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Last updated: Wed. Nov. 07, 2012 - 02:21 pm EDT

Cold ones are hot

Local restaurants expand beer lists for enthusiasts

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On tap

Want to find extensive beer lists? Here is a sampling of local restaurants with larger-than-average beer selections:

•J.K. O’Donnell’s (121 W. Wayne St.)

•Dash-In (814 S. Calhoun St.)

•BakerStreet (94820 N. Clinton St.)

•Old Crown Coffee Roasters (3417 N. Anthony Blvd.)

•Trion Tavern (503 Broadway St., New Haven)

•The Deer Park Tavern (108 W. Main St.)

•800 Degrees (10020 Lima Road)

•800 Degrees Three Fires (5129 Illinois Road)

When Corene Painter goes out to dinner, she bases her restaurant choice on more than its food menu.

She cares about the beer menu.

If a restaurant has a large number of beers available, or a variety of unusual or craft beers, she’s more likely to dine there – and she’s more likely to order multiple brews.

“Sometimes I will go someplace, and if they don’t have a good beer selection, I’ll just have a soda,” says Painter, of Fort Wayne.

The Alcoholic Beverage DemandTracker, a survey by market research and consulting firm Consumer Edge Insight, found that a third of alcohol drinkers who dine out are more likely to order beer when offered a large selection of beer. And more than a quarter of respondents said they’re more likely to order more servings of beer when presented with a better beer selection.

Dash-In, which has a rotating beer menu that includes 23 on tap and about 45 bottled brews, sees a mixture of customers throughout the day, beverage manager Cole Strader says. Those who come for a meal between 6 and 9 p.m. might have a beer with dinner, but there’s the after-work crowd that will drink up to three per person and a late-night crowd that is especially into craft beers.

People will come up to him nightly and say, “My friend drinks Miller Lite. Give him something better.”

For those just starting to drink craft beers, Strader often recommends Magic Hat #9, which calls itself a “not quite pale ale.” It’s brewed with apricots and sweeter hops, so it’s easier to get into than some of the harsher beers. He also suggests kölsch beers, which are German-style pilsners that have fruity notes.

Dash-In started with three beers on the menu, general manager Sheila Underwood says.

“We purchased this business in 2009 and didn’t push on to beers for one year,” Underwood says, adding that when she bought the business, the menu offered three beers. “We didn’t sell a lot.”

After increasing the list more than twenty-fold, Dash-In saw a huge jump in business, she says. It slowed down a bit but is now steady.

BakerStreet offers 26 beers. That’s far fewer than Dash-In, but BakerStreet tries to stay away from some of the more common beers. Yes, it offers Bud Light and Coors Light, but the domestic and import beer list is smaller than its craft beer list.

“We’ve really done away with lots of the traditional beers you can get anywhere, like Killian’s and New Castle, and we’ve gone to almost strictly craft beer selections,” managing partner James Khan says.

The restaurant has offered many beers in years past, Khan says, but they were more common beers, such as Bass. The focus now is on small Midwestern breweries, such as 3 Floyds in Munster, Dark Horse Brewing Co. in Michigan and a number of Indianapolis breweries.

When J.K. O’Donnell’s opened five years ago, it started with just fewer than 60 beers. Today, the restaurant offers more than 90 beers and ciders, including 12 on tap, general manager Fritz Hoffman says.

“I think that people talk about your restaurant based on the beer selection,” he says. “There’s a big beer movement right now. People are going out trying to find … really great beers. They want a variety of stuff. I think people do select restaurants based on what those beers are.”

Customers often get more than one beer, Hoffman says, and will split bottles among multiple people to sample the beers. The restaurant also sells half-pints for people wanting to try different beers.

“Beer geekdom is huge right now,” he says. “People are keeping lists, rating all these beers. And coming in and sampling beers and smelling beers is huge right now. Everybody wants the new crazy beer.”

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