24 Oct We Missed The Bar Last Weekend
Lucky me, I get to visit breweries most days of the week. I meet all kinds of people and talk about all kinds of topics. There’s little that doesn’t get discussed in depth along the bar rail sooner or later, and I’m happy to be able to take part in many of those arguments….I mean discussions.
But in the current environment, a lot of those talks aren’t taking place. Patrons are talking less to brewers and brewery staff, and they’re also talking less to each other. I have come to the conclusion that a major reason for this is the restrictions on seating at the bar in some places.
Let me give you some examples on each side to illustrate my point. In favor of the bar discussion are two visits I had last week outside of Marion County (no bar service is allowed in Indianapolis). As examples of the loss of the bar are the visits Walter and I had in Louisville on Saturday – they don’t allow bar service there no either.
On Thursday I had a meeting with a community businessman at Four Day Ray Brewing in Fishers for an upcoming article. I got there early and took a seat at the bar to review my notes and write some emails. I had on an Upland Brewing shirt and, as always, my computer had an Indiana On Tap sticker on it. A fellow around the corner of the bar remarked about each and asked if I worked in beer. I don’t, I just work around beer, and we started to discuss that.
His name is Tyson, and though he is fairly new to craft beer, you could tell that the enthusiasm was there and it was real. We talked about the places he likes to go, and he mentioned both breweries in Kokomo, Half Moon Brewery and Sun King Kokomo, because he lives there. I grew up in Kokomo, so I asked if he knew my father, a retired Kokomo dentist.
Tyson doesn’t know my dad, but he said his dad knows him. It turns out that his dad and my dad were good friends that played racquetball at the YMCA every Saturday for years, and I knew him through racquetball too. That led to many discussions of Kokomo life, interspersed with talking about beers and breweries. Yes, I had work to do, but it was much more important to foster a new craft fan and rekindle connections between families.
He and his colleagues (he was there for some team building) are planning on renting the Ale Force One Party Bus and he asked if I’d like to tag along to talk beer with them for the evening. I’d say that seat at the bar was pretty important for both of us, and potentially important for all the breweries that he might visit in the future.
That experience was mirrored by a visit Walter and I made to Hog Molly Brewing in Columbus Saturday night. We managed to get a couple of seats at the bar when they opened up (socially distanced, of course), and owners Lou and Martha Krempel poured us some beers. We talked about their coming need for added space and the plusses and minuses of beer gardens vs. taproom expansions vs. second locations.
But more than that, we talked about the beers, tried some beer floats, and even did some beer blends. I don’t know what you think about beer blends, but done properly, they can heighten the awareness of some flavor elements in each beer. Plus, they’re tasty.
We think Lou and Martha were interested in our ideas, they didn’t fall asleep anyway. We got to hear about some of their issues and learn about their beer in more depth, and we gave them our input which they could incorporate into their thinking or ignore. Again, being at the bar facilitated all that interaction.
On the other hand, our visits to five breweries in Louisville earlier on Saturday didn’t allow anything like the interaction of the examples above. Louisville (and perhaps all of Kentucky) doesn’t allow us to belly up to the bar for beers and conversation right now. We could sit at a table, but the bar, no matter how socially distanced, was off limits.
We first visited Goodwood Brewing in the NuLu part of town to try some of the beers that they don’t distribute to Indiana and get some of the creations of their new-ish head brewer. The imperial Kentucky Common called Maiden Voyage was great, but we had no one to tell that to. We had questions about their plans for the Jeffersonville location (it’s being renovated after a fire), but we could be at the bar only for the time it took to buy the beers, and the bartenders didn’t come out from behind the bar because they were busy.
We next visited Gravely Brewing just a mile or so away, with mostly outdoor seating and no seating at the bar. Luckily, it was Head Brewer Corey Buenning who met us at the door to explain the rules and escort us to a table outside. He was willing to stand by our table and talk about the two beers they won GABF medals for the day before. We even discussed Gravely’s budding plans for distribution into Indiana. But could any of that occurred if he hadn’t been the host at that particular moment? It was a conversation much more likely to happen at the bar.
The next stop was Monnik Beer Co. in Schnitzelburg, south of downtown. Again, we sat outside and had a server come around once every 15 minutes or so. One young man had been there a few years and could tell us a bit about the expansion into New Albany, but it was bits and pieces of a conversation, not a real talk. It was OK though, Monnik makes such great saisons that Walter and I were happy to spend a lot of time with our beers.
After that, we visited two breweries for the first time, Holsopple Brewing and Gallant Fox. Again, neither allowed seating at the bar, but I finagled a position close to the bar at Holsopple by giving them a bunch of stickers and then we were able to talk more with the beerslinger. At Gallant Fox, we also found a table close-ish to the bar, and then just asked questions loudly to the two owners, Patrick and Roger (at least that was who we think was behind the bar, we couldn’t talk that much.)
We came away from our visits Saturday with some new information – but much less than what we could have had if we had been able to sit at the bar. Hours and hours at various breweries in Kentucky or Marion County, while fun, can provide only so much interaction – about the equivalent of half an hour at any brewery bar. We miss the bars, and we can’t wait to get them back.