What kinds of beer should by brother serve at his restaurant?
December 2, 2009 12:10 PM   Subscribe

What kinds of beer should by brother serve at his restaurant?

My brother's working on a business plan for a tavern-style restaurant specializing in roasted meats, and is looking for suggestions on types of beer to serve and specific recommendations. I thought a good light beer, a lager or pilsner, and one or two good IPAs. What do you think? Ideally the beers would come from a good American microbrewery that's distributed on the East Coast, but this isn't an absolute requirement.
posted by kirkaracha to Food & Drink (38 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It might be because it's winter, but I'd want something heavy to go with the heavy food -- what about a porter or stout? I really like the offerings from Duck Rabbit.
posted by runningwithscissors at 12:14 PM on December 2, 2009

Are you talking about beers just on tap? What sort of items on his menu. Can you give us a sample of entrees (I used to be a chef so items from the menu are important to help with pairing). Price range? Location of tavern? Tavern style (american, english, french, etc).

The more details and information, the better for us to help.
posted by TheBones at 12:16 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'd definitely make sure you have a couple legit IPAs, and to that list I'd definitely add at least a good porter and an oatmeal stout.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 12:16 PM on December 2, 2009

Hertog Jan
posted by Confess, Fletch at 12:17 PM on December 2, 2009

I like Dale's Pale Ale.
posted by yarly at 12:17 PM on December 2, 2009

Whatever you do, don't overstock on any particular beer at first.

After a couple of weeks, your customers will tell you what you should have.
posted by rokusan at 12:21 PM on December 2, 2009

Kinda an odd aside, but when I was serving beer at a little café I noticed that the foreign tourists invariably gravitated towards Bud, Miller and Coors and avoided the local and microbrews entirely. So if he's in an area where he might be getting any tourist traffic he might consider keeping at least one megabrew on tap. There's also a portion of the native populace that will be alienated if they don't recognize any nationally-distributed brews.
posted by lekvar at 12:27 PM on December 2, 2009

A more precise location would help narrow down what's available. If he's in the mid-Atlantic, Hop Devil and Prima Pils by Victory Brewing or the Flying Fish Brewery's offerings wouldn't be a bad place to start.
posted by mollweide at 12:31 PM on December 2, 2009

I suggest at least one wheat beer. Magic Hat Circus Boy is my favorite. Blue Moon if you want to go mainstream. Allagash White from Maine is another tasty choice.
posted by haveanicesummer at 12:38 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Will you have a full bar? If not, if it's just going to be beer, I'd also stock something like a hard cider for people who won't or can't drink beer. Between allergies and preferences, there are a lot of people who simply don't drink beer.
posted by decathecting at 12:38 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you're near the Rochester/Buffalo area, Custom Brewcrafters will design and brew a beer to your specifications that you can serve as your own. They seem to concentrate on ales, but I know they've done some lagers as well. I don't know how far out of the area they'd be willing to go, though.
posted by tommasz at 12:41 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Will you have a full bar? If not, if it's just going to be beer, I'd also stock something like a hard cider for people who won't or can't drink beer. Between allergies and preferences, there are a lot of people who simply don't drink beer.
posted by decathecting

If you go this route I can't say enough good things about Hornsby's. Way way way better than those added sugar brands.
posted by haveanicesummer at 12:41 PM on December 2, 2009

Beer Republic's Racer 5 (Healdsburg, CA) is an excellent hoppy IPA. While it's a West Coast microbrew, I've been seeing it around on the East Coast lately, so it shouldn't be too difficult to obtain.
posted by zachlipton at 12:43 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

If your going with an IPA, I wouldn't serve anything too overpowering. You don't want to ruin the sweetness of the roasted meat. I'd probably go with the Dogfishhead 60 minute IPA rather than something more pine-y like the Green Flash West Coast IPA.

For stouts, the aforementioned Victory Brewing makes the Storm King Stout, which is excellent. Smuttynose, also on the east coast, makes some good stouts and porters that you could look into.

HOWEVER. What I really like to drink with roasts or BBQ is a dark wheat beer. Here's one by Sixpoint. The German brewery Erdinger makes an excellent dark wheat, that is definitely available in the US.
posted by thebergfather at 12:46 PM on December 2, 2009

You may want to check out what agreements you can hash out with distributors first; it may be cost-prohibitive to cherry pick beers from different microbreweries that don't have the same distributor.
posted by craven_morhead at 12:56 PM on December 2, 2009

Ommegang makes some incredible Belgian style ales. The Abbey Ale is fantastic, as is the Rare Vos.

Yuengling is the standard East Coast "cheap" beer, without tasting like Bud.

Also, have you considered having a rotating beer of the month?
posted by electroboy at 12:59 PM on December 2, 2009

I love Stone's Smoked Porter.

It sounds like a manly place. It's a manly beer. *

*However, I am not a man. So perhaps I am wrong.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:11 PM on December 2, 2009

Oh, and anything from Dog Fish, especially the Indian Brown and Raisin d'etre.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:12 PM on December 2, 2009

Also strongly recommending Belgian (Leffe, Westmalle, Duvel, Chimay, Maredsous, etc.) or Belgian-style beers. Many were originally made to go with heavy meat dishes or strong cheese. There are several North American breweries that make excellent beers in this manner. Unibroue, out of Montreal, is well known, but I also like a number of the beers brewed by Allagash in Portland, ME.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:14 PM on December 2, 2009

Whatever's local to wherever he is, plus a couple of mega-brews to please the lamers, and a couple of the better national brands like Sierra Nevada or whatever. Start there, keep the taps clean, serve at the correct temperature in the correct glassware, and then just talk to your customers. They'll tell you what they want, and you can make adjustments accordingly.
posted by spilon at 1:16 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Truck it all in from Summit and August Schell, both in Minnesota. *So* worth the trip.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:18 PM on December 2, 2009

Another vote for Allagash, which a couple people above have mentioned. In fact, I'll go with TheWhiteSkull in general. Belgian beer is the conventional accompaniment at charcuterie / roast-meat restaurants. Not in the sense that you should always be conventional, but in the sense that many of the biggest fans of this type of cuisine, who could be his biggest market, may be disappointed if that option was lacking.

My own preference is for British pub-style ales, such as pale ales, brown ales (i.e., milds), and porters, when I go out for tons o' meat. Neither lagers nor American-style IPAs seem really apropos, although some people may be caught off guard if you have no pilsner-type option whatsoever.
posted by rkent at 1:35 PM on December 2, 2009

To expand on what craven_morhead said above, your brother should find a good beer distributor rep (or several) to find out what's available in his market. Go to places in the area that have good/the type of beer you want, see if you like what's there. Find out who the distributors are and what beers they have. I've met a few distributors rep and know one fairly well, and they can make a big difference since you have to make all beer purchases through them. (Unless your brother is lucky enough to be opening his place in a locality that allows self-importation of beers that aren't distributed there. DC is one example and the beer market I know best.) Go ahead and let me know if it happens to be DC and I might be able to help some more.

Specific beer recommendations can only go so far here, since tons of stuff might not be available either at all, or for months at a time.
posted by skynxnex at 1:53 PM on December 2, 2009

Go local. Support local microbrews. Have a few taps that are permanent and widely known and then rotate the others. He should keep tabs on what sells well and adjust accordingly. Even if the focus is roasted meats, there is going to be some seasonal shift in what is getting consumed.
posted by Seamus at 1:55 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Dogfish Head
Left Hand (I think I've seen it out west)
New Belgium (Not my favorite but a crowd pleaser)

2nding Seamus - I chose my usual because of the constant presence of 5 taps dedicated to local beer.
posted by nestor_makhno at 2:22 PM on December 2, 2009

I'm in Wisconsin, home of beer lovers and a strong local brewing tradition. I've noticed that (thank heavens) the ridiculously hoppy IPAs are starting to recede a bit, and every special brew or limited edition you can find is a Belgian. This ties in nicely with one of my favorite restaurants, a brasserie that offers things like artisan cheeses, moules and frites, just plain frites with aioli, great burgers and other entrees like hangar steak. It's a wonderful mix of food that is simultaneously accessible for the timid and fun for foodies, all while being a good choice for year-round dining on many occasions. Sounds pretty similar to your brother's idea, too :)

Also, I'd echo both having the "regular" beers (is this a Bud crowd or a Miller town?) and giving time to figure out what they want and what sells best. However, I'd leave room for surprises. A guy I know moved from managing one of the better college sports bars out to owning a blue-collar bar in a neighborhood by a major meat-packing plant. He was told that the "fancy stuff" (a local porter, for example) would never sell. Still, he quietly removed one of the two Miller taps and replaced it with the local micro. It sold out in days. So don't underestimate the crowd!
posted by Madamina at 2:26 PM on December 2, 2009

Oh, and one other thing: don't just start with Bud and Miller at the bottom of the list. Especially if you've got a hipster contingent, put at least one really cheap, potentially awful beer that they'd drink just because they saw it in some movie from the '70s. Hamm's is huge right now, but I'm all about the king cans of PBR :)
posted by Madamina at 2:29 PM on December 2, 2009

not from the east-coast, but Shiner Bock is delicious! :D It's technically considered an import, bc the ingredients come from overseas, but it's brewed in Texas.
posted by Neekee at 2:29 PM on December 2, 2009

One thing I notice at my local pub is that people really seem to order the seasonal a lot-- people dig the variety that you get from having those as options. I'm a cider drinker, though, and I'll occasionally go out of my way to go to places that have hard cider as a beer alternative option.
posted by NoraReed at 2:35 PM on December 2, 2009

Few beers are distributed worldwide. Location is pretty critical to answering this question.
posted by box at 2:58 PM on December 2, 2009

Definitely include some darker beers. Porters, stouts, and brown ales go very well with meat, while many American microbrew IPAs are a little overwhelming. Great to drink alone, not great as beers to drink with dinner. Do try to go local - no need to ship everything across the country when there are probably some great breweries in the same city! A few permanent taps of local stuff with some rotating taps would be perfect, along with perhaps a wider variety of bottled stuff, and of course one or two of the inevitable macrobrews, since some people will want them. The bottled stuff can be a good way to try out new beers and see if they prove to be popular with the customers. (And your brother is awesome for providing good microbrews at his restaurant. It's so frustrating to go to a good restaurant with a reasonable wine list and find that their beer list has nothing but Bud and Miller and maybe - maybe! - Guinness.)

If your brother happens to be in the Northeast:

Mayflower Brewing Co. and Smuttynose brew some very nice basic beers - the sort that aren't extreme at all, but that are very solid examples of a given beer style. I'm thinking specifically of the Mayflower Porter, here. Berkshire Brewing Co. has been showing up a lot in Boston, and they're also reliably good. They've got more seasonals and styles (their Maibock is delicious, as is their Black-and-Tan). Maybe Pennichuck? I've really liked their Feuerwehrmann Schwarzbier (not many American microbrews do justice to German syles of beer). Harpoon and Magic Hat are the standard larger microbrews in the area.
posted by ubersturm at 3:27 PM on December 2, 2009

The Northeast isn't really specific enough; local beers vary from state-to-state on the east coast. If he's in Pennsylvania, Yuengling is virtually required for the relatively-low-end. If he's in Delaware, he'd better have some Dogfish Head. Victory is good (again, PA)- especially the Hop Devil in the IPA range. If he's near Boston, he might need Sam Adams (yeah, I don't like it, but a lot of people do).

Can you be more geographically specific? People like their local beers these days.
posted by JMOZ at 3:40 PM on December 2, 2009

Two suggestions (care of two watering holes in Toronto with a wide beer selection):

I loved the Saison Dupont biologique (found at the Beer Bistro), or sample a German weißbier (Weissbier) (at the Bier Markt).
posted by Cody's Keeper at 4:25 PM on December 2, 2009

Response by poster: The location is Washington, DC area. I'll check with my brother on some of the other questions people have raised. Thanks for all the great suggestions so far!
posted by kirkaracha at 5:05 PM on December 2, 2009

Best answer: You have to have "both" kinds. No, not light and dark. Microbrew/craft beer AND mainline national brands (your Buds and Millers).

Why? Because not every customer of the restaurant is going to share your brother's enthusiasm for pairing just the right beer with his carefully prepared meals. A client of mine has owned several high end restaurants and he pays very close attention to the range of products on his beer/wine list. He always carries 4-5 craft beers on tap and rotates them seasonally. But he also ALWAYS has Bud, Bud Light, Amstel, and so forth available in bottles. You would be surprised how many times 2-3 people a table order some higher dollar wines and the 4th person orders a Bud Light. Seriously. (Generally, it's the guy who looks like my father-in-law).

Since your brother's at the business plan stage, he should shop the beer/wine list around a bit to local distributors and see what they think. N-ing that advice from above. The distributors can give your brother an idea of what other upscale places are carrying. Take advantage of their experience in that segment of the business. Make sure that he has a broad range and that it's not all organic juniper ales crafted in 1,000 year old iambic vats by monks with garments made of unicorn fur. (Sorry, got carried away there, but you get the idea.)

Good luck to him! It's a tough, tough business.
posted by webhund at 6:06 PM on December 2, 2009

But I'm of the opinion that every bar should have Guinness on tap so I'm a little biased
posted by Redmond Cooper at 7:05 PM on December 2, 2009

Old Rasputin Imperial Stout from North Coast Brewery, which makes many terrific beers.
posted by carmicha at 8:10 PM on December 2, 2009

Best answer: I would agree that a few varieties/styles need to be represented, but also your brother should talk to the local beer distributors. Yes, some push one brand over the other, but they're also pretty good sources of information about what sells in an area, what brands sell better within certain types, etc. Also, the distributor can help out with ordering a keg or two of different things to try out, without getting into any sort of crazy contracts. Let the people decide.
posted by pupdog at 4:23 AM on December 3, 2009

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