You couldn’t operate a bar without themBarley Pop, Breakfast of Champions, Liquid Gold. Your draft and bottled beers probably do fine on their own, straight from the tap or in longneck bottles.
But beer sales, while still very strong, have been given a run for their money lately as spirit sales continue to spike in a lot of restaurants. While any category sales spurt is good for business, there is a slight downside to the growth in the ultra-premium stuff. High beer sales traditionally help keep bar costs low and some operators have noticed a slight creep up in costs as patrons eschew the bar managers’ friends, well liquor and tap beer, and upgrade to call and premium brands of liquor. Lovely for the cash register, but harder on bar cost.
You also know the truth of this when bar costs rise in the winter, where traditionally liquor sales command a larger portion of bar sales than in the summer months, when beer reigns supreme. Seasonal preferences notwithstanding, this could have something to do with the fact that cocktails, liquor and wine are regularly marketed to women, while Friend Beer is not marketed to women at all. And, once in a while, you see an actual woman in your establishment and she is probably drinking products that have cared enough to make an effort to appeal to her and they’re not beer.
So, how do you get more of your patrons to drink your beer when the preference for cocktails and more flavorful bevvies is ramping up?
Make beer more appealing to those who might choose otherwise. Think out of the box and create some hoptails: cocktails made with beer. There are many ways to use beer with other ingredients to make a beverage better than its individual parts. Getting customers to try the beers may take a bit more salesmanship, but it can be worth the effort.
Hop Along with Hoptails
Hoptails are beverages made by combining a brew of your choice with flavored spirits, mixers or other ingredients. The mere idea might (probably) offend purists, who see beer as sacrosanct, but, hey, success in the bar business is about profits and sales and usable assets. I say that selling more beer is good for the bottom line, particularly if you brew your own. Then it really is turning water into profits. And any way you can manage to accomplish that end is a good thing.
This theory sort of follows the lines of the brief popularity among brewpubs of fruit and flavored beers. Remember how pervasive those were? The problem was, those brews may have been great tasting when brewers was using real berries and maple and spices, but after a while, the cost and hassle to maintain those standards drove some brewers instead to use artificial flavors, which ended up tasting more like formaldehyde than fruit. Ergo, many of the brews died a merciful death, not because no one liked flavored beers, but because the flavoring agents were heinous, in my opinion.
There is a better way, though, using high quality liqueurs and syrups that are made with real flavors. How?
Take your favorite beer of choice…consider its qualities and properties. Is it a cool and lightly effervescent lager? What flavor would match well with it? Perhaps something fruity, like peach or apricot brandy, Limoncello, Alizé, blue curacao, sloe gin or other flavors.
Or you could try serving a wheat beer with a dash of lemon-, orange- or lime-flavored liqueur and a fresh wedge of the complementary fruit…a natural match.
Then there’s that old summertime stand-by, the Shandy Gaff, a refreshing blend of lager and ginger ale or ginger beer. Or a Lemon Top: lager topped with a splash of lemon-lime soda. Both taste even better when served on the rocks.
Do these drinks make you shudder? I’ll say it again…on the rocks! One of the biggest complaints most patrons who are not regular beer consumers have about beer is that it gets warm before they can drink it all. So throw some ice in it (ask first, of course); it doesn’t melt fast enough to dilute the beer and the beverage stays quixotically cold.
How to Make the Flavors Hop
Now, think of other styles of beer and what would complement them:
Brown ales: Amaretto, vanilla vodka, sweet vermouth, dark rum, brandy, dark cr