A Fond Farewell to the Old-School Craft Beer Bar

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by AlcahueteJ, Jun 24, 2021.

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  1. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,821) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
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    Jesse, believe it or not you already answered your own question:
    "Like when I went to Philly. Seemed like every place I walked into had an awesome tap list."

    Yes, we are fortunate in Philly and the surrounding area to have many quality bars that have an "awesome tap list" and these places are consequently beer bars.

    And while these bars will also offer other alcoholic beverages (e.g., wine, cocktails) if you look around the crowd the majority of folks will have pints of beer in their hands.

    As I type this I am getting thirsty. Only a couple of hours from now I will meet up with some buddies for Happy Hour at a beer bar in Phoenixville, PA. :beers:

    Cheers!
     
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  2. John_M

    John_M Poo-Bah (7,358) Oct 25, 2003 Oregon
    Moderator Society Trader

    Agree with your description and assessment, but it got me to thinking. When I lived in Baltimore, I would frequently drive up to the Philly/SEPA area on the weekends, just for the reasons you describe (to experience the awesome tap lists). Pretty much everyplace served food, and most served liquor as well. I can't recall any place that just sold beer (unlike here in PDX, where there are many such places). Are there any places that just sell beer in Philly/SEPA? Is it even legal to sell alcohol without food?

    Most places here in PDX will sell some sort of snack (chips, beef sticks, popcorn and the like), but it's surprising the number of beer bars that have no kitchen and sell almost exclusively beer (with maybe a cider or kombucha for a little variety).
     
  3. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,821) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    The only places that are beer only that I am aware of are brewery taprooms.
    John, you got me there. Maybe @jesskidden has some input here.

    Cheers!
     
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  4. zac16125

    zac16125 Poo-Bah (2,402) Jan 26, 2010 South Carolina
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    OMG Falling Rock Taphouse closed? That’s a tragedy. One of my all time favorite bars, a must stop every time I was in Denver.
     
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  5. zac16125

    zac16125 Poo-Bah (2,402) Jan 26, 2010 South Carolina
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    Yeah, this is going to sound like sour grapes but the proliferation of mediocre breweries popping up everywhere making mediocre beers isn’t good for the overall craft beer scene. Which some of us have been saying for years. And truthfully I don’t get the obsession. Those places will most likely fade into oblivion as the bubble continues to burst, but the unfortunate reality is that some high quality, long lineage breweries/beers/bars going under will be yet another one of the unintentional byproducts of this “drink local” (or what I sometimes refer to as “drink mediocre uninspired IPA which are local” aka “everyone gets a brewery!”)
     
  6. BigIronH

    BigIronH Poo-Bah (1,929) Oct 31, 2019 Michigan
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    I may have inadvertently been in to one of these places and I know that there are many in my area that are alive and well. However, there is a good share of breweries in my area as well that keep 5-10 guest taps of all the other best local stuff. As far as a tap house with 50+ lines; for me, that would quickly become overwhelming, and I have my doubts that the proper maintenance is done on the basis it should be to maintain it all. In no other words, for me personally, with them or without them, I will be okay. Although, I never want to hear of someone’s business failing.
     
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  7. BillAfromSoCal

    BillAfromSoCal Zealot (584) Aug 24, 2020 California

    Yep...there is a really nice beer-centric venue near our CA central coast house with great atmosphere and great pub food, but every one of their beers, with maybe 1 exception, are from Central Coast brewers and the same beers are widely available on tap and in the local markets. Almost none are higher than 90 pts on BA, so they are not bad, but not worth any effort to get. They would do much better to offer beers that make people believe they can't live without having again, regardless of the brewer location. I told them that when they opened but I obviously had no influence. So for now we go there for the nice outdoor setting and the food and maybe have some sort of beer while we are there, but it is always an uneventful beer experience.
     
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  8. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,821) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    Yup, the locavore movement is strong as regards craft beer. I am fortunate that I live in an area where if the craft beer bar solely wants to concentrate on locally brewed beers there are plenty of high quality craft beer brands to chose from and I am happy to go there. A craft beer bar that has this as part of their business model is Standard Tap in Philly:

    "When Standard Tap opened its doors in December of 1999, our goal was simple: to create a neighborhood tavern that featured great beer and wholesome food. With that in mind, we offer a draft-only beer selection that highlights the vast array of styles crafted by breweries located in Pennsylvania, New Jersey & Delaware. Our food menu both complements the beer and expands the notion of what pub food can be. “The gastropub that started it all with a focus on great local craft beer and serious food still captures a certain super-bar magic in the moody, rambling rooms of it’s Northern Liberties tavern” mentions Craig Laban in his revisit to Standard Tap."

    Cheers!

    P.S. John (@John_M), did you ever go to Standard Tap?
     
  9. John_M

    John_M Poo-Bah (7,358) Oct 25, 2003 Oregon
    Moderator Society Trader

    Of course. Several times. Along with Monk's, it was at the top of my list of must places to visit in Philly when I first moved back East. Great place, with a unique vibe all its own.

    My review score was 4.3, so pretty good.
     
    #49 John_M, Jun 25, 2021
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2021
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  10. EmperorBatman

    EmperorBatman Initiate (165) Mar 16, 2018 Tennessee

    My concern though is that these places won’t collapse with the bubble, especially if they are in low-competition regions. I have doubts that the American consumer is discerning enough to recognize mediocre or even bad beer and to stop patronizing a place over quality or variety. The breweries have essentially found a niche to take advantage of, especially if the region lacks any better options.
     
  11. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Poo-Bah (1,996) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts
    Society

    This.

    And I feel like you have your tickers going to breweries to well…tick. But the other patrons there are there for the atmosphere first, and the beer second.

    And a mediocre New England IPA probably tastes just fine to your standard craft beer drinker.
     
  12. BillAfromSoCal

    BillAfromSoCal Zealot (584) Aug 24, 2020 California

    I'm missing something here...if a place has little or no competition why should you be concerned that they might actually stay in business. Are you saying it is better to have no access to beer than to have access to mediocre beer? Why should we care if the general public fails to meet your benchmark for being sufficiently "discerning"?
     
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  13. zac16125

    zac16125 Poo-Bah (2,402) Jan 26, 2010 South Carolina
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    A legitimate point. Although I’d like to argue that it’s ridiculous to consider that patrons wouldn’t stop frequenting an establishment due to poor quality, unfortunately I can’t even argue against that. I wish I could, but I can’t.

    I take some solace in the fact that the combination of cellaring, american craft staples that I know (read hope) aren’t going anywhere, and quality German and Belgium imports is plenty enough to keep my beer palate entertained. I just find it disheartening that some greats are being pushed out by mediocrity.
     
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  14. surfcaster

    surfcaster Zealot (526) Apr 20, 2013 North Carolina
    Trader

    Charlotte had not quite "overreached" capacity for places serving good beer but was close. Solid places survived.
     
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  15. EmperorBatman

    EmperorBatman Initiate (165) Mar 16, 2018 Tennessee

    The idea between mediocre and completely no beer is a false dichotomy. At bars, beer-centric or not, local craft will take tap space from national premium brands or foreign imports. In the same sense, gravitation towards a local brewery because it is local, takes service away from a bar which might curate a more diverse selection of beer, usually from professional commercial brewers which employ true professional talent.

    My opinion comes from comparing the popularity of breweries to my own experiences at such breweries, in all the regions I’ve lived as an adult. I’m not a cicerone, but I noticed many poor beers, judging by off-flavors, and I’ve tried to study many of the common styles, judging the well-known examples and using those as exemplars. I also judge a brewery on which beers they present, and whether the selection shows diversity and an ability to skillfully make beers such as lagers. Again, many breweries I’ve visited tend to be one-trick ponies, emphasizing one or a few styles over anything else.
     
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  16. BillAfromSoCal

    BillAfromSoCal Zealot (584) Aug 24, 2020 California

    I agree with the part of your reply that says local craft will take tap space from national premium brands, but your original comment with reference to places with mainly substandard local beers was "My concern though is that these places won’t collapse with the bubble, especially if they are in low-competition regions." and I'm not sure how that can be interpreted any other way than meaning that you prefer that places with little competition that don't meet your standards for beer selection should collapse. Clearly that would leave even less competition, and based on too many other examples in our society, less competition is never good for the consumer.
     
  17. zac16125

    zac16125 Poo-Bah (2,402) Jan 26, 2010 South Carolina
    Society Trader

    This.

    So much this.

    I don’t even think anyone could argue against what is said in this post, and I find it unfathomable when people cite the number of “local small production brewpubs” as the reason they believe the craft beer market is better than ever. Craft beer has always been defined by quality and diversity from the mediocre norm. Seems like what is prominent now drastically diverges from those basic pillars.
     
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  18. BBThunderbolt

    BBThunderbolt Poo-Bah (10,026) Sep 24, 2007 Kiribati
    Society Trader

    The linked article in the OP gave that authors definition, and I think it fits well enough.
     
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  19. SFACRKnight

    SFACRKnight Poo-Bah (2,103) Jan 20, 2012 Colorado
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    Except that's what Falling Rock was known for. They had a fabulously curated tap list, and GABF week they were known to have super rare shit. I had Brandy Barrel aged hunna there as well KBBS.
     
  20. BBThunderbolt

    BBThunderbolt Poo-Bah (10,026) Sep 24, 2007 Kiribati
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    Gotta take GABF week out of the equation; that week is all gravy for them. How were they the rest of the year, dependent on their local regulars?
     
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  21. unlikelyspiderperson

    unlikelyspiderperson Poo-Bah (2,194) Mar 12, 2013 California
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    I can go to anywhere that serves alcohol locally and there will be acceptable beer. But the two local "beer bars" are the places where I might get an Italian made barrel aged sour on tap or an IPA from a highly touted producer who doesn't distribute locally. They have a diversity of taps that isn't targeted to simply appeal to the largest common denominator.
    I guess this might be a regional thing, but I travel a lot and I don't understand this sentiment at all. There is, objectively, more access to more better beers than ever in recorded history right now. I am yet to be shown a place that once had a great availability of amazing beers that is now gone. People may have lost access to favorite brands (which sucks) but it seems to me that all markets have seen a general trend toward more access to more good beer.
     
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  22. SFACRKnight

    SFACRKnight Poo-Bah (2,103) Jan 20, 2012 Colorado
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    No. They were known for having loons, PtY, and all sorts of crazy shit.
     
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  23. BBThunderbolt

    BBThunderbolt Poo-Bah (10,026) Sep 24, 2007 Kiribati
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    Right. Understood. But, what was their daily traffic like 50 weeks a year? The weeks that weren't GABF or CBC? How loyal were their regulars? Were they just breaking even those 50 weeks, and depending on GABF week for yearly profits?

    I've heard plenty of stories from industry folks about about dropping multiple hundreds of dollars at Falling Rock, multiple nights, during GABF week. 3 weeks later, how many folks did they have running up $800 bar tabs in a night?
     
  24. SFACRKnight

    SFACRKnight Poo-Bah (2,103) Jan 20, 2012 Colorado
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    What you're not understanding is those whales were year round. Hard to find imports, hard to find out of distro taps, all year. Yes, they had local taps. Every bar has local taps. I'll gladly buy a pint at a local beer bar rather than deal with driving to Frisco for a beer. Most people would. Falling Rock ran into a downtown that changed around them. The area, once filled with offices, has morphed into a nightclub mecca. Instead of people getting off work at 5 and grabbing a pint before hopping on the light rail, most of the foot traffic now is from people leaving the clubs at 2am. Not exactly the best time to sell a pint.
     
  25. zac16125

    zac16125 Poo-Bah (2,402) Jan 26, 2010 South Carolina
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    Exactly.

    But now there’s 87 breweries in Denver that have 261 average IPA-spectrum beers on tap at any given time.

    More is better, except when it’s not.
     
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  26. SFACRKnight

    SFACRKnight Poo-Bah (2,103) Jan 20, 2012 Colorado
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    It's funny that we have so many breweries, yet I keep getting drawn back to my usual suspects. TRVE, Comrade, dry dock, cerebral, westbound and down, outer range. A few others. I see new breweries pop up now and again and find myself not even trying them anymore. It's not because I have heard bad things about them, it's because there is always something new from my trusted breweries. Someone must be drinking their wares, just not me. What does that mean for falling rock? A tap house that sold the best beers from locals? I understand the argument being posted is that they had too much mediocre beer. My argument is that, in Falling Rocks case, this is not the scenario.
     
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  27. zac16125

    zac16125 Poo-Bah (2,402) Jan 26, 2010 South Carolina
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    I’m sure there’s some regional variability but pretty much every where I go it seems like there’s a ton of local breweries (in theory a good thing!) but almost all of them their staples are IPAs (a fine thing), most of them don’t seem to brew much else other than pale spectrum styles or rather at least perhaps they are brewing other things but you don’t really come across them (not a great thing), and often they just aren’t very good (a bad thing).

    But then the real problem occurs when these start pushing other, I would argue better, beers off the shelves and taps. I think it’s hard to argue that hasn’t happened. It’s less of an issue with well done “beer bars” or huge liquor/beer stores, this places have enough options. But the smaller joints, those not known as beer beers but have a handful of non macro taps. Those taps are nearly always local or regional IPA spectrum beers.

    Example, the last 3 bars I have been to, all over the past 7-10 days, in PA, Georgia and FL respectively. One only had 2 craft options, both were local IPAs, one had 3 craft options, all were local IPAs, one (which is the one closest to my home which I go to often for the food not the beer ) has probably 20-25 taps, if you take out all the macros they have about 10-12 non-macro taps. One is Sam Seasonal rotating (currently Summer Ale) and literally everyone other one current is either an IPA/Pale/DIPA. I had 5 of these beers across these 3 establishments, one was Jai Alai which is local for me but at this point near national distro it was easily the best one, one was good but nothing special, the other 3 I would not drink again and I would consider below average. This seems to be a systemic issue, or perhaps I am just unlucky.

    People seem to like these and they must sell, so that’s fine. People also like hard seltzer’s, which is fine, and Bud Light again fine. But none of these things necessarily make the craft beer landscape better, and I’d contend it’s harder to get a good/great pint at a typical, non-beer centric bar now than it was 10 years ago.

    Then factor in that great long tenured established like Falling Rock who have a history of great tap lists with lots of diversity, are being pushed out of business and then it really starts to bug me.
     
  28. Reidrover

    Reidrover Poo-Bah (4,837) Jan 14, 2003 Oregon
    Society

    Everyone here in Salem OR seems to have survived. Then we never really had a good beer bar. Until 5 or so years ago Salem was a blue collar Coors light and fight town. But now have quite a few breweries and taphouses ( used to be growler fill places).. My local is one such taphouse and they do massive trade so even with 36 taps things keep moving. But alas 90% of the beers are PNW with a few Cali ones now and again. It is almost impossible here to find imports on tap. But luckily between OR/WA/CA there are some awesome beers. I guess the nearest thing in the general area to a great beer bar would be the fabled Horse Brass in Portland. Can't wait to visit after the 30th when restrictions are lifted.
     
  29. rgordon

    rgordon Meyvn (1,320) Apr 26, 2012 North Carolina

    "Subdued excitement". I like that turn of phrase. It's a definition of cool. Isn't that what The Dude had?
     
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  30. moodenba

    moodenba Defender (625) Feb 2, 2015 New York

    Licensing rules vary. Some states make big distinctions. In Oregon there is a historic division between beer/wine and hard liquor. The package business is still strictly divided. By the drink liquor in OR was only legalized in the early 50's, while taverns (beer) were legalized earlier. Oddly, at least into the 70's, bars with liquor licenses had 2:30 closing while taverns (beer/wine) closed at 1:00. There probably are still some differences that make beer/wine licenses more accessible in OR. Other states may not make a big distinction. I live in NY, where a "beer bar" is a rare item. Almost every bar serves everything here.
     
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  31. zid

    zid Poo-Bah (1,816) Feb 15, 2010 New York
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    Just like the place in your avatar - the Augustiner Bräustübl... a one-trick pony with no variety! Thumbs down. :wink::slight_smile:
     
  32. BBThunderbolt

    BBThunderbolt Poo-Bah (10,026) Sep 24, 2007 Kiribati
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    What you don't seem to be understanding is my point is about local/regular people, which are the money, not taps. How many bar regulars did they have? Those folks are what kept/keeps the lights on for these places. I'm well familiar with Falling Rocks history, even though I've never been to Denver.

    2020 was an odd and rough year all around, but I'm just having a hard time believing that there weren't other underlying reasons, beyond brewery taprooms and COVID, that is leading to the closure of these Blue Tusk/Falling Rock type mega beer bars.
     
  33. EmperorBatman

    EmperorBatman Initiate (165) Mar 16, 2018 Tennessee

    Hey, hey, if you go during specific times of the year like around Easter or Christmas, they sell TWO kinds of beer!:wink:

    I was actually quite confused when they offered their Fastenbier (a kind of Bock) as I had been used to just going up with my mug and paying for my liter. When the guy at the Kassa kept asking me “Wos füa a Bia?” I had no idea I actually had options for once!
     
  34. SFACRKnight

    SFACRKnight Poo-Bah (2,103) Jan 20, 2012 Colorado
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    I addressed this in the post you quoted. The dynamic of the neighborhood changed. What used to be a spot where people would stop for a drink on the way home has turned into a line of nightclubs. Not conducive to a tap house business model at all. I misunderstood your position as an assumption that it was because of too many local taps that sales were down.
     
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  35. rolltide8425

    rolltide8425 Meyvn (1,321) Feb 18, 2011 Pennsylvania
    Trader

    Damn, wish they could've made it one more week; I'm flying to Denver Tuesday.
     
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  36. moodenba

    moodenba Defender (625) Feb 2, 2015 New York

    Correction: Liquor-by-the-drink before the 50's in Oregon was restricted to restaurants, not completely prohibited (per Wikipedia).
     
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