Crawley: High time we had beer menus

By Stephen Crawley

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Related tags New york Beer

Crawley: High time we had beer menus
It's high time there were beer menus as well as wine lists in our licensed outlets, says Caledonian Brewery MD Stephen Crawley. On a recent trip to...

It's high time there were beer menus as well as wine lists in our licensed outlets, says Caledonian Brewery MD Stephen Crawley.

On a recent trip to New York and Boston to launch Harviestoun's whisky beer, Ola Dubh (Gaelic for black oil), we had the thrill of seeing the beer on menus... beer menus that is.

The overriding memory of the trip was the incredible enthusiasm for beer in the bars in New York and secondly, the thirst for knowledge from the staff in the liquor stores in Boston.

At our launch and tasting in the Gramercy Tavern in New York, there were wine, whisky and beer sommeliers as well as representatives of a very large beer distributor, bar and restaurant owners and our importer of Ola Dubh.

What did they all have in common? An out-and-out passion for beer.

There were stories of expanding beer menus, new bars adopting beer into their businesses including introducing beer menus into an upscale whisky bar and a serious Japanese restaurant.

Some venues stocked just bottled beers, which didn't inhibit their excitement in any way, and some were doing draught and packaged, but essentially they were providing real interest for the consumer.

In Boston the knowledge and passion from the staff in the beverage sections of liquor stores for the beer was amazing.

Pricing was sensible and there was a pride in the aim to both satisfy and extend the customers' desires and choices.

In both the bars of New York and the retail stores of Boston, the enthusiasm of the staff could not fail to generate trial. There was no talk of binge drinking - there was a definite awareness of price, but a real understanding of the value attached to certain beers.

So why is this relevant in 2008 for the UK. Well the message has to be - let's provide a great beer selection for our consumers in the UK.

Retailers and beer producers have to work together to get the right range for our pubs and bars.

Good work

Lots of good work has been done at the top end of the market already, with restaurants like Le Gavroche taking up the cause and beer being adopted by premier chefs like Raymond Blanc. Yet despite all this how often does beer warrant a menu in a UK bar or restaurant?

The on-trade has a unique selling point with cask beer. Anecdotally we hear of 21 to 25-year-olds trying it around the UK and getting excited.

In bars where cask cannot be sold, what is wrong with UK-brewed ales in packaged format? The beer menu and staff education and tasting opportunities could and should drive this.

If there are carefully selected ranges of UK ales, imported and domestic draught lagers, fruit beers, stouts and porters, wheat beers and some Belgian and UK ales in bottles - and there often is - why not tell consumers in a menu and bring it to their attention?

We could not get over how often we heard punters in bars in New York and Boston discussing beer. In the UK we have a rich brewing heritage, a rich diversity of UK products and a rich diversity of outlets and there is that same interest from our punters.

Related topics Beer

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