Home > Brewpubs, Off the Beaten Beer Path > Thoughts on Brewpubs and the Unspoken Rule

Thoughts on Brewpubs and the Unspoken Rule

You wouldn’t ask for Folgers in a coffeehouse, you wouldn’t expect Five Guys to serve big macs, and you probably wouldn’t scoff at a wine bar that doesn’t serve Riunite (in fact, most people would react quite the opposite). So why are brewpubs expected to sell mass-produced commercial beers?  Not all brewpubs do sell these beers, but the expectation is still a sort of unspoken rule that pertains to beer serving establishments in general.

I suppose a lot of people equate brewpubs to beer bars.  But brewpubs are unique in that brewing beer is their specialty, their differentiator, the heart of their business.  So they should be exempt from that rule, right?  You’d think so, but it really is amazing how embedded certain brands are in our beer culture – and not just American.  I’ve seen people get downright angry if their beers aren’t available, even at brewpubs.

I’m not judging those who prefer the commercial brews.  We like what we like and we shouldn’t have to apologize for it.  And I’m definitely not judging brewpubs for selling those beers.  It’s a business, and brewpubs do have the option to sell or not to sell, and to charge just as much for those beers as for their in house brews, if not more.  I suppose that in itself should be lesson enough to the finicky beer-drinkers who eat at brewpubs but snub the house brews in favor of commercial beers (ok, that might sound a little judgmental).  It’s an easy way to make money and keep the customers happy.  The pressure is evident, and I know that in our semi-rural suburban region, it doesn’t matter how many house or craft brews are available, if a bar (any bar) doesn’t serve at least one of the major brands, then they’re gonna lose business.  Hey, if that’s what it takes to keep a good brewpub going strong for the rest of us, then give’em their beer.  However, I would think its gotta be a sticky pet peeve for most brewers.  Just my opinion.

Responding to the Inevitable Request

Of course it never hurts to ask, fair enough.  I’ve witnessed several ways that brewpubs handle the request for commercial brands…

  1. Sure thing, whatever you want, no questions asked.  The larger chain-type brewpubs often serve commercial brews in addition to their own – no muss, no fuss, no questions asked, the customer gets what they want.
  2. You can have it on one condition.  Give ours a little taste first, and if you don’t like it, then we’ll give you your commercial beer.  This approach encourages non-craft beer drinkers to acknowledge that they are in fact in a brewpub.  And out of sheer respect to the brewer and the establishment, at least give the lightest house brew on tap a fair shot.  Hey, like it or not, its free beer!
  3. We only serve house beers, but our XYZ beer is the closest match to your request.  This “take it or leave it” approach is a sure sign of an independent, confident brewpub whose regulars appreciate the good stuff and come back for it often, and whose head brewer (I’m assuming) probably takes immense pleasure in giving the big three a big bird.


Respect the Brewer, Respect the  Beer

I am not a beer snob – truly, I don’t know enough, nor am I serious enough to be a snob.  But I have tremendous respect for brewers and the passion and commitment they have for their craft.  And virtually every brewpub I’ve ever been in produces one or more lighter beers that speak to a wider audience.  You say you like beer?  Then branch out a little.  Ask for some samples.  Give the house beers a fair shot.  You might even find a new regular, in which case, good for you!  Welcome to the brave new world of craft beer.

Cheers beers!




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  1. July 2, 2011 at 10:06 am

    Such a great post. I haven’t had great beer in awhile on a side note. Picked up some Red Seal Ale and others last night. It’ll be a good fourth.

    • July 2, 2011 at 8:40 pm

      Good choice! You can’t go wrong w/ North Coast. Their Pranqster Ale is one of my all time favorites. Happy 4th!

  2. July 2, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    Spot on post. It does piss me off when I see a Miller Lite being ordered at a brewpub, but I have been seeing less and less of it as people are educated themselves on what good beer really is.

    • July 2, 2011 at 8:45 pm

      I agree. Times are a changing since the craft beer crowd is growing by leaps and bounds and actively seeking out the specialty beer places. But we still see it all the time, and my husband and I just look at each other in amazement. I can’t help but wonder if they even tried any of the brew pub’s beers.

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