I've used this term before but it has relevance in the beer world: barrier to entry. The beer world can be sort of intimidating if you don't know the ropes, and often requires you to ask a lot of questions, sometimes of people that don't want to be bothered even though its to their benefit they answer them.
For whatever reason, many beer bars have this speakeasy feel where you are supposed to either know everything by the tap handles (which might be all over the bar instead of in one place, or away from where you're seated and blocked by the heads of the people sitting directly in front of handle row) or ask a million questions to find out.
I've gotten accustomed to this and rarely complain, but there's something not right about it. Sure its more social but paradoxically isn't all that inviting either.
The places I've most appreciated remove that information barrier.
For example, the bars the have an ever-updated tote board of wooden signs with the names of the beers (and their brewery) available on tap. Better yet ones that also mention the style of beer, its alcohol percentage and if it will be served in something other than a standard pint glass.
We need more of those.
In the absence of that, paperwork showing what's available. The problem with the papers is that they cost money and are out of date as soon as a new beer is added and another one removed but at least they provide the general feel for what's going on and a few simple questions can usually bring you up to speed on what is available.
I'm a huge fan of two things they do at Frisco Grille in Columbia. Number one, they post the available tap beers on their website, so ahead of time I can look them up and see if there's something I want and/or Google the items I'm less familiar with. They also do a great job of keeping that listing up to date, as its posted online the minute they take a few seconds to make a simple update in their website.
For example, I saw yesterday they had Lagunitas' Hop Stoopid on tap and made sure to trek on down there to get a pour. Maybe some of my other favorite places have an interesting item on tap, but I don't know and would rather avoid the guesswork and that makes me a less frequent customer than I could be.
Once at the restaurant, they also have a video board high on one of the walls listing what's available. It would help to also list the style and ABV, but this is already more than most places do and you can look at the board from the entire establishment if you're not sitting at the bar and still know whats available.
Those are some of the concepts I prefer in good beer establishments. What say you?
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