Are beer bars lacking in soul?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by MatthewPlus, Mar 5, 2013.

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  1. MatthewPlus

    MatthewPlus Initiate (0) Jan 2, 2013 Idaho

    In Tampa, I've noticed some trends. With the proliferation of local breweries (CCB, 7venth Sun, Angry Chair, etc...) we've had a sharp increase in the interest of craft beer over the last 4 or so years. We've also had a sharp increase in beer bars. It used to be that Mr. Dunderback's and New World Brewery were the only places to find craft beer in town. Now we have a ton of beer bars. This is a good thing, don't get me wrong. And i am a capitalist, so i don't have a problem with people making money; it just seems some places lack a bit of heart. For example, there is a local franchise that boasts an impressive 500 bottle selection, but much of it is either run-of-the-mill imports or the same American craft i find everywhere else. When they did get a slim of Bells 9k, it was on all weekend! Did they not know what they had? Was it poorly marketed? Or do self-glossed "geeks" stay away from "chain" craft beer bars? If they had something different like a vintage list would that change my mind about them? I like the wide selection, both draft and bottle, but find myself with a slight disdain for a "homogenized" beer bar. Anyone else having these internal conflicts?
  2. phooky

    phooky Aspirant (230) Jan 23, 2010 New York

    As long as they have an updated tap list online, and beers I enjoy, I'll be there.
    kevanb, x37x, sajaffe1 and 2 others like this.
  3. yemenmocha

    yemenmocha Initiate (0) Jun 18, 2002 Arizona

    Too many folks in general have "beer selection goggles" and only judge a place by the selection.

    I'm looking for the overall experience, especially SERVICE and of course food, cleanliness, patron demographics, etc. Given that I'm often with family, some of the chains are quite good for my preferences. Sculpin pints are $5 at Yardhouse on happy hour and it's no big deal to have children there. Normally my gripes are aimed at some of the local places that have pathetic service & mediocre food, yet have the more rare stuff on tap.
    fox227, Tdizzle, TongoRad and 9 others like this.
  4. MatthewPlus

    MatthewPlus Initiate (0) Jan 2, 2013 Idaho

    Too many folks in general have "beer selection goggles" and only judge a place by the selection.

    i agree with you to a certain extent, but when i go to a beer bar, i want it to be about the BEER. i could get great, attentive service, but if he or she can't have a beer conversation, i wouldn't consider that truly great service...
    Scrapss likes this.
  5. Providence

    Providence Crusader (703) Feb 24, 2010 Rhode Island

    "Heart" costs money. I thought you said you were a capitalist?
  6. rousee

    rousee Meyvn (1,040) Aug 13, 2004 Massachusetts

    Is that because you don't know much about beer , so you need to be educated by a server ?

    I don't mean to be a dick here but I could never understand why it is so important to some people that servers have this encyclopedic beer knowledge.
  7. MatthewPlus

    MatthewPlus Initiate (0) Jan 2, 2013 Idaho

    i'm not looking for "encyclopedic" knowledge, just a "beer conversation". And i know a thing or two about beer, but that doesn't mean that there's nothing to be learned from someone who is working in the industry.

    But this isn't the point. Really, the question I'm asking is anyone bothered by the corporatism in the franchised craft beer bars that are popping up all over the place? I'm not sure if I am or not, but it's been something I've been thinking about.
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  8. sacrelicio

    sacrelicio Initiate (0) Feb 15, 2005 Minnesota

  9. MarcatGSB

    MarcatGSB Initiate (0) Jan 8, 2011 Michigan

    I get what you're saying. It happens in all aspects of "private" business. You go to the coffee shop that fits your vibe, you dine at restaurants that have menus and atmospheres that make you comfortable...With the growth of the craft sector, you are going to get more and more "corporate" feeling bars, from people with too much money that believe they can put 50 beers on tap, stock 200 bottles, and have a money making machine. Ultimately, the places with more personality, and "heart" will get my business, and the majority of us BA's as well.
  10. Sam_Frank

    Sam_Frank Initiate (0) Nov 29, 2012 California

    I am not bothered by more places to drink good beer, no
    Tdizzle and 5thOhio like this.
  11. Vitacca

    Vitacca Crusader (782) Sep 15, 2010 Alaska
    Society Trader

    At least you peeps have a beer bar in your neck of the woods.
    Scrapss and SomethingClever like this.
  12. tjensen3618

    tjensen3618 Initiate (0) Mar 23, 2008 California

    No, more places to get beer and at usually lower prices is good by me.
    I don't need it to be a hole in the wall place "with soul" so I can feel hipsterish about my beer drinking destination.
  13. kdb150

    kdb150 Initiate (0) Mar 8, 2012 Pennsylvania

    Am I bothered by them? No. Will I patronize them? Not as long as I live in the city and have a world-class beer bar a block-and-a-half away from my house.

    However, America seems to have created a dynamic where, outside of big cities and some smaller towns which for whatever reason have a main street with a good diversity of dining and/or drinking options, all you get are chains. So if I'm some day living somewhere where my closest option for a decent beer is a "soulless" chain, then that's fine. I'll frequent it. I mean really, as long as I can get a glass of Two-Hearted, do I need to be that discerning about where I drink beer?
    HRamz3 likes this.
  14. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Poo-Bah (1,820) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    Ever been to the Toronado in SF?
    Map Room Chicago?
    Blind Tiger in NYC?

    Those have some soul. Might be dive bars in some cases, but they have some soul.
    BAstoutsNsours, YogiBeer and Chaz like this.
  15. jtdolla911

    jtdolla911 Initiate (0) Nov 18, 2011 Massachusetts

    I get what your saying, and for me, its more of an issue with people opening beer bars just to turn a profit, and not for the love of beer. I don't need the servers to know everything about beer, but when the menu says only "Chimay" with no ABV or price, I expect them to know which Chimay is on draft. I can get good, attentive service and a Sam Adams at Applebee's, if I'm going to a beer bar, I look for rarer offerings, casks, or good international selections.

    That's just my two cents, I have nothing against corporatism, I just go to the beer bars that are tried and true from my experience.
  16. denver10

    denver10 Poo-Bah (2,956) Nov 17, 2010 New Mexico

    Can't speak for the OP, but there have been plenty of times when at the bar I was trying to decide between two new beers that the bartender/server's explanation was the factor that swayed my choice.

    As for the original topic, living in a city and state with a fantastic beer scene, I have the luxury of being able to discriminate where to go. And these generic establishments (like Yardhouse*) are generally not chosen, because of the environment which I find to be stale. That said, when in area of less options (or at least an area where I am not familiar with the options) a place like Yardhouse would work fine.

    *I hate the food at Yardhouse, which is also a factor.
  17. kzoobrew

    kzoobrew Initiate (0) May 8, 2006 Michigan

    I do not frequent many beer bars that play much Al Green, Aretha Franklin or Ray Charles.

    Seriously lacking soul.
    TonyVT, CBlack85, Jeffreysan and 13 others like this.
  18. willbm3

    willbm3 Initiate (0) Feb 19, 2010 Massachusetts

    My only problem with the "corporate" beer bars is that the selection is usually shit. If I'm going out for beer and paying bar prices I want to pay for stuff I can't walk into any liquor store and purchase for 1/4 of the cost. But if I'm going out with friends for food I'll take it
    EyePeeAyBryan likes this.
  19. draheim

    draheim Poo-Bah (2,915) Sep 18, 2010 Washington

    I was going to go with Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, and James Brown... but yes, I'd definitely welcome more soul/R&B music with a tasty brew.

    OP, depending on where you are of course there are still plenty of places with "heart" and a good neighborhood vibe. Choose where you're most comfortable enjoying your beer and support those places. Even go so far as to let management know why you appreciate the atmosphere.
    Scrapss, JrGtr and Chaz like this.
  20. jamiejohnson

    jamiejohnson Initiate (0) Aug 4, 2007 California

    More good beer spots is great . but the characterful places will bring me in when there's a choice
  21. westcoastbeerlvr

    westcoastbeerlvr Poo-Bah (3,153) Oct 19, 2010 California
    Society Trader

    I don't think anyone has ever accused the Toronado of lacking in soul...
  22. Phocion

    Phocion Initiate (0) Aug 5, 2005 Minnesota

    Al Green especially is pretty common where I bartend. Although I don't work in a run-of-the-mill bar; we have art shows on the walls and no televisions.
  23. EyePeeAyBryan

    EyePeeAyBryan Initiate (0) Dec 20, 2011 Arizona

    Bingo. Lots seem to have roughly the same mediocre selection as my grocery store or neighborhood liquor store.
  24. TheFunGuy

    TheFunGuy Initiate (0) Dec 27, 2011 Virginia

    Hopcat in Grand Rapids is the model by which all should be judged. However, many places have great selection, a good vibe, and knowledgeable polite staff.
  25. SStein

    SStein Initiate (0) Dec 26, 2012 Colorado

    I want a beer where I can get a good beer at a decent price and who ever is serving it to me at least have some understanding of beer. When moving to Belgium I got told I should have a Fat Tire as it "is a Belgian beer". When I corrected the waitress, she then said I needed a Stella Artois as it is a "fancy beer".
    Chimay only has Triple on draft. So it is always the White.
  26. Padraig

    Padraig Initiate (123) Jan 14, 2013 New York

    This is 100% about 'The Vibes'.

    Speaking as someone living in the UK this is kinda the difference between a bar and a pub. We have a reasonable number of great craft beer bars here in London. Only a couple of them I feel the need to hang out in all evening.

    One of those is The Southampton Arms. Almost sell nothing but cask (2 keg lines, no bottles).

    I also like their FAQ.
    TongoRad, Hatzilla and herrburgess like this.
  27. ferillo

    ferillo Initiate (0) Sep 12, 2009 Massachusetts
    Fest Crew Society

    There aren't craft beer bars with soul food. Seems to me that would be a marriage made in heaven.
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  28. DmanGTR

    DmanGTR Initiate (0) Feb 19, 2008 New York

    I just like places that have a good selection of tasty craft beer, tasty and reasonably priced food, not too loud, comfortable atmosphere, and good service. Doesn't matter to me if it's a chain or not.
    5thOhio likes this.
  29. mychalg9

    mychalg9 Initiate (0) Apr 8, 2010 Illinois

    People are always trying to get me to go to the places that have "100's" of taps because they think I will like it there, but the fact is that I look at their beer list and it bores me. I much prefer places with 10 taps that rotate through them frequently and get some of the more "limited/rare" releases. Usually if I am going to spend the money to drink at a bar I want to drink stuff I can't just buy/drink at home.
  30. Hanzo

    Hanzo Initiate (0) Feb 27, 2012 Virginia

    Just give me a good selection of clean taps, reasonable prices, clean glassware, don't make me wait ten minutes between beers for service and don't have loud music pumping in my ears and I am good to go. That's about all the soul I need.
  31. robwestcott

    robwestcott Initiate (0) Nov 3, 2008 Indiana

    ok, so when i go to a beer bar:

    i want - soul ?, good vibes ?, every bartender with a high BA IQ ?, and whatever other intangible thing that might be way cool ?

    nah, i'll settle for a good taplist, clean tap lines, friendly bartenders and waitstaff and if any of the above are included, that's gravy.

    just sayin' - it's a "beer" bar. i'm there for the beer, not the intangibles.

    case in point - the relatively new Tap Beer Bar, in bloomington IN. great tap list, nice place, liberal policy in re: bringing in outside food and/or ordering in food, moderate prices, reasonably knowledgable bartenders (especially for a new place in a college town with college age staff) -- great place for a beer during daytime hours and even evening hours on weekdays. but weekends, holy crap, its a loud college bar with an albeit great taplist. i've walked in a couple times on the weekend and turned around and headed right back out - but weekdays, cool-ass place.
  32. snowy

    snowy Initiate (0) Jul 2, 2012 New Hampshire

    I can relate to your gripe.
    Recently my wife and I were excited to hear about a new taproom opening close to one of our favorite bottle shops here in New Hampshire. As luck would have it, we were in the area to see a film maybe a week later, so we stopped in. What we found was a cavernous, sterile space in a strip mall with 10 large flat screen TVs and huge storefront windows looking out on a parking lot. Basically a warehouse/sportsbar.
    BUT, the most disappointing part of our visit was the tap selection itself. What we expected to find was an array of regional beers along with some interesting selections from around the US and Europe.
    What we actually found was the sterile dreck found in most sports bars and a few selections that management no doubt considered "edgy" but beer enthusiasts would yawn at. Plenty of Bud, BL, Coors, CL, Miller, ML, Corona, CL... In short, all the mass-produced non-beer beers were represented, along with the usual offerings found in all New England bars, such as Sam Adams and Harpoon. Not that there is anything wrong with the latter two brewers. Some of their big bottle beers are still innovative and well executed. It's just that there are so many great brewers here in the states as well as overseas that it seems a terrible shame to not offer something from Oskar Blues or North Coast instead of Heineken or Guiness. Or Julius Echter or Victory instead of Shocktop or Blue Moon. There are so many mass produced beers now masquerading as craft brew that Joe Beerdrinker thinks he is being adventurous when he orders a Shocktop at his local bar, and bars are responding by adding taps with more of the same.
    Of the few New Hampshire beers we saw, none of them were from the area, which was bizarre as two pretty good brewers are right in the same town as this taproom.
    One right down the street!
    The most exotic beers we saw were Stone's Arrogant Bastard Ale and Dogfish Head's Midas Touch. Great brews but certainly not unusual.
    European beer was almost completely absent.
    As for food, TGI Fridays. Burgers, nachos, chicken wings, potato skins, a few sandwiches, meh...
    We had hoped for more.
    Soooooo... Are we beer eletists in the truest sense or are bars throwing around the terms "taproom" or "beer bar" without truly understanding the meaning of the term in the eyes of beer enthusiasts?
    Craft brewing is an art form and therefore subjective. What tastes good to one drinker may be repugnant to another. Still, I think most people here on BA would agree that Budweiser is a pretty weak interpretation of lager despite the fact that it is probably the number one seller here in the US.
    Ideally, we look for a diverse tap menu in a cozy space with friendly, attentive servers who know about the beer. If there is good food too, that is a huge bonus.
    We do tend to visit places that have good food as well as good beer more than those that serve good beer alone.
  33. Gameover170

    Gameover170 Initiate (164) Feb 8, 2013 Indiana

    Where is this located??! I just went back down to Bloomington (IU Alum) about a month ago and went to Yogi's because I figured that'd be my best chance to get some good craft brews. Now I have an excuse to drag the fiance (Purdue Alum) back down to Bloomington!
  34. justyouraveragebeerguy

    justyouraveragebeerguy Initiate (0) Feb 5, 2013 Illinois

    Three floyds brewpub, Because not having a soul is metal.
  35. robwestcott

    robwestcott Initiate (0) Nov 3, 2008 Indiana

    indeed. and so is staff that are gruff as shit.
  36. robwestcott

    robwestcott Initiate (0) Nov 3, 2008 Indiana

    its right on the square, where talbott's used to be.
    fredmugs likes this.
  37. fredmugs

    fredmugs Initiate (0) Aug 11, 2012 Indiana

    The Tap is on the square across from the Chase bank and a couple of doors down from JL Waters on College and Kirkwood. I have only gone to The Tap during the week and it can be very loud. If there's a musical performer forget it. I would never go there for an IU game. I would say they are slightly better than Yogi's for selection. It's also crazy that smaler venues can occassionally get better beers like The Bishop (Black Note) that never made it to Yogi's or The Tap.
  38. Gameover170

    Gameover170 Initiate (164) Feb 8, 2013 Indiana

    Wow, thanks guys. can't wait to check it out
  39. chrisrose30

    chrisrose30 Initiate (0) Jul 8, 2011 California

    I have no problem with corporate, sterile craft beer bars cropping up - I don't think that it's an issue: I just don't go to them. I've also found that the more "sterile" a craft beer bar is, the worse their beers on tap, as they probably have no clue about what good beer is. Here in Santa Rosa, CA, we had such a place open up with 40 taps, but most of them were beers such as Shock Top, ect. - the waitress who served us told us that they had some really good "craft" offerings, such as Green Flash IPA, which, although not a bad beer, can be found EVERYWHERE.

    Even new, corporate brewpubs can have "soul," although it is generally manufactured soul akin to a Starbucks. Bottom line for me: if they have good/some rare offerings on tap, and their taps rotate somewhat frequently, then I'll be there.
  40. jumboj11

    jumboj11 Initiate (187) May 24, 2009 Georgia

    If I'm going out to a bar for something, then it's about the beer and not the location. Yes, I have my favorite places, but I'll drink anywhere that's got something new, rare, etc. My biggest gripe is not having an updated tap list. Be it online or at the bar, there's no excuse for not having an updated list IMO.
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