20 Feb Bourbon County Stout Tapping Party Just One Way The Pint Room Carmel Displays Top Flight Beer Curation
by Indiana On Tap Staff
The Pint Room in Carmel (110 W. Main St.) is getting ready for one of their classic craft beer events on February 26th from 6pm – close (midnight) or when everything blows. The Bourbon County Stout tapping party that will include the famous Goose Island Bourbon County Stout, as well as the Midnight Orange (blood orange) and vanilla variants. Other Goose Island beers will be tapped as well, including Matilda, Lolita, 312, and the Next Coast IPA introduced this last March.
There will be one sixtel each of these beers, so it will pay to be there early. Along with this beer, they will also have some Rip van Winkle Bourbon from the Old Rip van Winkle Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky. Look for distributor and other reps to be on hand as well as some swag to be passed out, so all in all this can be an enjoyable and educational evening. Why now? The release of Bourbon County was in November so people have had a good amount of time to re-develop their yen for this beer, and doing it on a Tuesday night ensures that everyone coming in for these rare beers will not have to fight as large a crowd to get them – everyone gets the personal touch.
Obtaining these rare beer variants and rare bourbon, for which The Pint Room is famous, begs the question – how do they do that? There are many things that go into being able to put together a nice beer list and special offerings, from having the right personnel, to having a place where people feel comfortable and spend a good amount of time. Being able to sell a lot of beer helps you to get interesting choices, and you won’t sell a lot of beer if people don’t feel comfortable in your place.
The Pint Room. There are no fewer than 124 taps of local, national, and international beer, including eight nitrogen tap faucets, at this downtown Carmel establishment. It’s also a restaurant with high-end pub food. The burgers are what they are known best for, but the menu doesn’t stop there – soups, salads, and sandwiches are bigger, but the bar bites menu of pastrami sliders, shrimp tostadas and bottle cap pickle chips are stars as well. And don’t get us started on the fried chicken mac & cheese.
General Manager Andreya Kennerk showed us around The Pint Room and talked about the sheer volume of beer they go through. Beers from over 250 breweries are served each year; probably more than 2000 different beers since they opened in 2014. They have more than 50 empty kegs each week for pick up and delivery of fresh beer, so this is a bar that goes through a lot of beer.
The décor is welcoming, with lots of state and regional brewery memorabilia. There is an extremely long bar with TVs over the top. There is table seating in the bar and a huge family dining area. One wall in the bar has marker signs for many of the breweries that they serve. It’s fun to look through them and see if there are any you haven’t had. The tap faucet handles are lined up showing all the inventive ways that breweries can call attention to their beers.
But all of the above makes it easy to fall into the trap that this is just a restaurant with a long beer list. Well……it is, but that beer list is a lot more than just long, it’s well thought out and it has entries that differentiate it from other lists. There are beers you can get at The Pint Room that you just aren’t going to be able to get other places.
A Curated Beer List. In a word, this is a well curated beer list. The first time I came across that word with respect to beer was in some things I was reading about the Map Room in Chicago. Chicago star chef Stephanie Izard’s husband, craft beer consultant Gary Valentine, has done some curation work with the Map Room in addition to the work he has done with the Festival of Barrel Aged Beers.
Curating the beers for the Map Room means that someone decides what to purchase and serve – what beers, negotiating with distributors and breweries for rare and specific beers, how much of each they would buy, how they would price them. It’s about being a beer buyer with a eye to the overall list, not just the individual beers purchased.
The Pint Room has followed this sort of a plan. Bar Manager and Beer Buyer David Gross thoughtfully considers many aspects of craft beer, and then has an extensive list to pour over in order to come up with a well priced, eclectic, seasonal, and interesting beer list. The key is relationships – with breweries, with brewers, with distributors, with beer drinkers. And the key to relationships is respect and loyalty. He puts a lot of time into this endeavor, studying the styles that are getting ready to blow, the big sellers he needs to double up on, and the rare beers he has and wants to have to bring people in now and in the future.
There are different philosophies to follow when curating a beer list. None of them are wrong, unless you don’t pay attention to the obvious things – give people correct information and enough information on the beer list – spell the brewery and beer names right – keep the beer fresh, both in age and style – be able to describe the beers.
But the list that a brewery or bar builds can take many different forms, the important part is to know what works for the clientele you have. The better you match the needs of the patrons, the more beer you will sell and the more the distributors and breweries will want to work with you. Here are a few of the different list types; we’ll dispense with the mega beer lists and go straight to beer geek tap lists.
A few types of beer lists:
Totally expensive and rare beers – This is impressive, but it prices most people out of the market and confuses even more people. Most choices will be well known beers – not just flagships from national breweries, mixed in with the top sellers from local breweries. This will work with many beer fans, but you will probably lose the geeky fans and your reputation will suffer.
Eclectic beers – This is a popular way to put a beer list together now, simply because there are so many breweries making eclectic beers. If you wanted to, you could have 40 different styles on 40 different taps, giving each patron something to choose from. But craft beer drinkers also like to compare beers within styles, so this approach keeps people from having four different IPAs to compare over the course of a flight or a night.
Grouped beers – You can have several beers of a style together, several beers from a brewery together (like an extended partial tap takeover), and several rare beers to go with several common and classic beers. This leads to a varied price and style list, with some things for just about everyone. It’s hard to fail with this kind of curated list, but depending on how many taps you, it can be difficult to achieve. With just a few taps you can’t really cross all categories, while with many taps it becomes to harder to fill all of them with beers that make sense.
Relationships are the key. This is where a taproom can separate itself and where the relationships mentioned above become very important – they can separate a good list from a great list. Distributors are like everyone else, they have clients to please on both ends of their job. Breweries want their beer to be as many places as possible, and taprooms that want the best beers they can get. There’s always going to be beers that they make more of and beers they have less of – so who gets what?
A beer buyer has to show that his/her establishment can move beer, and has a clientele that will appreciate and buy rarer beers. Once a personal relationship built on trust between the parties is established, and once it is shown that an establishment is capable of handling rare and more expensive beers, then distributors and breweries will seek you out. Everyone needs to respect and understand everyone else’s position.
This is where The Pint Room excels, they have the relationships which lead to hearing about a beer that other buyers won’t even know are available, to being able to ask about future availability of interesting beers, because they 1) know they exist, 2) and know that a distributor/brewery trusts them to handle, describe, and pour the beer well.
David explained that being loyal to breweries means carrying their core beers all the time, being able to move beers in a timely fashion, and appreciating the rarer beers and being able to pass their enthusiasm on to the patrons. The current example of this in action – the Old Rip Van Winkle Bourbon at The Pint Room for their Bourbon County Stout Tapping Party. Only a handful of bars is getting a bottle of this bourbon, and while there are more expensive bourbons, this is a rare treat for most bourbon fans. Loyalty and relationships are why The Pint Room gets the CBS and Blushing Monk from Founders, the Expedition and Cherry stouts from Bell’s and all those variants of the Deth’s Tar from Revolution.
The Pint Room has built a respectful relationship with Old Rip van Winkle Distillery, and this is why they have been able to get this bottle. Why save it for tapping party when they are serving bourbon barrel aged stouts? Because Andreya wanted to be sure that no matter when you arrive or how fast the Goose Island base stout and variants go, there would be something very special on hand for everyone. That’s how a bar learns to take care of its patrons and why brewers and distributors then know that this is where they should be placing their good stuff.
Therefore, a trip to The Pint Room can include great food, it can include great entertainment and surroundings, it can include great conversations. But it will also include great beer…..not just beer, but great beer. The tap list is an excursion through the length and breadth of American beer, and with stops everywhere along the spectrum. The Pint Room isn’t a restaurant and it isn’t a bar, it’s foremost a well curated beer bar that also happens to have wonderful food. This introduction to The Pint Room should convince those of us who haven’t visited yet to make the short drive. And for those of us who know The Pint Room, now you can see them in a different light.