How We Talk When We Talk About Beer
Before I worked at a craft beer bar, I knew few words to adequately describe what it was I wanted to be drinking. So I took to a kind of prosaic poetry:
I want a crisp meadow of a beer.
I want a beer that tastes like the kind of candy old people like.
A beer that is 10% pennies and 90% mineral water. Like water from the spring in Tuck Everlasting.
Bready cardboard beer with extra fizz.
Mouthwash booze beer with extra snow flavor.
Tastes like a library book, smells like a library book.
I want a beer in a short skirt and a long jacket.
But now I possess the vocabulary. You want to talk hops lets talk hops. You wanna talk mouthfeel, IBUs, ABV, yeast and malts, lets talk.
But preference, like language, can be subjective, and every customer is different. One of our rotating 14 taps is going to be a better match than the other 13. It is my job to guide them. Some people come up to the bar knowing exactly what they’re looking for. Others – not so much.
Customer1: Hey I’m looking for a strong IPA that’s not too hoppy- like not bitter at all. And light.
Me: Try this blonde ale.
Customer1: Is it an IPA?
Me: Not exactly.
Customer2: Hey uh I see on this list you got all this crap, like these Christmas beers and whatever, but do you have any normal beer?
Me: uh, excuse me?
Customer2: Like you got all this crap I’ve never heard of – but like, you don’t have any regular beer?
Me: have a Pilsner.
Customer3: Whats good here?
Me: Its all good but depends what you like.
Customer3: what do you like?
Me: Right now I’m into the stouts and porters. Anything with a malty chocolate or coffee flavor. The stout on nitro right now is a milk stout- made with sugars from milk. It’s smooth and tastier than a Guinness.
Customer: I’ll have a pilsner.
At a craft beer bar, no matter how celebrated, the average customer is more akin to a curious newbie or something of a fan. Sure I encounter aspiring brew masters, but this is Brooklyn and everyone drinks beer.
My job is simple. I am but a conduit between the drinker and the drink. Armed only with a menu and a language, I pursue harmony. At the end of the exchange, I just want the person to enjoy their beer, and to tip me.