You love the blog, so subscribe to the Beervana Podcast on iTunes or Soundcloud today!

Monday, August 02, 2010

Why Do Restaurants Discriminate Against Beer?

Last night I was sitting in Fonda Rosa, a well-regarded, upscale Mexican restaurant along the 28th Avenue restuarant row. Comes the menus: food, specials, drinks. I look over and see four taps and a row of bottles--mostly Mexican--on the bar. I'm thinking maybe a Pacifico, but I wonder what those taps are. I look at the drinks menu and find the usual list of specialty cocktails and small wine list. Beer? Nada.

This is common. You go into a nice restaurant in Portland and despite a decent tap list (generally three or four well-selected choices), there's zero mention of the beer. Lots of talk of wine and booze, but nothing on the beer. Of course, this is Beervana, so when you look around one of these restaurants, you see that at least a third of the people are drinking beer. Sometimes almost everyone is. (Fonda Rosa attracts a beer-friendly crowd.) What the hell?

If I were a more activist type, I might try to start a project. You know, Beer Transparency in Restaurants or something. Fortunately, I leave that kind of thing to others.

Anyone have a theory why restauranteurs slight the beer they sell and leave it off their menu?


  1. Sure, the simple explanation is usually correct. A restaurant makes a lot of profit if you choose a bottle of wine; you'd need to drink quite a few beers to make the house the same profit.

    By the way props to Higgins for treating beer right with a full on beer list. I agree with your premise, more restaurants should take beer seriously. A big beer list is fun!

  2. My guess is that the term "beer" still produces a lack of refinement in the English language, and conjures up images of poor, working class, blue collar types.

    While the truth is far from this stereotype in places such as beervana, that image is hard to escape for most people. A solution might be to list them as "Ales" rather than "beer". I realize that not all beers offered might fall under the "ale" category, but the term "ale" conjures up a different image than that of "beer". It's all in the branding I suppose.

    Or maybe another term is more fitting. "fermented spirits" perhaps? reaching a bit there I think.

  3. Maybe it is as simple as with only four taps, the restaurant changes which beers they stock. SO if they changed the beer either they would need to change their menu or the beer menu would be wrong.

  4. Other than obvious answer Anon gave -

    The restaurant could be sticking to their cultural theme? Looking up their food offerings, it appears they serve basic Mexican peasant food with a non-pedestrian price tag. That could mean they don't want to attract the local Beer crowd, but want to attract those who don't mind paying $$$ for mashed beans and chips.

    Yuppie posers love to pay big $$$ for things they "THINK" are cool and don't really have a clue what they are eating or drinking; i.e. 'the Most Interesting Man' Commercial for Dos Equis. ;-}

  5. Funny, Fonda Rossa has carried Ninkasi, Lompoc, Firestone Walker and other craft beers in the past.

    Often a change in managers (especially someone from outside pdx with no context) will cause this. Usually just a check in will start the craft flowing again.

  6. So far, I think Adam's case is the most compelling. Anon #1's point seems implausible; beer's margin is pretty good.

    Morgan, the four taps WERE good--I had a tasty Leavenworth (aka Fish) Pilsner. A nice pairing for my meal, too.

  7. "Anon #1's point seems implausible; beer's margin is pretty good."

    Beers margin may be good, but you have to drink a lot of $4 pints (gross profit of roughly $2.50 each) to equal a $35 bottle of wine (gross profit of $20-25).

  8. I think Anon #2 is more likely headed in the right direction. They probably change their taps frequently but not their food and do not wish to reprint the menu just to update the beer list.

    I find that quite a few restaurants place their beer list on the menu. I am thinking of places like Irving St. Kitchen, Beaker and Flask, Davis St. Tavern, etc.... One thing these places have in common is a frequently changing food menu. If the menu needs to be reprinted frequently because of a seasonal approach to the food, they are likely to have the draft list updated too.

  9. Constantly changing tap- and bottle-lists create an informational challenge. Venti's solution is
    - a leaderboard with 2.5x11 inch printed name and description for each draught beer
    - a shelf of bottles of available bottled beer.

    Printed tap-list/bottle-list are often obsolete. Portland-Horse Brass Public House's solution is a hard copy of once-current and pending beers. Depleted 'once current' beers are crossed out and tapped 'once pending' beer are checked. A workable system.