They Brew it, I sell it, You Drink it... and so do I..

Thursday 9 June 2016

Worrying Trend?

It's no lie that Leeds has been seeing a bit of an explosion of "craft" beer bars over the past few years. Existing pubs, old and new, have also been expanding their ranges, getting refurbishments and trying to move with the times. It's not a bad thing by any means, but there is something worrying I have been noticing...

I've visited a few new bars only to be wowed with very impressive selections of drinks, beers/spirits/wines everything really, and then left disappointed with the level of staff knowledge.

As an example, me and a friend visited a newly opened bar recently and stood at the bar whilst we had our drinks to try have a chat and see how things were going. It was a big place so they had a lot of staff. There was a woman changing a couple of barrels whilst a man was frantically running round seemingly telling everyone else what to do. The rest of the 10-odd staff looked to us to be 20-25yr old young ladies - which don't get me wrong, I have no problem with.

What I do have a problem with is that no one we really spoke to knew anything about the drinks they were serving! We chatted to one barmaid, who said she'd never tried the beer she was pouring us.. fine, I guess. We chatted to another, she said she didn't like beer... Ok, well I guess you can't please them all... Over the course of the night though it seemed to be an increasing trend. Were most of these people hired for their looks? (doesn't matter if they were all ladies, could have easily just have been a bunch of 10-odd attractive lads..) Was the man running around telling everyone what each product was and where they were on the keg fonts?

It's basic staff training. You need to have staff that know the product. You wouldn't go into a big chain like Starbucks, ask for a recommendation only to have the 'barista' come back with "oh, I don't really drink coffee, I don't know.." You wouldn't stand for it, and we shouldn't have to stand for it in our bars.

It's a fundamental part of the business, and if you open up a new bar with 20+ beer lines - you need to be able to give recommendations, give advice, tell people about what you're selling, or at the very least have an opinion!

Of course, knowledge comes with time and experience, but it's not hard to go through a few of the beers with the staff when they arrive and give little samples to them. They can then easily see what they like and what they don't, and even if they don't like it at least they can explain to customers what they think of it.

And after some time if they don't like anything at all..? they're probably not right for the job, and not good for your business, and you should consider why they were hired in the first place.

I'd go to a bar which had 1 or 2 great beers on that the staff new about rather than a bar with 20+ beers which the staff knew nothing about..

Tuesday 7 June 2016

Welcome Gifts!

Hawkshead were kind enough recently to send me some bottles of their new 'specials' range of beer, so I thought it only fitting that I share my thoughts in an open environment here!

Low quality photo,
because my phone hates
me right now........
The first beer I tried was the Chuckle Berry Sour - a 3.5% Berliner Weisse aged on Chuckleberries. It pours cranberry juice red with just enough haze to make you think it's not just another wet fruit fail. The aroma off the lively head is full of gooseberries and red currents, candy floss and toffee apples, a real mix of things here. The body starts with a classic refreshing tartness which leads to a red current flavour which then jumps unannounced to a big green leaf and lasting sourness.

Next up was Tonka - a Tonka beans and cocoa nibs Imperial Porter. A thin looking beer to pour, but don't let that deceive you. The aroma leaps forth with vanilla and chocolate. Heavy on the toffee and sweet burnt caramels too, surely desert in a glass if there ever was. The beer itself has a real creme brulee vibe going on to start. Lots of really sweet burnt meringue, but not overly sweet, it has a very nice balance of flavours. Quite a bit of charred toast bitterness creeps in the finish to make it that little bit more moreish.

The final beer was the Northern Imperial Stout. I'm no stranger to Imperial Stouts, and it's good to see a brewery not going mental and making a 14%, barrel aged, cinnamon and nutmeg added monster, just a straight up 9.5% sipper. That's what this beer is, just a really great beer to sip, savour and enjoy. Nothing here to over think, just great flavours, and quite literally the definition of what an Imperial Stout should be. Top marks on this beer.

Once again thanks to Hawkshead brewery for sending these beers though, they were a pleasure to drink, and keep up the great brewing!