Tutorial - How to order a beer at the bar

Drinking a beer isn't supposed to be a challenging experience. In reality, it's supposed to be an enjoyable experience. Nothing about the process should be even mildly strenuous.

So why do I always see this look on your face at the bar? This is a picture of you (well...in actuality it's a picture of me mocking you) staring at a beer list, located above a dimly lit bar, written on a chalkboard in illegible scrawl, or on a stained beer list attached to a clipboard. I know this is what you look like because I've been a bartender for a long time, and I see this look on everyone's face. It's the "uhhhh...I don't know which beer I want" look. Everyone wears this look once in a while, and while it's forgivable, it's also a shame. You've probably already made a bigger decision that day (deciding to pee when you woke up qualifies here), so let's keep this simple. Anyone who knows me knows that I value an educated craft consumer over almost anything else, but this isn't about education. Certainly you should read the description of the beer, and certainly do some research on it later, but know that it's not a big deal and it's not worth that look of consternation and fear I see on your face.

If this happens to you, and it probably does, then read on, because I have a solution:

  1. Analyze the approach - Be mindful of where you're going. If it's a public location, and they serve beer, know that they'll probably serve more than one of them. Unless you're headed to McSorely's to order a dark beer, don't get stunned by the fact that you'll have options available. This should prepare you for the emotional rollercoaster you're about to ride when you walk up to the bar.
  2. Be cognizant of your preferences - If you're keen to try a new style of beer, or at least venture into semi-unknown territory, then be ready to order something you've never had. If you know exactly what kind of beer you're looking for, then get after it and don't waffle. Waffles don't belong at the bar.
  3. Say the name of the beer you want in a clear, measured way - This isn't a round of Jeopardy, and no one is on the clock. Slurring the name of the beer so badly that the bartender doesn't know if you're ordering a beer or a caesar salad won't get you anywhere. Granted, craft beer names are getting punnier to the point of incomprehensibility, but that's no excuse for a seasoned consumer. If it's an especially complicated name, and you need to break it down further, say the name of the brewery followed by the name of the beer. Ex - "I'll take the Frolicking Flamingo Giant Red Krill Double Barrel Aged Brine Saison". Take as much time as you need to get the right product in your hand.
  4. Drink that beer man. Drink it well. 

We can all avoid this deer-in-the-headlights problem of ordering a beer. Be confident, be aware that this isn't the first time you've seen a list of products for sale, and venture forth. Often times, it's a gut check and game-time-decision sort of play. Certainly ask for a sample if you're not sure, but know that it's good to venture out and get a new beer in your hand. You can do this.

God Speed,

- Chris



Chris McClellan