Chalkboard Tap List



Have you ever looked at a restaurant menu and been underwhelmed? Customers learn a lot about your business from the menu, and your beer tap list is the same way. If it’s underwhelming, you risk losing potential customers. But if it’s exactly what they want, your new patrons will come back and might even bring a few friends the next time.

So what makes a good tap list? Will customers rush in for an array of IPAs, or a domestics-only selection? Or do they want a balanced tap list with beers for every type of taste bud? These seven tips will help curate the right tap list for your bar.

  1. Know your customers: Is your bar or restaurant focusing on people who pair food with beer? Do you run a dive bar that is transitioning into offering more craft beer? Maybe your customers prefer Belgian beers, or want a variety of local microbrews on tap. Ask yourself – and learn from your customers – what keeps them interested in your beer selection.


  1. Leverage your tap options: If you have 50 craft beers on tap you have a lot to work with, but if you only have 5 you need to be more selective. For a restaurant with only 5 beers on tap, balance is crucial. You’ll need a tap list with a variety of styles to compliment your food. Consider having a lager, a red or amber beer, a stout and an IPA. Think about how malty, hoppy, sour, bitter and other beer characteristics pair with your food.


  1. Be realistic about price: For most restaurants and bars, it isn’t worth it to buy limited edition beers, some of which sell for more than $200 for a 1/6 barrel. A simple, reasonably priced tap list full of familiar beer styles goes a long way.


  1. Seasons turn, and taps rotate: Seasonal beers are a great way to offer a refreshing rotation to your tap list. They also fit with the season they’re released in. Summer brings lighter beers such as pilsner, session IPAs and fruit beer, which sell much better in the warmer months than darker beers. When the colder, cloudy days return, bring stouts, winter warmers, barrel-aged beers or unique new styles into the rotation.
Drink Local

Image copyrighted by Mayflower Brewing


  1. Go with local breweries: When it comes to Oregon beer, people in Portland – and the rest of the state – love to support local products. That goes for beer, too. Customers prefer local brews, and many people actively seek out beer from their favorite craft beer. If you have enough taps, try including a handful of obscure beers from smaller craft breweries. It shows you support your local beer community. It can also set you apart from your competitors and lure the fans of that brewery to your establishment.


  1. Emerging styles: Pay attention to new trends in beer styles. Session IPA’s, Berliner Weisse and Geuze are just a few of the increasingly popular beer styles that can be found on savvy Portland tap lists. A few years ago, Cascadian Dark Ale (CDA), also known as black IPAs became more common. Breweries often experiment with new styles of IPA, since it remains the dominant style of craft beer. More recently, restaurant and bar owners have put white IPAs and coffee IPAs on tap to meet customer demand.


  1. Do your homework: Check in with your brewery and distributor reps to stay on top of new beer releases, and try reading industry blogs. Look at Ratebeer for what is popular in your region or to see what is new.

Whether you’re bringing the most discerning foodies to your restaurant, or offering a haven for happy hour hunters, your tap list matters. Use these ideas as building blocks for curating a killer tap list that suits your bar, restaurant or bottle shop. Feel free to share any other ideas in the comments.


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