A few years ago, I wrote an article with small pieces of advice for visitors of brewpubs and brewery taprooms. And in Texas, at the time that article was written, there were very few brewery taprooms located near me. In fact, there was only one in Fort Worth and a barely a handful around the Dallas-area. With that being the case, I focused the attention of my article on brewpubs and brewery tours problems/advice based on what we had at that time.
Three years and several local and national taproom visits later, I’ve learned a few things and would like to share some etiquette/advice that I have observed and learned from spending a lot of time in different brewery taprooms.
In Texas, we still have a ton of laws that are pretty archaic. One of which, is not being able to sell beer directly to consumers for off-premise consumption, unless your brewery has a brewpub license. As a result, this limits any brewery from being able to sell a six-pack or even a keg of beer, directly to you. In short, you have to go to a retailer and pay them, unless they have a brewpub license with the state. We’ve cleaned up a few things in the past couple of years, like allowing breweries to sell a glass of beer to you, which paved the way for taprooms to be legal, but Texas still has far to go in the entire taproom experience.
Brewery taprooms are functionally a bar within a brewery, similar in idea to a brewpub. Some Texas breweries are registered as brewpubs, which gives them more freedom for their customers (like selling growler fills or cans/bottles for off-premise consumption), though this licensing does limit beer production numbers in a calendar year. The Collective Brewing Project, Jester King Brewery and Noble Rey Brewing are just a few that hold Texas brewpub licenses.
What’s different – Tour and Tasting vs. Brewery Taproom
Tour and tasting events are typically $10-15 and include 3 or 4 beers, a tour of the brewhouse and last three to four hours. Visiting a taproom isn’t much different than ordering a beer at your local bar and enjoying one or two, with extended hours on multiple days. No brewery taprooms have guest beers and few brewpub-licensed breweries have guest beer on tap, however some can and do. Many taprooms offer flights and typically have multiple size glasses to fit your desired pour size.
- Limit Taster Flights
This is more than just for your own safety and being able to drive home, but also has to do with your ability to actual try and enjoy the different styles the brewery offers. Assuming you consume eight different style beers, your palette is going to quite confused by what beer you are enjoying after a while. Did you really enjoy beer #3 and much as #7, and are you sure it really tasted that way? Unless you are cleansing your palate and staying sober, in all likelihood, you won’t be totally certain. But if you do purchase a flight or two, remember, Uber and Lyft are super cost-effective.
- Tip Bartenders / Servers
At Tour and Tasting events, bartenders are mostly volunteers. At brewery taprooms, bartenders are actually working at bartenders wages, which is $2.13 per hour in Texas, unless the brewery decides to pay their bartenders a higher wage. Regardless, these folks are working for you just as much as they are working for the brewery, so when it comes time to settle up, make sure you are taking care of them like you should be at a normal bar.
- Try a Full Pint – Half Pints are Great, too!
If visiting a new brewery and I’m out-of-town, I often order a flight and make my second round a full-pint of something I liked or might like based on the bartenders suggestion. If I’m visiting a local brewery, I try to go for a couple of half-pints and maybe a full-pint of something I am almost certain I’ll enjoy, leaving me the opportunity to try other beers next time. Flights are for discovering what you want a full pour of, not just to taste things. It’s not a race and Untappd will be okay if you only check in two or three beers. Remember, it is about having fun and enjoying the beer as well.
- Tours are Fun
Most breweries offer a brewhouse tour at some point, scheduled during the week or weekend, or on one particular day, but there are some breweries that don’t offer a tour. Don’t expect every taproom to have a scheduled tour, but check online before arriving so you have an idea upon arrival. It never hurts to ask, but if a tour isn’t regularly scheduled, don’t expect anyone to be able to give you one if the taproom is busy.
- Come Back for the Events
Perhaps it’s a given, but seriously, check out the events schedule and plan a Saturday afternoon or Thursday evening around an event or two at the brewery. Most brewery taprooms have full event schedules throughout the week and most keep their Facebook page and website regularly updated. Some brewery taprooms bring in food trucks similar to tour and tasting events, while others take it a step further and host beer dinners and private tasting events in their taproom.
- Call ahead if you are bringing a big group
Thinking about bringing a big group with you to the brewery? If you aren’t renting out the whole brewery and thinking about bringing more than 1 table worth of people to the taproom with you, give the bar staff a heads up. No matter whether it’s a busy or slow day, they’ll appreciate it and will be ready to serve your group. After all, taproom staff are their to serve the brewery’s beer in the best possible way, and that includes the service, too.