How many times have you gone into an upscale restaurant and they proudly hand you a wine list. When you ask about beer, the typical response is "we have Miller Lite, Bud Light, Heineken, and Michelob Ultra." I am sad to say that this happens here in Nashville. As an aficionado of craft beer, I find this frustrating and offensive. I refer to these beers as industrial pale lagers, or what we beer geeks commonly refer to as "swill." Why do these restaurants only provide the swill to their customers? It probably varies from place to place, but my guess is that it is plain ignorance or that they just don't care.
I believe that these restaurants need to eliminate industrial pale lagers from the menu if they are going to pride themselves on quality food and fine wines. The only exception I could see is if they have a fair amount of stand alone bar business. No Bud or Miller products? Isn't that a little extreme? I don't think so. Would it be acceptable if these same restaurants replaced the artisan breads and rolls with Wonder bread? Another beer blogger told me that he summons the manager, and then tries to order a box of Franzia or a half gallon jug of Gallo. When he is unapologetically told that they only carry fine wines, he simply asks why they only carry industrial beers. I like how he thinks and it brings up the question- why can't the same standard be applied to the beer selection? To all you guilty restaurant owners and managers, I have yet to hear a good answer. My wine drinking wife gets to browse through pages of carefully selected wines, and I am left with a beer selection that is available in 16 ounce cans at my local gas station (complete with brown paper bag).
I hope I am not coming across as a beer snob, because that is not my intent. I do not have any animosity toward the macro brewing industry or the people that consume those products. The brewing science involved with the production is fascinating, and the beer is consistent (which is hard to do with brewing). Brewing technology aside, the sad fact is that the quality of these beers is poor. They are full of cheap adjuncts, void of any hop flavor, and have a prickly carbonated mouth feel. I understand that most people like these beers, but they are widely available and produced for the masses, just like a McDonald's hamburger. Therefore I stand by my belief that they do not belong in fine restaurants. Cheap beer paired with pricey gourmet food and upscale ambiance makes absolutely no sense.
Us craft beer drinkers need to take an active role in requesting that better beers be provided at restaurants. Educate to the managers, bartenders, and sommeliers and give them some recommendations. Craft beer sales grew 17% in 2007 and these places need to take notice to our growing audience. I will not hold my breath for any immediate change, but I will hold my wallet, with the exception of the few restaurants that understand the importance of serving quality beer. Margot Cafe and Bar, Radius 10, and Boundry are excellent establishments with good beer on the menu. Radius 10 and Boundry even have their beer menus online. Please send me an email if I missed any other places that deserve mentioning. Are you a restaurant manager or chef that needs some recommendations for a craft beer list? DO you need help training your servers on craft beer? I can help. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Margot Cafe and Bar
1017 Woodland St
Nashville, TN 37206
103 mcgavock (in the gulch)
911 20th Ave S
Nashville, TN 37212