The last vestiges of Summer’s grasp are stubbornly holding on here in Kansas City. This beautiful little city brings us Arctic blizzards, Tsunamis of humidity, droughts, and the occasional tornado. When fall rolls around though, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world. October brings cool air, the trees slowly decide to turn their leaves vivid red, people even seem to smile more.
Being a bar owner means many things: janitor, glass-washer, disappointed father figure perhaps. More interestingly, it involves ordering beer, managing the beer list, and spreading craft beer love.
Managing the beer list has a few major components, and knowing what is trendy or popular is only a small portion. A general flow toward seasonality is required, moving towards maltier beers as we approach Christmas, lighter beers as we move towards Independence Day. A big picture mindset is required, so that you cover all your style bases. Giving customers what they want is very important, but I prefer to limit this variable with a lack of big three beer companies. Just because you love Kraft singles doesn’t mean you won’t love an Irish cheddar (cheesy analogy, granted).
Customer and personal favorites play a role. At Green Room, we attempt to stay regional , never serving a beer outside of the United States. I carry heavy portfolios of local brewers such as Tallgrass, Boulevard, Freestate, and hopefully soon Big Rip, Cinder Block, and KC Bier Co.
All of these variables must be weighted as you input them into your regression analysis. One factor, however, trumps the rest: my personal taste. I eschew the ratings of Ratebeer or Untappd, relying on what my palate tells me. I heard a story of a local bar not carrying our beloved Lakefront Cherry Lager because the ratings were too low on Ratebeer. Oh my. Trust your palate.
Sometimes my palate tells me something is amiss. This could be as simple as seasonality.
Doppelbock in July? Too cloying.
Pilsner in January? Too wimpy.
Pumpkin in November? Never again.
IPA in March? OK, this is where my theory breaks down. IPAs are always delicious.
This is why when someone asks me, “Hey janitor, what is your favorite beer?” I respond while mopping the floor, “That is a loaded question.”
Right now, Oktoberfest is hard to beat. It’s malty, balanced, crisp profile fits perfectly with the cooler weather. Pumpkin beers have been dominating since September, but I feel a pumpkin backlash brewing. Pumpkin fits the old “Boutique Beer” profile that sunk a lot of early 90s craft breweries.
Mole is catching on as a fall beer flavor. I have infused mole ingredients into two of my beers so far. Civic Duty Stout was a good balance of spice and chocolate, but I over-spiced our latest offering, Chocolouie’s Mole. Balance is key with spices, as they can easily overpower the beer.
The most interesting regional fall beer? Maybe it is 4 Hands Morning Glory, a sweet potato ale, brewed with spices and aged on pecan wood.
Remember, seasonality is king. Buy yourself that big malty beer that you desire, not the cheap spring beer brewed with grapefruit that is on special. You deserve it!