here] It doesn’t have to be expansive to be respectable. It doesn’t have to require a single cent of capital investment. If you are serving ANY beer at your establishment now, we can transform your beer list.

If you want to enlist my services, or just to report your progress in featuring craft beer, tweet me @beermonkey or shoot me an email at news at freetailbrewing dot com. I’ll establish and maintain a webpage with list of craft beer-friendly restaurants and happily feature you on it.

Consumers, challenge your favorite chefs to be part of reform in San Antonio. Non-San Antonians, start a similar campaign in your city.

Together we can do this.




16 responses

  1. I totally agree with this point, there is nothing more disappointing than going into a great restaurant known for their food and being forced to consume a mediocre beer choice, a great restaurant needs to focus both on great wines and craft beer. Thanks for stepping up and calling it out in San Antonio!

    March 13, 2012 at 10:55 am

  2. Outstanding! I’d love to see this. Restaurants that love to talk about their local ingredients need to extend that philosophy to their beer list. If you wouldn’t serve a meal made with ingredients that are old and trucked in from some faraway place, why would you serve something like that in a glass?

    March 13, 2012 at 10:57 am

  3. To make this even bigger and better I propose a “Scott approved” campaign. The more you (and we) do to talk about restaurants that are willing to up their game in the beer department, the more will be likely to follow suit.

    I personally volunteer my time and efforts to visiting new “Scott approved” places whenever possible and writing, tweeting, and mentioning them as much as I can.

    March 13, 2012 at 11:07 am

    • That’s a great idea – not only voting with dollars, but voting with a virtual thumbs up.

      March 13, 2012 at 11:08 am

  4. Adam Barhan

    This needs to be done and taught so the waiters and chef can make an intelligent pairing to match the food going out as they would with wine. A good cicerone to go with the sommelier is a great way to push craft beer and expand horizons. Just putting great beer on the menu is not enough, the people have to be educated in and taught the beer experience for this to gain any traction. Most people that enjoy the fine dining experience would never take the chance on a Farmhouse beer to go with their Blue Cheese stiffed Pork, you have to put it out there for them to try. If these restaurants are really interested in growing their craft beer business they will bring someone in to teach the staff and customers about the different styles and let the try the suggested pairings that should be coming as suggestions from the educated staff. The power of suggestion in this instance is powerful and when backed by a knowledgeable staff is a win all around.

    March 13, 2012 at 11:46 am

  5. Pingback: Freetail Brewing founder issues challenge to Texas brewing community | Beerpulse.com

  6. What a fantastic mission! It’s so true that any good restaurant needs to not only think of their food offerings as a top priority, but also their beverage offerings, especially beer.

    March 14, 2012 at 12:39 am

  7. I agree that restaurants need to expand their beer availability. But I disagree that they should focus primarily on local craft beers. Here in Fort Collins, Colorado, most restaurants have done this already. Now every restaurant has pretty much the same exact selection of craft beers. Perhaps this is an improvement by San Antonio standards, but not exactly what I would call a significant expansion of choice or variety.

    March 14, 2012 at 8:07 am

    • Well Paul, there is a vast gulf between San Antonio and Fort Collins. Down here, some of the top restaurants beer lists look like this: Bud, Bud Light, Stella, Heineken, Guinness, Newcastle.

      They don’t need to go completely local with their beer list to make it respectable. There are enough choices for these restaurants to have respectable choices that look nothing like each other.

      March 14, 2012 at 9:16 am

  8. Rob

    Scott, as both a Cicerone and a local brewer, I am happy to lend myself to your cause. And not even so far as my beer is concerned. San Antonio needs more of ALL craft beer, so don’t mistake my offer as subversive. The more the town’s pallet grows, the more we all do. Win win. Win.

    March 15, 2012 at 10:40 am

    • Rob, I’d be happy to add you to the Roster of available “Consultants” for any restaurant who wants to upgrade their list. We agree 100% on the Win win win.

      March 15, 2012 at 3:30 pm

  9. Pingback: Freetail’s Metzger challenges restaurants to serve better beer | Food Flashes | a mySA.com blog

  10. Great idea! So great, I am going to “borrow” it.

    I have recent started a blog, DFW Beer Scene, to keep up with all the exiting stuff going on up here, and after seeing Scott’s idea, I’ve decided to do the same for Dallas-Ft. Worth.

    So if youre a fellow North Texan, or just visiting, stop by or drop me a line.


    March 15, 2012 at 11:46 am


  12. I agree, I seek out places to eat due to what beer they have to offer, I am not a wine drinker but I love my beer, and to me beer has more flavor then wine ever will!

    April 19, 2012 at 1:33 pm

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