I’ve been to a handful of classes and seminars that are supposedly geared toward beer servers, and have also read many more posts online on the subject. These classes & posts are rather predictable in their format – tilt glass, pour, straighten glass, leave a nice little crown. Now, while I agree this is a pretty important part of beer service, it completely misses the boat on what makes an actual beer server. Nowhere was this make more apparent than at the Heineken campaign “Passion for Beer” campaign hosted around the country last year.
At this seminar (I went to the San Francisco offering) the class titled “The Perfect Pour” seemed like a yawner – I mean, really, I could rattle off the above-mentioned technique in my sleep. I was more than a little impressed when the instructor, Franck Evers, began with the most basic element of proper beer pouring – eye contact.
You see, beer service has trended to the brainy aspects of the liquid – styles, history, ingredients and whatnot – while giving very little attention to the actual act of service, which begins with a smile and eye contact, maybe a hello if the bar isn’t slammed. From here, you can take the patron’s order, then promptly pour into a beer-clean glass before returning the beer to the patron, again with eye contact and acknowledgement of their order (repeating back their order as you put the glasses on the counter, or a simple ‘thank you’ usually does the trick).
For all you aspiring beer servers, regardless of the certificate you hold, remember that service is as important as the beer. It doesn’t start at the tap, or the glass, it starts when you greet your customer and ends when they leave. Yes, it’s important (very important) to maintain clean beer lines, beer-clean glasses and have a working knowledge of the beers you serve. That said, all this technical information is pretty useless if you fail at the most basic point of service – the customer interaction.
A Quick Aside
Anyone that frequents bars knows that this sentiment isn’t just shared among beer fans, but in any specialty market. Look at your hipster hangouts like artisan coffee shops, cocktail bars and even upscale grocers. We have today an immense level of information about the products we sell. We can rattle off the details of history, regional differences, ingredients without effort. More and more, however, all this seems to come at the cost of service. It doesn’t have to be this way.
Please note this entry in the 1882 edition of “The New and Improved Illistrated Bartenders Manual” written by Harry Johnson.
When waiting on customers at any time it is of the highest importance for a bartender to be strictly polite and attentive in his behavior and especially in his manner of speech giving prompt answers to all questions. As far as lies in his power he should be cheerful and have a bright and pleasant countenance. It is of very great importance to be neat clean and tidy in dress, as that will prove more to the interest of the bartender than any other matter. He should be pleasant and cheerful with everyone this will not only be pleasing to customers, but also prove advantageous to the bartender serving them. It is proper when a person steps up to the bar for a bartender to set before him a glass of ice water and then in a genteel and polite manner find out what he may desire. If mixed drinks should be called for it is the bartender’s duty to mix and prepare them above the counter and let the customers or parties see them and they should be prepared in such a neat quick and scientific way as to draw attention. It is also the bartender’s duty to see to it that everything used with the drinks is perfectly clean and the glasses bright and polished. When the customer has finished and left the bar the bartender should clean the counter well thoroughly so that it will have a neat and appearance again and if time should allow bartender to do so he should clean the glasses in a perfect manner at once so as to have ready again when needed. As regards the bench, which is an important branch in managing a properly, it is the bartenders special duty to his bench cleared up and in good shape at all times he will find it to his advantage if done properly.
Clean, gentile and attentive – if you miss these subtle attributes, you’ve missed out on how to properly pour a beer.