After a slow start in Los Angeles, there is now no escaping the rising tide of craft beer enthusiasm. Every new restaurant concept needs a craft beer program and every new bar a long line of tap handles. But craft beer can be challenging for operators who are not dedicated to providing high-end service. Here are four things the best craft beer establishments have down.
The question of what type of glass each beer style should be served in may seem fastidious and arbitrary, but matching beers to glasses is an easy way to judge an establishment's attention to detail. Not every place needs to be as well-stocked with assorted glassware as Beachwood BBQ, but if every beer served at a bar is in the same common pint-glass, that's a sign that they are not as serious about craft beer as you might like.
Clean tap lines
Have you ever ordered one of your favorite brews only to find it tastes "off," or even undrinkable? Dirty tap lines that carry the beer from the kegs in the coldroom to the tap handles behind the bar are far too common, and they can result in metallic or butter-like off flavors. If you are served a beer that is noticeably off, don't hesitate to send it back and ask for something different.
An informative tap and bottle list
If a bar is going to have four or five dozen beers on tap, then they need to take care to produce an accurate and informative list of those beers that includes some basic information. Name, brewery and style are bare minimums, but alcohol content, serving size and price are nearly as important -- and that information is left off of a surprising number of lists.
Choosing from a long list of beers is tough enough, and you don't want to have to ask the bartender for the details on each unfamiliar beer that sounds intriguing.
Perhaps the most important indicator of a beer bar's stature is the staff's dedication to education and attention to detail. From style-appropriate glassware to the serving temperature of barleywine, there are a lot of details to keep in mind when pouring craft beer, and the servers and bartenders at the best craft beer establishments should be able to guide an uncertain drinker toward exciting flavors, new favorite brews, or perfect food pairings.
As craft beer continues to gain popularity and respect it gets easier to find venues that give the beverage the attention it deserves. Seek out the places doing it right, and don't settle for a lesser craft beer experience.