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Beer lists at fine-dining restaurants

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by TappaKeggaBrew, Jan 31, 2013.

  1. TappaKeggaBrew

    TappaKeggaBrew Savant (290) Ohio Apr 30, 2009

    Nearly every higher-end restaurant in the country has a wine list, and many have a list of specialty mixed drinks. But it is rare to find a "beer list" of any sort, much less containing anything of quality. (If you ask your waiter, he'll probably rattle of the typical BMC offerings, and if you're lucky a couple of imports like Stella, Guinness, Blue Moon, and Newcastle.)
    First, why is this? I would think that in this age when quality brews from around the world are readily available, a menu planner could come up with a dozen or so craft brews to represent several important styles to pair with a variety of foods, without requiring vast space in the refrigerators (I'd like more, but this seems like a reasonable start). And if you're talking about higher-end beers, I'd imagine the mark-up for profit could be significant as well.
    Second, what needs to take place for the current situation to change? Should the craft brewers lead the charge, using their money to fund a PR campaign? Or is this something that we as beer advocates should try to do (and if so, how)?
    nogophers likes this.
  2. I'm just chiming in to echo this frustration. Fine dining with epic wine lists and BMC/pseudo craft beer lists. You want me to drink a Bud Lite with your food? Really? I've remarked to my wife more than once that I'd be happy to help the owner/chef put together a great beer list with some age-able options that won't go bad FOR FREE! Out of pity! As to your questions, I really think that there continues to be an old school mindset that beer is thoughtless and easy. Just give 'em four BMC options and they'll be happy. And the reality is that 80%+ of beer drinkers probably ARE happy with those four crappy options. As to your second point, it starts with the consumer asking for more craft options. There has to be a vague awareness within some of these folks that craft beer is increasing in popularity and that they might be able to make some money riding the wave. It doesn't have to be every limited 6er, 4 pack, etc. I'm talking Saison Dupont, Brooklyn Black Chocolate, SN Celebration, Allagash Interlude, etc. I need to stop now because I'm getting thirsty and bothered.
    TappaKeggaBrew likes this.
  3. It's a shame gastropubs are succeeding where fine dining establishments are failing miserably. Hell, even dirty craft beer dive bars are rocking impressive bottle lists nowadays.
    danedelman likes this.
  4. Dtapeski

    Dtapeski Aficionado (185) Colorado Oct 26, 2012

    Fortunately, living in the Denver/Boulder area, this is not much of an issue. So many very good restaurants now feature fantastic beer lists. Seems like the eat local movement is helping the beer offerings overall.
    YogiBeer and TappaKeggaBrew like this.
  5. I have started seeing some Goose Island products showing up at higher end restaurants.
    riverlen likes this.
  6. Yes, gastropubs have good food and beer.

    Roast in Detroit has a great beer list. It is owned by Michael Symon, and he likes beer.
  7. I am taking my wife out for our anniversary this weekend, and have had a heck of a time finding a restaurant that has a beer list and/or has options beyond BMC. I had one restaurant tell me that they would go to the store and pick up a six pack for me if there was something I wanted, which I thought was nice but probably not cost-effective for the restaurant. It also told me that they know that they have a crappy beer selection but don't have the clientele to warrant a change. We settled on a place with some local options (New Holland, Bell's, Founders), though I will be surprised if they have much of what they told me over the phone. I can't wait to see how fresh my Mad Hatter IPA is. Cheers
  8. socon67

    socon67 Advocate (660) New York Jun 18, 2010

    Not sure where the OP is from, but in the NYC\Long Island area I see many nice restaurants adding a decent craft beer list to their offernings. Was just at this place last night for dinner;
    http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/15306/?view=beerfly&ba=socon67

    And I come back more often since they went from a wine-centric restaurant to featuring craft beer to go along with really good food. Tried a Surge Protector IPA on tap which a nice surprise.

    It depends on the area. I've been to a Moron's Steakhouse and had Orval, Lagunitas at an Emeril's, and plenty of high end restaurants on Long Island have Blue Point on tap. There are places that see the potential in offering good beer and are taking adavntage of it.
    Fantasy_Factory likes this.
  9. Stinger80OH

    Stinger80OH Advocate (655) Ohio Nov 11, 2011


    Sorry but Moron has a steakhouse? :p
    ColinStClaire likes this.
  10. i would suggest asking the restaurant about their corking policy in advance if its fancy enough and or researching your state's laws regarding this. That way you are not limited in your dining experiences due to crappy beer offerings!
    TappaKeggaBrew likes this.
  11. frazbri

    frazbri Advocate (600) Ohio Oct 29, 2003

    Beer has made significant gains in fine dining in recent years. Sure, the old school, blue-blood steak houses have been slow to take note of craft beer, but many farm-to-table type chefs are featuring local beer in their restaurants.
  12. smakawhat

    smakawhat Poobah (1,170) Maryland Mar 18, 2008

    This isn't a problem where I live, and these aren't even the "finest" dining places either...
  13. brikelly

    brikelly Savant (405) New Hampshire Apr 11, 2010

    Anyone know of a web site that lists amazing restaurants that also have great beer lists & knowledgeable staff?
    HoistinBrews and TappaKeggaBrew like this.
  14. Try coming to Northern Canada. In the restaurants i've been to here, all i've found is a couple of Unibroue offerings and nothing else. I love Unibroue but still. The bars are also no better...
  15. I think it depends on the type of restaurant. "Classic" high end restaurants (like Portland City Grill for me) are a bit older and perhaps a bit behind and think "well, we make a shit ton of money doing what we are doing. Why would we change?". Whereas newer high end places, at least here on the Portland Metro have at least a few good options. Most likely Mirror Pond or Black Butte, both of which flow like water up here (or wine of you're feeling in a Dumb and Dumber mood).
  16. I didn't read this until after I already posted, but my thoughts exactly.
  17. willbm3

    willbm3 Savant (380) Massachusetts Feb 19, 2010

    Steakhouses seem to be the biggest culprit, but many fine dining restaurants haven't taken on to craft just yet. I typically see a handful of BMC's and some macro's (Guinness, Stella, Heineken, etc.) and if you're lucky the restaurant might have a couple decent bottle options. Why do they think I want 35 cents worth of tasteless adjunct to go with my $50 steak?
    TappaKeggaBrew likes this.
  18. I went to a 12 course tasting menu restaurant and when I asked what beer to pair each course with they did not recommend anything.....They had incredible wines and cocktails but the beer list was all Inbev. I give this 2 more years and they will be pairing beer with food too.
  19. AxesandAnchors

    AxesandAnchors Savant (300) Oregon Nov 21, 2012

    This is pretty much the same case for Portland, however I will say that the lists are generally pretty week craft options and nothing that exciting most of the time. I'm really surprised there aren't more chef's around town that are also beer geeks. Also part of the problem that I see here is that they're list is usually roughly three taps and maybe four bottles, consisting of at least two IPA's, an "amber", a lager, a couple pale ales, hefeweizen, and a week abv stout/porter. I have nothing against these styles, when their done well I really like them that's not the problem though. The problem is this seems to be a cookie cutter selection by restaurants regardless of their food. And more often than not they are the same offerings amongst a lot of the restaurants. It's like the distributor walked in and said you should carry these because people like them. I just wished these restaurants put more thought into it, and maybe had a larger bottle selection (age-able beers so they didn't have to bee too concerned about turnover).
    TappaKeggaBrew likes this.
  20. John_M

    John_M Moderator (1,100) Oregon Oct 25, 2003 Staff Member

    Which Portland are you referring to AxesandAnchors? I haven't found this to be the case in Portland Oregon. Most high end restaurants carry a pretty decent tap and bottle selection (more than just Deschutes mirror pond, SNPA and Chimay), and the selection at Higgins is exceptional (they even have a beer sommelier on the staff there).
  21. Just like anything else that's new and different [and to many people, yes, craft beer is new and different] it takes time to make the people who make the decisions to change the way that they've been doing things for years. Unless enough customers request craft beer or they realize they are losing customers because they don't have craft beer [unlikely since most people go to these places for the food, not the beer] they will not change. Have patience. Or in the alternative, go to every fine dining establishment in your area, sit down for dinner and when the server comes around for the drink order, ask for a beer list and leave if all they have is macros. That'll teach em.
    TappaKeggaBrew likes this.
  22. This is the opposite of my experience. But maybe we have different ideas about what constitutes a "higher-end" restaurant. If it's the kind of place your grandparents would have gone to for special occasions, and where the menu hasn't changed in 30 years, then yeah, craft beer is going to be hard to get there. But if it's the latest molecular gastronomy place started by one of your local James Beard Award finalists, chances are sky-high that craft is featured front and center.
  23. Derranged

    Derranged Advocate (500) New York Mar 7, 2010

    I just get some wine, cognac or bourbon. Or all three. I don't mind.
    jdillon334 and yemenmocha like this.
  24. yemenmocha

    yemenmocha Poobah (1,005) Arizona Jun 18, 2002

    Because there isn't enough demand for it. Places that try often pull back because it sits. Fine dining people are by far wine & mixed drink folks. Beer people are largely not.


    You won't see fine wine bars with a bunch of drunks screaming at some stupid game on a TV.

    You won't see martini bars with guys screaching like apes at the TV after a touchdown.

    And you're not likely to see someone at a fine dining restaurant demanding beer over wine.


    Just not sufficient demand. When these generalizations start to be less accurate, then we'll see change.
    kingofhop, jgluck, Errto and 5 others like this.
  25. MammaGoose

    MammaGoose Aficionado (210) Wyoming Jan 10, 2013

    (Keep in mind that I'm posting from Sheridan, WY and our "fancy" restaurant is a steakhouse...a nice one, but still).

    Our Rib & Chop, by far the fanciest restaurant in town, has a reasonable beer selection. They have a few flagship brews from our local brewery as well as some decent (although readily available, nothing crazy) craft selections.

    That said, if I were to go to a higher end restaurant elsewhere that did not have a good beer selection, I'd be happy to order a cocktail (mmm...gin and tonics) or a glass of wine. I know about as much about wine as a BMC drinker knows about Pliney's hop profile, but it's fun to venture into unknown territories sometimes. I don't require an extensive beer list to enjoy a nice evening out.
    TappaKeggaBrew likes this.
  26. AxesandAnchors

    AxesandAnchors Savant (300) Oregon Nov 21, 2012

    There's no question Higgins has a great beer list, but I have little interest in going there. Their atmosphere is extremely dated and their menu is not inspiring. Plus they are most definitely not the norm around here as far as restaurants and beer. If you go to the more popular restaurants around town things are much different. I'm not saying things suck out there, just that there seems to be a lack of passion and sometimes a disconnect with the food. These places, in my opinion are doing the best job with their lists and food;

    Tasty n' Sons
    The Woodsman
    Irving Street Kitchen
    Gruner
    Lardo
  27. John_M

    John_M Moderator (1,100) Oregon Oct 25, 2003 Staff Member


    Like any place else I suppose, things could always be better. That being said, I generally try to compare like with like. At least in my experience, Portland is pretty much the gold standard when it comes to eateries that offer a decent beer selection. Almost every place offers at least a couple of craft options, even the most divish dive bar or the most outrageous strip club. Even a crazy "greek" sports bar likes Claudia's on SE Hawthorne has a surprisingly decent beer selection.

    Just my two cents axesandanchors, but maybe you're just a bit spoiled and jaded. You complain about the situation in Portland.... please tell me what city you've been to where you think it's any better.
    Spaceloaf likes this.
  28. I wonder if there's a wine forum with a thread talking about why some beer bar with good food doesnt serve more wine. Some places focus on just wine. I can understand that. Just like a place may only focus on cocktails. Others may seem like they have an extensive list but the quality may be on par with the multiple variations of BMC they offer. A lot of us probably wouldnt know the difference.
    cjgiant, cmac1705 and MammaGoose like this.
  29. yemenmocha

    yemenmocha Poobah (1,005) Arizona Jun 18, 2002

    Yeah, where there's a million TV's playing loud, people screaming at them, etc.... why don't they sell high dollar wine?

    Hmm... wonder why...;)
  30. YogiBeer

    YogiBeer Savant (485) Illinois May 10, 2012

    Chicagoland area, no problems here. :)


    However, just take a good beer or two into your favorite food places with these lists, and ask to try them with the chef/sommolier during a slow period... if they like it, you've got a good chance of getting some stuff on the menu. A lot of those guys just dont KNOW, because they've never had to.
    mecummins and yemenmocha like this.
  31. Wine and american sports probably dont have much of a history. Unless the wine is in a box.
    yemenmocha likes this.
  32. mecummins

    mecummins Savant (425) Illinois Nov 16, 2012

    I'm in Chicago and quite a few of the smaller, chef-centric restaurants are very craft forward. A few of them collaborate with local breweries for special beers for their places. I'm beginning to see how lucky we are.
    YogiBeer likes this.
  33. Dtapeski

    Dtapeski Aficionado (185) Colorado Oct 26, 2012

    Or the sport is ancient Roman Gladiator games.
  34. Franch

    Franch Advocate (540) New York Mar 22, 2011

    no problems at eleven madison park in NYC (among others), where fou'foune is on the bottle list, along with specially-for-EMP-only bottles of brooklyn local 1 and brown ale aged in pappy van winkle barrels.
    jeagleton likes this.
  35. Ranbot

    Ranbot Savant (435) Pennsylvania Nov 27, 2006

    Thankfully, most nice Philadelphia-area restaurants have caught on that's it's worth their time to have at least a few bottles of decent craft beer available for customers.
  36. loafinaround

    loafinaround Savant (370) New York Jul 16, 2011

    holy crap! that place is only 15 min from my house! sooo going there.. thanks for the link!
  37. DelMontiac

    DelMontiac Advocate (620) Oklahoma Oct 22, 2010

    Yet another reason I don't really enjoy "fine dining" restaurants...unless it's seafood.
  38. The last "fine dining" experience I had was at Momofuku Ko. They had a respectable bottle list and we ordered Jolly Pumpkin Weizen Bam, a smoked kolsch from Kelso, and Rodenbach.

    Locally it's a mixed bag with some places on the ball and others horrible out of touch. I don't expect impressive lists, but a few decent options is always appreciated.
    brooklynbrews likes this.
  39. YogiBeer

    YogiBeer Savant (485) Illinois May 10, 2012


    Next/Half acre mangosteen hibiscus beer... unreallllllllllllllllllll
  40. mecummins and yemenmocha like this.

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