The Beer Counselor Is In: How To Find Better Beer At Chain Restaurants

It’s been a long day.  You’ve either been on the road too long or you’ve been sitting in one of those always exciting work seminars.  Now you have the chance to go get some dinner or lunch in a city you’ve never been to, before you head back home.  You check your map application of choice on your phone and the only thing you see on your way to the highway is a couple of chain restaurants.  You pick one and pull into the parking lot and head inside.  Your host/hostess seats you and as a craft beer lover you look over the beer list.  You keep looking and you keep looking.  Eventually, you decide water might be the best option.

If you are a craft beer lover, here is a little advice on how to handle this situation.

  1. As the host is taking you to your seat, scan the tap wall. Better yet, if you’re by yourself, sit at the bar.  This lets you preview the list before you get it.  You can prepare yourself for the disappointment and also start thinking about what you can accept. Another thing, the written list might not be updated, but the tap wall almost always is.
  2. When you start reviewing the craft beer list skip to the bottom. The beginning of the list will look like the commercial listings for Sunday football broadcasts.  What you are looking for is probably going to be down at the bottom.
  3. Now once you have done those things and you still feel that water is your best option, go to the bottle list. The bottle list is usually a lot more craft friendly.  Bottles and cans are both easier to store then kegs giving restaurants more flexibility in what they can carry.  If they are not on tap, this is where you will find New Belgium, Sierra Nevada, and/or Samuel Adams and probably a lot more.

This isn’t meant to be a dig at chains.  Their job usually has little to do with promoting craft beer.  They are trying to make a profit in a business with a very low profit margin.  If they can sell a pint of a mass produced lawn mower beer that costs them $1 for $3 at 3 times the rate of a local craft beer that costs them $3, they are going to do it.  That’s basic business.

However, to the chains I would say this:  Take two of the mass produced taps and make them local favorites.  No one is really going to miss Michelob Ultra and/or PBR.  If you have a customer who is mad you don’t have Michelob Ultra, give them water because they really don’t like beer anyway.  As far as PBR goes, you’re a chain, you don’t have enough hipster poseurs coming in to drink that crap.  Dedicating, two of your twenty taps to local beer won’t affect your lawn mower beer only patrons and you will win a little loyalty from the more finicky craft beer drinkers.