We’ve talked about what makes a good tap list, and what we want out of a great taproom. But what would happen if the Fervent Few just decided to build a (hypothetical) bar? We recently took suggestions from members about precisely that. Each member got to make two suggestions a day, and then, just once, they got to veto an idea. Here’s how it all went down.
I kicked things off by saying that we shouldn’t have more than 24 tap lines. Richard Maletto asked if we would be keeping macro beer standards on tap. After it was decided that we would, we upped the number of lines to 30 to accommodate. Then Chris Gartman stepped in and said we should only serve independent beer. After a bit of discussion, it was decided that we would carry some macro beers (Goose, Ballast Point, Lagunitas, etc. on tap, and Miller High Life in bottles). Dave Riddile, along with a couple other people, put their foot down on us serving BrewDog, however.
Dave then also decided that Allagash White had to be on tap at all times. Mat said Sierra Nevada Pale Ale always needs to be available. We’ll do our best. Shane Pearson had the idea to keep two of the lines as nitro lines—one that only did dark beers and one that only did pale/light beers. Willie Lee requested a “fair amount of Stouts and Porters.”
The next day Rob Scott showed up to say we need to add three hand-pulled beer lines. “One Pale, one Porter or Stout, and one special.” Matthew Curtis agreed, then demanded that we have Fernet Branca on tap. Christoffer Tuominen requested a dedicated tap line for German Helles or Czech Pilsner. Jason Dickinson had a lot of suggestions for our tap lines, but the big one was making sure that lines were the correct temp for the beer style that was being poured.
Nick Yoder said we had to have Underberg, but that we shouldn’t advertise it. You’d see the truck behind the bar and just know we had it. Colleen O’Sullivan stopped by to let us know that we had to have one kegged cider on at all times, and of course it would need to be dry cider. Alex Marsh followed that up with a suggestion near and dear to my heart: there would have to be sparkling water on tap.
Speaking of non-alcoholic beverages, the Fervent Few’s other favorite beverage came up a couple times. John Gross suggested a tap for cold brew coffee. Lily Waite took it a step further by saying there should be a pot of coffee, but of course the coffee’s not on the menu. You just have to know to ask. Tait Forman wanted to also add a handful of craft spirits and natural wines.
The first suggestion on the service side came from Caldwell Bishop. He said that if you don’t have a table or a seat at the bar you couldn’t be served. Willie Lee ended up vetoing this idea, saying that we should have a rail along a wall for people who just want to pop in and have one beer and take off. Caldwell used the veto as an opportunity to say that this is fine as long as there’s plenty of room between tables and that the seating area is separated from the bar. Jason Berg suggested that not only should we make sure we had proper glassware, but that beers could be served in half pours.
Zak Rotello wanted to make sure that everything at the bar was available to-go in a growler or crowler. Jemma Wilson swooped in to say that we needed to make sure our bar had multiple POS systems to accommodate a large number of customers at once. Jason Berg made another great glass-based contribution by suggesting that any bottled or canned beer is accompanied by a glass to pour the beer into.
One of the biggest debates we got into (we’ll get into the biggest one in a bit) was whether or not to serve flights. When Jason mentioned half pours, it immediately spiraled into a discussion about whether or not this meant we would be serving flights. Steve Rimington was the first to say we should offer flights with a “pretty presentation.” Jason Berg then vetoed flights, which lead to a passionate response by Jake Rajewsky:
“I'm 100% pro-flight. Anti-flighters essentially say, ‘You can't taste your beers the RIGHT way,’ which makes craft beer people sound like snobs. Craft-curious people don't have fun when they feel like they're doing it wrong and being judged for drinking the wrong volume of beer, which leads them to think this whole world is just too different, with too many rules to be fun.
I know they're a pain in the ass to pour, but that's why you charge a premium for them.
If you want a bar that only serves seasoned beer geeks, it's fine to keep off flights, but that doesn't do much for the diversity of customers. Everyone has been at the ‘try a flight everywhere we go’ stage of their craft beer journey, and at one point, each of us had a fun time trying tiny samples of several beers.”
As community manager, I decided to make the executive decision to leave flights out of the bar and stick with half-pours. Flights are great at a brewery, but this is a beer bar for beer enthusiasts. Plus, half pours allow you to try 2-4 beers on an average visit without the labor that comes with pouring flights.
Steve Rimington was the first to make a suggestion as to what should actually be in our bar (aside from great drinks, of course). He wanted lots of non-gender specific bathrooms. Zak Rotello said that the sinks should be outside the bathrooms, so everyone can see you wash your hands.
Jemma Wilson wanted a water station that had filtered water and was large enough to accommodate water bottles you bring in yourself. Rob Cartwright wanted the bar to be U-shaped. Caldwell Bishop recommended communal tables. (They just have to be far away from the bar, remember?) Suzanne Schalow made the all-important suggestion of making sure there are hooks under the bar. I’m a big fan of those.
Thad Parsons said that the chairs have to be comfortable. David Purgason made one wall an aquarium. Jason Berg made sure we had big windows with proper shades of course. He then also suggested dynamic LED lighting—environmentally friendly and cool-looking.
Over and over again, members suggested we somehow incorporate an outdoor space. Tait Forman was the first one to say we needed a patio. Nick Yoder than doubled down on it by saying it also needed lawn space so you could play bocce, cornhole, etc. Rob Steuart then added a playground area for kids. Jason Berg then gave the place a parking lot large enough for plenty of cars, campers, RVs, and—of course—bike parking. Nick Yoder put the bar alongside a trail so you could bike, hike, or run to the bar. Justin Hutton took it a step further by adding a beer garden that—of course—grows hops.
Our biggest fight wasn’t about flights. It wasn’t about kids at the bar. It was about whether or not we would have TVs.
Matt Paonessa was the first one to say anything about TVs. He did not want them. Jason Berg and Tait Forman dipped their toes in the TV waters by saying we should have them for major events only. Willie Lee would let TVs slide, but only if they were hooked up to VCRs. I then personally vetoed all TVs. Then Tait vetoed my veto. Rob Cartwright said TVs should only be on the patio, leaving people inside to drink and chat in peace. Matt Paonessa then vetoed all TVs again.
Since most people who wanted TVs agreed that it should only be for “special occasions” or with the volume off, I’ve decided we will be TV-free. We can always get a projector later.
There were a ton more suggestions that I will run through pretty quickly. At one point there was a cat. Then it was vetoed out. There’s a jukebox that only plays Hall and Oates. A pinball machine is situated next to that. The draft list has the kegged-on date of each beer and the last time the lines were cleaned. The bar will have a kitchen which will serve oysters, soup with oyster crackers, and pretzels with fancy mustard. No word on if the mustard will have an oyster component.
There are—of course—charging stations and off-menu WiFi. Education came up over and over again. Whether it was making sure the staff was trained on beer styles or even teaching classes at the bar, education was big. The website for the bar would—of course—show an accurate and up-to-date tap list. Finally, since this is a Fervent Few bar, we would have tons of great merch and we would be awesome at social media.
Phew, that’s quite a bar. We’re hoping to revisit our watering hole in future topics. I mean, we have to come up with a tap list, right? Wanna help? Join the Fervent Few and let's argue about televisions!