From The Bar ~ What Kinda Beer Ya Got?

Another segment of a project The Rise and Fall of a Saloon In The Latter Part off The Twentieth Century. These excerpts are not chronological. In fact very little logic prevails…


Beer is a very popular beverage.  Sometimes, particularly during the football season, one would think from looking at television that beer is a major part of the national GNP.
There are all kinds of beer.  “Boutique” beers made in mini-breweries, imported beer, domestic beer.  There are light beers, dark beers, stouts, ales and pilsners.  There is canned beer, bottled beer and beer on tap.  Some of the brands have “Lite” versions.  The list can be endless.
There are some saloons that specialize in beer.  They can have beer menus that look like small novels and an array of tap handles that look like a mini forest of ceramic and tin.
The Bar had a smaller roster of beer.  After all, they were a “full bar” dispensing a variety of alcoholic choices and could not dedicate themselves exclusively to those who think fun starts and ends with beer.
Still, they had a respectable list of choices that changed from time to time as T.O. (who was one of those who really Did believe fun started and ended with beer) liked to keep things interesting.

I wasn’t a beer drinker.  I favored bourbon, particularly Jim Beam or, for variety, brandy.  I wasn’t one to experiment with brands because I was one of those who tended to be brand loyal.  Being of this persuasion I was endlessly amused to see an oft repeated movie we call…

What Kinda Beer Ya Got?
      It goes like this:

The customer comes in, full of good humor, pulling out his wallet and approaches the bar.

The bartender opens with…
“What can I getcha?”
“What kinda beer ya got?”
“What kind do you want?”
“What kind ya got?”
So the bartender recites the litany of beers in stock, sometimes twice, since the list entailed almost twenty brands.
The customer thinks for a minute, and asks for a brand not on the list.
“You got ______?”
“No, we don’t have ______ “and runs through the list again.
“You don’t have _______?”
“Gimmie a Bud.” (pronounced: “Buuudd..”)
Now, of course, instead of ‘Bud’ it may have been Coors or some such but it was almost always something very common, a brand usually one seen on TV and seldom was one of the more discerning of the listed beers.
I watched this and saw how an indecisive seeker of suds could hold up production on a busy day or night so I had a brainstorm.

I had a local carpenter cut some slats of thin plywood about two inches wide and a foot long.  I painted these black and using white stick-on letters I could put the names of the different beer brands on them.  I rigged a way to hang these slats ladder-like from the center archway, clearly visible from anywhere in the room.
This made things ever so much easier for the busy bartender or waitress but it wasn’t a total cure.

There was always the customer…

“What kinda beer ya got?”
The bartender points at the list.  “Everything on that list.”
The customer squints at the list.
“You don’t got ___?”
“Gimmie a Bud!”

T.O. eventually put in keg beer.  He had a cooler built outside of the building that held six kegs and fed the beer in through lines.  He did not sell beer by the pitcher because that kind of sale could attract a certain crowd he wanted to avoid.  Rowdy biker types seemed to prefer pitchers and he thought pitchers encouraged excessive drinking. Finally, the pitchers took up far too much room in storage.

With kegs the question got modified:

“What kinda beer ya got?”
The bartender points at the list.  “Everything on that list.”
The customer squints at the list.
“You don’t got ___?”
“Whatcha got on tap?”
Same response, shorter list.
“You don’t got ___?”
“Gimmie a Bud!”

Some customers, manly men they, preferred to drink their beer straight out of the bottle.  With keg beer this was impossible of course.  Some  preferred drinking their beer out of a glass, pouring the bottled goods into said glass.

Now there is a bit of an art to pouring beer….

Drawing a “perfect” beer from a tap, while not requiring genius, does take a little bit of skill or at least some attention must be paid, to do it right..

Broadly, the regimen is:

You must first start with a glass clean of any residue, including soap film.
Place the glass at a 45 degree angle, one inch below the faucet. Do not let the glass touch the faucet. Open the tap spigot all the way in one swift motion.
After the glass has reached ½ full, gradually bring the glass to an upright position.
Let the remaining beer fill straight down the middle of the glass. This insures proper release of CO2 by producing a ¾” to 1″ foam head.
Close the spigot completely in one quick motion.  A clever bartender will work on their finesse at the tap to give a bit of a show for the customer.

Being a good bartender is a bit of Show Biz, after all….

Sometimes a beer will come out of the tap foamy, particularly if the keg has recently been wheeled into position and hooked up.  Some beers start out of the tap foamy even after the kegs have settled which requires the technique to be modified to some degree.  In those cases, the tap had to be opened and run until the beer cleared then the glass put under the column of beer at a 45 degree angle as explained above.  This wasted product but couldn’t be helped.  This was costly.  Expensive.

If the glass was not clean, particularly if it was not rinsed of soap residue the head would not stay on the beer but this was seldom a problem at The Bar.  After they had been open for eight years or so T.O. put in a back bar dishwasher which helped move things along swimmingly but in the interim both stations had three sinks, one for soapy water, one for first rinse and one for second rinse, that  sink having a tablet of bleach added as a disinfectant.

Bottled beer has it’s own technique to be poured ‘perfectly”.  It’s not too different from the method of drawing beer in some ways.  Basically it goes like this…
You still need to start with a clean glass.  Some say the glass should be moistened.  The Bar chilled their glasses as a rule and when the glasses hit the open air moisture would condense and apparently fulfilled that requirement.   Pour the beer slowly down the side of a tilted glass, resulting in a smaller head which allows more carbon dioxide to remain in the beer. If you hold the glass upright and pour straight into the glass, more gas is released, and a larger head will form.

Some people never ‘got it’ and the novice bartenders of course were the worse and if they wannabe’s didn’t get the hang of it quickly they were discouraged from a career in “mixology”.  Most soon got the hang of it and even I, not being a beer drinker, could draw a perfect beer every time in the rare times I was called upon to do so.

But even with the finessed technique and the care and attention paid to making the proper pour the original conundrum still applied…

“What kinda beer ya got…?”