It doesn’t happen very often, but I was dining recently at one of Wellington’s most up-market eateries. It was going perfectly - the decor was impressive, the staff attentive, everything on the menu looked delicious and someone else was paying. Life, in short, was sweet.
At which point my attentive wait-person asked if I would like a drink, to which I quite naturally replied, "I would love a beer," (this does happen quite often) and, "could I possibly see the beer list."
Apparently not. This fine establishment did not produce such an obscure document but (and I swear I am not making this up) “if I wanted to tell them what beer I would like, they would tell me if they had it.”
I was at a loss for words (and this most certainly does not happen very often). Playing guessing games with my wait-person had not been on my list of things-to-do at one of Wellington's finest eateries.
As it turned out they had just six beers on offer – which is bad enough in itself - but I tried to imagine such a posh restaurant asking diners to guess a wine they light like to go with their entrées, and then letting them know later whether they had it. I couldn't do it.
Another story. I dined recently at a restaurant which did have a beer list. That was the good news. Below a list of six brands it read (and I almost wish I was making this up) “light beer,” “dark beer,” and -- wait for it -- “imported beer.” I don’t think a wine list would ever be printed with “foreign wine” as a category.
These are just two personal examples of quality eating establishments treating beer as a second-rate beverage. It is based on the implicit assumption that all beers are really the same, so why have a list, or even a decent range.
Those assumptions are simply not true. There is a huge variety of domestic and international beers available, and as every Beer O'Clock reader knows, there is a world of difference between a hoppy lager, a chocolate stout, a spicy wheat beer and a sour Lambic. Beer goes well with food, and the art of beer and food matching is becoming more widely understood with the charge led in this country by the Monteith’s Wild Food Challenge and Lion Nathan’s Beer Ambassador program.
I don’t expect every place to have 100 beers on offer (like the Malthouse) or a wide range of speciality Belgian (like Leuven), but when establishments won’t let you bring your own beer to dinner, I believe there should be some expectation they will provide a reasonable selection of beers -- and to put that reasonable selection down on a damn list so you know what's on offer.
If your favourite eatery doesn’t give beer drinkers fair treatment, then let the buggers know. Consumer pressure is the best way to bring about change, and to push back against the forces of wine snobbery.