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The Craft

The ultimate resource for alcohol beverage news, trends and reports for bars, distributors and suppliers.

The Craft_Header
  • by: Ryan Philemon
  • 6 min read

Basic Beer Knowledge For Servers

Beer has been a popular drink for centuries, being a significant industry throughout history. In the modern era, beer has moved with the rapid technological evolution we see now, yielding new ways to experience beer. Breweries and taprooms are rapidly growing in popularity as a place for people to experience beer in a curated setting. The level beer has evolved to parallels wine at a price point accessible to everyone. As a result, patrons are becoming more knowledgeable about beer as they experience it, and with that shift, it’s essential for people working in the bar or restaurant industry to learn more about the beer being served at their establishment. 

Beer at a Glance in the US

Although beer has advanced quite a bit, it’s important to remember that name-brand beer is still at the top of the list when it comes to US beer drinkers. Bud Lite, Coors Lite, and Miller Lite will likely be popular for decades to come, taking up most of the beer market. Craft beer only makes up roughly 13% of beer sales at restaurants. Still, this is actually a great way to incorporate that knowledge into teaching your staff more about beer as they can learn how to give good alternative beer suggestions based on what they know patrons already like. This can become an opportunity to do beer and meal tasting as well, giving people the opportunity to possibly find their new favorite beer and branch out.

 

Benefits of Beer Training For Staff

Beer knowledge, similar to wine knowledge, not only expands someone’s palette for beer, it expands their palette in general. 

  • Beer knowledge can help profits. Upselling is a skill, and teaching your staff how to upsell beer through well-thought-out suggestions is a great way to do so. Craft beers are often more expensive than big box name brand beers so adding a craft beer to a ticket can increase profits. Giving staff the ability to confidently talk about beer offerings makes it easier for them to upsell these beers as well.
  • Beer knowledge can build a loyal customer base. Have you ever gone to a restaurant and been given an excellent suggestion by the staff? Those moments are memorable and giving your staff the ability to do that for patrons builds trust and shows off their professionalism. These types of experiences are what keep customers coming back, sometimes bringing their friends and family too!
  • Beer knowledge helps reduce staff turnover. Upward mobility is difficult for a lot of service and hospitality workers to visualize, so any opportunity to learn new skills is valuable for them. Giving your staff the opportunity to learn new things helps your staff feel valued and care a little more about the job they’re doing. The time invested in training is worth it just for this alone. 

 

Beer Training Basics

Here are some of the basics to get your staff started with beer training:

  • Show love to all beers. Regardless of your opinion on specific types of beer, it’s good to keep in mind that there’s a beer out there for everyone. It’s off-putting when certain beers are held in a different regard than others and it facilitates an environment that leads to judgment. Even though we might not think so, that judgment can become noticeable and affect your staff’s service. In addition, each type of beer has its own unique features, and it’s a great idea to spread out and have that variety available.
  • Give sips and tastings (like wine). Giving customers the option to try beers before they make a decision gives patrons the comfort of “try before you buy”, allowing them to branch out and try new things with virtually no risk. It can be a disappointing experience to buy a beer you weren’t sure about and end the night with a drink you didn’t enjoy. This also gives staff the opportunity to upsell and create a higher ticket amount.
  • Be patient with customers and ask them questions. Nobody can read minds, it’s perfectly acceptable and encouraged to ask patrons more about their beer preferences if it’s unclear to staff. Being patient is key and opening a conversation about what a customer wants helps patrons feel more comfortable as well. 

 

Beer Knowledge Basics to Teach Your Staff

Now we’ll explain the nitty gritty of beer types and their differences.

What is the difference between ale and lager? This is extremely important to teach your staff and can help them understand the differences in flavor with these beer types without tasting them. Lagers tend to be lighter in color than ales, have a lower alcohol content than ales, and the fermentation process for lagers is a bottom-up yeast process. Ales are slightly darker in color, have a higher alcohol content, and ferment with a top-down yeast process.

Popular styles of ale.

  • IPA. IPAs, or India pale ales, are known for having a higher alcohol content. They tend to have a gold or amber color with a malted bitter taste. Many people consider IPAs to be an acquired taste and not for everyone, so this is a great opportunity to give tastings if a customer seems unsure.
  • Pale ale. Despite the name, pale ales are darker than IPAs, having a darker amber to light brown color scale. Pale ales tend to be bitter as well, but not to the extent of an IPA. 
  • Wheat ale. Wheat ales are very pale in color with a smooth mouthfeel, often boasting some fruity notes. This beer can have some spiced notes to it as well.
  • Brown ale. The darkest of the ales, brown ales have a medium to dark brown color. They can taste like a freshly baked pastry and have deep caramelly flavors.

Popular Lager Styles

  • Pilsner. Pilsner is a type of lager that’s very light in color. They tend to be bitter, bright, and fruity with citrusy notes and low malt.
  • Kolsch. Another light beer, Kolsch is a refreshingly dry beer. These beers have low malt as well with some citrusy notes. It’s fairly similar to a Pilsner. 
  • Helles. Helles has a slightly darker color than the other two lagers we’ve mentioned. This lager does have some malt to it with a mild toasted flavor. 

Popular Dark Beer Style

  • Stout. Stouts are darker brown and tend to have a richness to them based on the type of stout. Chocolatey notes, deep toasted malt flavors, and stonefruit notes are common with stout beer. 
  • Porter. Porters are a little lighter than stouts in terms of mouthfeel, but the color stays similar. Porters tend to have more toffee and caramel flavors than stouts do.
  • Dunkel. This is the lightest of the two darker beers we mentioned. Dunkel has a medium brown color and has low maltiness while still having those caramelly flavors present.

 

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