All right Chicago restaurants, that's enough beer

September 21, 2011

I enjoy beer. In fact, I’m not particularly picky about beer. Sometimes a simple Miller High Life can be as satisfying to me as a Belgian import made by special monks. It was fun when beers suddenly became the new wines, with waiters and waitresses helping you make exactly the right choice when it came to color, taste, style, what your mood was and what the weather was like outside. I like sampling and savoring my beer as I would a wine. And now that it's fall, I look forward to those tasty pumpkin-flavored brews that come out this time of year.

But enough’s enough, Chicago restaurateurs. I would like to call a moratorium on further restaurants opening up with beer lists that are several pages long that are impossible to read because the print is so tiny so as to fit all the beers on there. Ordering your drink shouldn’t be more complicated than ordering your food.

I don’t object to already-open places that specialize in awesome beer lists (the Long Room and the Hop Leaf are two beer-heavy establishments of which I’m particularly fond). But as a dining trend, it’s getting tedious.

First, I don’t think there’s enough waitstaff in Chicago to handle all this beer knowledge. When I was a waitress five hundred years ago, I think there were perhaps 13 beers on tap that I needed to memorize, which in retrospect seems like a pretty good amount. I’ve been to recently-opened restaurants in Chicago where the waitstaff has no idea which beer tastes like what, whether it’s available cold or even available right now. Nearly every time I’ve been to a new gastro-pub-ish establishment a waiter has come back to me, apologizing, because he thought he had the beer we ordered but didn’t.  When this happens I’m not annoyed about not receiving the beer I wanted but just think we could have all just saved some time had there been enough beers for the waitstaff to keep track of. Although I guess I prefer an apologetic forgetful pub-waiter to one of those guys with the ironic waxed handlebar mustache who rolls his eyes at me when I order a stout when I should be getting an IPA to go with the $5 small plate of warm nuts that I ordered.

The other thing is that when you see the fancy beer list, you feel compelled to order something special, and the conversation quickly becomes arduous. I say, “What should I get?” and then the waiter says “What do you feel like?” and I say “What do you like?” and the waiter says “Well it depends on what you like.” I don’t know what I like! I like a beer that doesn’t taste like an incredibly bitter milkshake, OK? Just something that’s not like that. You know what, just bring me a martini.

Beer is good. Let’s not play out beer by making it tedious. Let’s keep the places that we already go to for extensive beer lists and stop making this a “thing” by adding even more. Restaurants, most of us can make do with 13 or so draft beer choices, so don't be afraid to keep it relatively simple. Then you can focus on more important things, like your food or whatever.