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A guideline for your beer list

Question:

We're not known as a beer place but I want to upgrade our beer program to include a good mix of 6-8 drafts. Is there a standard formula or guideline for how many of each type of beer to have?

– Restaurant Owner, Brooklyn, NY

Answer:

You can get a lot of help with this from your beer distributor, but be sure their suggestions are meeting your guests’ needs and working with your concept. The number of taps you have in mind is probably a healthy way to start—enough to show you are serious about your draft beer program but not so many that you have beer sitting around for weeks. Still, make sure your volume and guest demand justify the investment and launch the program in parallel with some promotions to support it.

In terms of how the lines are allocated, I turn to my beer guru, Sam Merritt of Civilization of Beer, a Cicerone trainer:

“You can get a lot of variety on 6-8 lines and here’s what I would do. Dedicate 2-3 lines as year round and unchanging. Then, 2-3 more lines should change seasonally and 1 or 2 lines should change weekly. I teach people to sell by style so try not to repeat same styles like having Bud Light, Coors Light and Miller Lite on at the same time. Here is what I would suggest:

Permanent Lines: An American Standard Lager: Budweiser, Miller Hi Life or Coors Banquet. If you want a light beer, sell bottles. An American Pale Ale like Sierra Nevada. An American Brown Ale like Brooklyn or Smuttynose.

Seasonal Lines: A wheat beer, either German or Belgian or both, a summer ale from a local brewery, and a Belgian Specialty like Ommegang BPA. Guinness in winter.”

Be sure your system is balanced and pouring properly. Beyond the installation of the system, though, remember the sales piece—staff training, menu pairing suggestions, and proper beer service—so that your investment pays off.

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