What Beers Should Your Restaurant Carry?

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Many Americans would agree that there’s nothing better than a perfectly chilled beer after a long day, which is likely why beer market revenue amounts to $74.7 billion in 2023. Even more impressive is that the market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 2.12% from 2023 until 2028. 

Beer certainly doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, and new beer trends continue to arise. According to the IWSR, IPA-style beers are particularly popular, with fruity-flavored variants expected to expand at a CAGR of roughly 6% from 2022 to 2027. 

Other beer trends to watch out for include imported beers and beers with no or low alcohol. The same IWSR trend analysis reveals that Americans have developed a taste for Italian and Mexican beers and that more and more consumers are opting for low-alcohol and alcohol-free beers.

As the owner or manager of a microbrewery, brewpub, or regional brewery — what does all of this mean for your establishment? It means you have an opportunity to capitalize on the growth of the craft beer market and offer a wider selection of beers.

Making Changes to Your Beer Offerings

Even though you might be eager to become a craft beer restaurant and cash in on the growth of this market, it’s not enough to order just any specialty beer. Craft beer enthusiasts have become increasingly sophisticated over the years, and they’re demanding that craft beer providers evolve with them. Regularly monitoring your inventory can help you identify key trends and insights to revolutionize your offerings. 

While there are plenty of restaurant beer options out there, you need to be discerning about the specialty brews you offer at your establishment. If you already have regulars who enjoy the traditional beers at your establishment, you don’t want to alienate that clientele by replacing their favorite conventional drinks with craft beers. Instead, a better approach would be to add some new craft beers to your beer menu. Even if you want to devote all of your taps to specialty beers, you should still make your regulars’ favorite beers available in bottles to keep them coming through your doors. After all, more than half of Americans are creatures of habit when it comes to beer brands, so it’s unlikely all customers will be open to trying something new. 

Keeping Your Restaurant’s Vision Intact

As you develop or change your beer menu, it’s critical to keep two things in the forefront of your mind — the vision you have for your restaurant and the preferences of your customers and the people who live and work near your location. Your effort to draft a popular beer list will only be successful if what you come up with aligns with your vision for your restaurant. Every beverage on your beer menu has to support your vision and help your guests have an experience they’ll want to come back for again and again.

The beers you choose should pair well with your food menu to enhance your guests’ overall dining experiences. For example, while some German pilsners and IPAs work nicely with certain Asian dishes, you’ll want to offer additional beer choices if you run an Asian-themed restaurant.

Similarly, your menu shouldn’t be limited to only lighter, wheat-based beers if you operate a mid or high-end steak house. Instead, you’ll want your beer menu to feature beers that complement the style of food you serve. One popular beer and food pairing that works surprisingly well is green chile chicken enchiladas and a dark German lager. The slight spiciness of the dish and the maltiness of a dark German lager complement each other wonderfully. A Flemish Saison is the perfect complement to cut through the richness of grilled seafood served with chorizo paella.

As another example, if you have pasta on your menu, why don’t you suggest your customers try your spaghetti carbonara alongside a draft of a dark Belgian beer that has a hint of bacon? Once your guests try this matchup, they’ll think this dish and the frothy beverage are a match made in heaven.

If you want assistance identifying food and beer pairings for your restaurant, consider hiring a Cicerone. An experienced Cicerone will carefully review your food menu and make tasty recommendations about beers that will pair well with the food you serve.

Taking Your Customers Into Account

Before you start creating a beer menu or adding to your current selection, you need to figure out what your clients and prospective customers want. A great place to start is to learn what type of customer stops by to drink at your establishment, why and when they’re stopping in, and which beers are the most popular. 

If you have a business website or post regularly on social media, track your analytics to discover valuable customer insights. Additionally, you can solicit feedback from your patrons by doing the following: 

  • Requesting customer feedback: Instruct your servers and bar staff to ask customers about the beers they’d like to see on your beer menu.
  • Distributing feedback cards: Put a feedback card in your check holders and ask your guests to fill them out. To encourage more people to fill them out, you can offer a reward or discount for doing so, like $15 off their next order. 
  • Post polls on social media: Ask your restaurant’s social media followers about their beer preferences.
  • Record customer favorites: Keep a clipboard behind the bar and ask your bartenders to jot down any input your clients share.
  • Get customers to collaborate: Put a chalkboard near your hostess stand, bar register or even outside close to your front door so that patrons can use it to suggest beverages they’d like to see added to your beer menu.
  • Check out reputable websites: Untappd, BeerPulse, and BeerAdvocate are excellent options to see which beers are the most sought-after on a larger scale than your local market and identify the brews with the highest consumer ratings.

You may wonder why you should take the time to visit Untappd, BeerPulse and BeerAdvocate to see what’s popular on a large scale. Well, it allows you to be the first craft beer restaurant in your local market to offer new varieties. It also helps attract new clients who wouldn’t have originally visited your restaurant had you not introduced a different beer. Certain craft beers develop cult followings over time, which means selling a hard-to-find, sought-after specialty beer may increase the size of the geographic area you draw clients from, too.

7 Restaurant Beer List Tips

You need to keep your vision and the tastes of your current and prospective patrons in mind at all times as you identify the best beer options for your restaurant. But there are some other effective ways to ensure you develop a popular beer list for your menu. Here are seven restaurant beer list tips to help you create a beer menu that will resonate with the members of your community.

1. Determine the Number of Beers You're Going to Offer

Before you start shopping for beers to add to your beer menu, you must determine the number of beers appropriate for your establishment. Offering too many may make your beer menu intimidating to diners. However, offering too few beer options in your restaurant will limit your guests’ choices. Finding the right number of options can be challenging, especially if you’re a new restaurateur, so it may take some time to strike the right balance.

If you plan to serve your patrons wine, beer, and liquor, you may not need dozens of varieties of each. However, if your restaurant offers craft beer exclusively, you will need at least 50 different options for your guests. All of them certainly don’t need to be on draft — unless you plan to implement self-pour technology, allowing your patrons to serve themselves and enjoy any beer by the ounce.


When determining how many beers to include on your menu, ensure you have an equal number of the following beer types: 

  • Crisp and bright 
  • Hoppy
  • Dark and roasted 
  • Toasted and nutty 

In addition to these beer styles, adding a few alternative options — such as sour and fruity beers — will ensure you meet all customer preferences.

2. Make Sure Prices Align With Your Pricing Structure

Another essential aspect of creating a popular beer list is determining how much you will charge for the beers before ordering them. Make sure your beer prices are in line with your existing pricing structure. One way to do this is to apply the same pricing formula for your wine options to the beers you plan to sell. Leave a beer off your menu if it’s too expensive or inexpensive to support your restaurant’s vision. 

While you don’t want beers that cost too much or too little on your beer menu, you do want beers available at various prices. When creating the final draft of your beer menu, it’s wise to list your beers from most to least expensive because this kind of formatting often results in more profitable drink orders. It’s also advisable to list prices using numbers and decimal points, but not dollar signs, which will sometimes lead people to seek out the least expensive drink on the menu.

If possible, avoid ending your prices with an off-putting “.00” and use a more palatable “.95” at the tail of your prices. Finally, resist the temptation to use dotted lines to connect the name of your beers to their respective prices, as dotted lines typically motivate a diner to look to the right and down to seek lower-priced options. Instead of using dotted lines, list the price of each beer after its description using the same font you used for the description so your guests don’t focus on the price.

3. Pay Attention to the Beers' Origins

With the increase of local breweries in recent years, mentioning the location a beer comes from can often be a good selling point, especially if that location is local. If you’re not selling beer produced by a regional brewery, you should still mention where the beers you sell are from because your patrons may be willing to pay more for beers made in certain areas of the country or world.

Storytelling is an effective marketing technique, so including snippets about the family behind a specific brew or the sustainable practices you employ is a powerful tactic. In addition, you might explain a little bit about the origins of the brew to pique customer interest. 

4. Focus on Style More Than Brand

As a craft beer restaurant, you should focus on beer style over brand. If you focus on the beer brand first, you may set yourself up for disappointment if the brands you choose don’t offer the styles of beer that pair the best with your food. Some of the beer styles you may want to consider offering include:

  • American amber ale.
  • American brown ale.
  • German-style Pilsner.
  • Farmhouse ale.
  • Belgian-style wit.

By offering a generous selection of beer styles, you’ll ensure that there is a drink on your restaurant beer list for every guest, no matter what they currently have a desire to drink. Offering numerous beer styles allows you to showcase your servers’ and bartenders’ knowledge as well, as they’ll be able to make pairing recommendations. You can even mention certain food and beer pairings directly on your menu to boost sales.

While you may hesitate to cap the number of beer styles you initially offer because you don’t want to limit customers’ choices, it’s important to remember even beers in the same style vary widely. This means you won’t necessarily be limiting the number of options made available to your guests just because you’re not selling every type of craft beer produced.

5. Keep Your Beer Menu Flexible

Craft beer breweries often produce specialty beers at certain times of the year. Some brew beers that celebrate specific holidays or use seasonal ingredients to create or recreate flavors only available at certain times of the year. In locations that experience vast temperature changes, this is a fantastic way to market beers year-round. For example, a crisp IPA will go down a treat in the summer months, while a dark beer with toasted flavors will attract customers on chilly nights. To take advantage of these seasonal beers, you should keep your beer menu flexible enough to incorporate them into the mix of beers you sell as they become available. 

As you add seasonal beers to your list of offerings, make sure you update your printed and online beer menus accordingly. If you’re concerned about the costs of keeping your printed menu current, use a chalkboard or digital screen to display your beer menu. Both are easy to update as you adjust the selection of beer you sell without requiring you to pay printing costs. 

6. Consider Your Glassware

Have you ever thought about what exactly is in your glass? In the context of craft beer, there’s more than just “liquid gold” in your glassware. Presentation plays a pivotal role in customer experience, and there’s an entire experience in every glass of beer you pour.

Make sure you serve the relevant beer in the appropriate glass every time you serve a drink. If you don’t have the right glasses for a beer, order them or choose another beverage to put on your beer menu.

7. Choose Breweries and Distributors Wisely

Give a lot of thought to the breweries and distributors you’ll work with as you develop or alter your beer menu. While price is important, it is vital to consider the ways the distributors could help you market your beers. Contact several breweries and distributors and ask if they’ll provide the glassware necessary for you to serve their beers properly. Inquire about whether the glasses have the name of the beer you’ll serve on them, which could help you promote the beer in your establishment.

Also, don’t forget to ask about free coasters. Using coasters with the name of the brews you sell is an effective way to promote beverages and lower your cost of goods sold as well. If you can use coasters for your guests’ drinks, you won’t have to pay for cocktail napkins. Since some customers get annoyed when their cocktail napkins stick to their glasses, using coasters can help enhance the experience your clients have at your restaurant, too.

If your vendors don’t have coasters available, consider putting salt on your cocktail napkins to prevent them from adhering to customers’ glassware. Alternatively, think about printing your own low-cost coasters and using them to promote your brand’s name. Discover more ideas on how to boost your branding on-site here.

Optimize How You Serve Your Beers

You don’t have to settle for the same old scenario of bartenders or waitstaff serving drinks to your customers. PourMyBeer offers an affordable, easy-to-implement alternative — a self-serve beer system that enables your customers to pour their own beer when they want and in whatever amount they want.

Our system will make visiting your restaurant a fun experience for your guests, and it takes pressure off your staff and helps you control your labor costs. Perfecting your beer list can be a fun way to connect with your customers and refine your restaurant’s focus. Trying a new way to serve that beer can help you stand out from your competitors. While you perfect your beer list, we’ll perfect how it’s served. Contact PourMyBeer today, and see how we can transform the way you serve beer and increase your beverage sales at the same time.

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