Hawking the Wares – How Bartenders Sell Craft Beers

Bartenders have many roles.  They have to play the confidant, the advisor and more. However, one of their most important roles is that of salesperson.  It can take a lot of work to get a confirmed "Big Beer" drinker to break out of their mold and try something a little more crafty.  How do bartenders get drinkers to put down their mug of Bud and pickup something from a craft brewery, instead?  Interestingly, it seems that it is all about finding common ground, whether that common ground is real or illusory.

One of the most commonly heard phrases from a bartender when faced with a customer wavering on trying something different is "It's a lot like (INSERT NAME HERE) but so much better!"  It seems that this phrase can be used whether the beer in question is actually like Budweiser, Heineken or Yuengling or not.  Why the deception, though?  Why do bartenders need to compare beers with more body, more flavor, more complex characteristics and more, well, good stuff, to watered-down macro-brews?

Basically, it all comes down to making a connection in the customer's mind.  Many bar patrons are afraid to try something new.  The fear of the unknown seems to lurk in the heart of the beer drinker just as much as it does in those faced with new cultures, new situations and strange occurrences.  By equating a craft beer to something that the customer has tried before, they can establish at least some element of a connection and increase the chances that the customer will branch out and actually try a craft beer.

There are also other reasons for these comparisons.  Quite a few bartenders don't have a palate for beer, so it's quite possible that at least a few of them are trying to compare things they don't understand.  In addition, some bartenders are just trying to pad their wallet a bit.  Craft beers do tend to be a bit more expensive than their macro-brewed counterparts, and that difference can mean more profit for the bartender.

By and large, though, bartenders do a good job of helping those struggling with the decision to try a craft beer get over their fear of the unknown and try something that's a bit outside their norm.  If it weren't for these sales tactics, there might be fewer craft brew lovers, which would be a very bad thing.

Posted on January 26, 2011 and filed under The Business of Beer.