The weekend is over, and as promised, here I am, feeling a tad more feisty than usual.
In its original, pre-Dylan incarnation (nope, not going there), this “terrible” thread was reported to me on Saturday afternoon by a close friend, who texted:
“Check Hotbytes. Heads up! Some dude did a drive by on you.”
The regulars know that I’ve been here at the forum for a while, and I fully support the dialogue therein. It is a wonderful place to skim the bounty of food and drink in metro Louisville, and the fact that industry folks convene here, too, makes it even better.
Because perfection is a pipe dream, and people aren’t the same, there’ll be good and bad reviews. Accordingly, I’ve no intention of ducking the critique of Bank Street beer temperatures and service. At the same time, I’m trying to strike a balance in this response, as well as give everyone an honest impression of a peripheral, yet important issue: There is a right way and a wrong way for us to serve a beer, and there’s also a right way and a wrong way to address it in this forum.
I said nothing to Robin about changing the title. However, I noted that if you want me to address the issue, a subject heading that says my business is “terrible” is no way to get an answer, because every time there is a response and a bump, another knitting needle pierces my eyeball. I’m many things, some good and some bad, but I’m no masochist, and furthermore, I’m no fan of self-flagellation, which is the stuff of brain damage, cults or both.
A business transaction that went unfortunately awry is something I can address and maybe even prevent from happening again. It’s no time to reinvent the wheel, or to expect that human nature doesn’t apply to me, too. If you begin by kicking me in the groin, I’m not going to be in a mood to be reasonable.
Having conceded that I’m in a certain frame of mind, here goes.
First: The post in question wasn’t really about the food at BSB, although the author’s original choice of words had the unfortunate effect of maligning the food right along with the beer and service, at least before Robin changed the title. If one doesn’t “care” for mussels, it could be because of unfamiliarity with them, or just a simple dislike of the preparation method. Since we’ve had so many favorable comments to date about Josh’s mussels, this sounds like an observation that I can’t really address with accuracy. Perhaps JDB would care to elaborate?
Here’s what I’ve learned about the temperature of the keg boxes where the beer at Bank Street is stored, thanks to the forensic analysis of our director of brewing operations: 39 degrees on one, 41 on another, and 48 on the cask ale box. The first two hold everyday, CO2 driven kegs. The latter stores cask-conditioned Beak’s Best on hand pull, and also holds two other everyday, CO2 driven kegs.
I don’t know which beers the Friday visitors ordered. If Beak’s, then warmer is correct for cask-conditioned, hand-pulled ale. Even given a swing in temperature that’s customary in refrigeration, the warmest that the other two, Phoenix or Kaiser, would have been probably was around 52 degrees.
Both, but especially the Kaiser, would benefit from being served a bit cooler, and we talked yesterday about switching the 15B Porter to the warmer cask box, perhaps along with a strong Belgian (in the future), seeing as these two would be better served warmer than cooler.
As for the beer temperature, then, we’re generally where we’d like to be in the keg boxes, but we could stand some tweaking in terms of keg placement. The only action that might explain “hot” would be if we served a pint that had been sitting out, already poured. This shouldn’t ever happen, but perhaps it did, so I cannot rule it out. The point will be duly reiterated with bartender and servers, our procedures will be reviewed, and I’m happy that it has been brought to my attention.
A personal note to JDB: Being snarky about well-intentioned efforts on the part of readers like Paul, whose interest lies in educating people about proper beer temperatures, doesn’t change the fact that there are proper temperatures for beer, or that considerations of the same extend somewhat beyond “cold” and “frosted.” It’s obviously our obligation to try and hit those marks as best we can. Based on my experience at the Public House, once you’re up to 40 draft lines and 300 bottles, serving each beer at the correct temperature becomes plainly impossible, and all that can be done is to try and arrive at a reasonable mean. It should be more closely attainable in a situation like BSB’s, where there are fewer draft lines.
The major point of the “terrible” allegation in the “review” is service, specifically (a) the purportedly brusque “we do it that way here” attitude, and (b) whether this is the result of our servers absorbing too much of the Publican’s “passion,” which unfortunately in the context of this attribution comes off sounding like something that’s bad.
Actually, I want all the servers – and the kitchen workers, and the dish washers – to be as passionate about beer as I am, and I’ll make no apologies for that. But of course, I don’t approve of servers being rude, or tossing expedient brush-offs sans better, more accurate explanations when a customer asks a question. I’m the one walking the tightrope, and not them. I’m the one who says what I think, not them.
I also know that when it’s busy, as it was on Friday, things can happen or be misinterpreted in the heat of the battle. Our GM has spoken with both of the servers who were there on Friday. Neither of them can recall occurrences out of the ordinary, or having the impression that their customers were unhappy. Knowing both of them fairly well, I’m inclined to accept their recollections as authentic, with a sizeable caveat that it will not exempt them from a strong reminder that more detailed explanations must be proffered when the occasion merits, and that they are not permitted to be as outspoken as me.
It’s a gray world out here. I absolutely believe that in this case, the customer considered the beer too warm, and asked about it. I also believe that the server replied and didn’t see it as something worthy of a more detailed explanation. My guess is that both parties are right, although it’s our burden to communicate, and we didn’t do so in a manner that would have prevented a specific business transaction from being derailed.
We’re taking another, closer look at the draft system, and we’ll chat with the servers about being more pro-active. I trust these steps will forestall the majority of future concerns.
Now … this may shock some of you … but if readers are waiting eagerly for me to throw an employee under the bus and begin making the usual gestures, it’s not going to happen – not after the “terrible” banner was affixed to a complaint that could have come to my attention first, or at the very least been properly phrased here on the forum. “Terrible” was provocative, as was the crack about my “passion,” and all of it massively annoys me, as does the subsequent attack on Paul Mick.
Maybe I'm just too damned passionate. When I stop being this way, it's time to move on, or die.
Anyone and everyone: If you have a questionable experience at BSB or Grant Line, ask for the manager, and/or the GM, and/or send me a PM using the handy mailing device here at the forum, and we can exchange information. I regularly bend over backwards to try to make things work, and so do my partners and our staffs at both locations. I know full well that nothing and no one are perfect, but we get it right most of the time.
Yes, there are going to be mistakes, and the best that can be said about it is that mistakes are tolerable so long as we learn from them. Whatever happened on Friday night, we’ll learn from it.
In the preceding, I have tried to outline what we at Bank Street Brewhouse have learned from this, er, “review” of our performance. We will seek to be as good as we can be, and I hope this is enough. Thanks for the space to respond. I'll try to be available today for follow-ups, although it's booked fairly tightly.
Roger A. Baylor
New Albanian Brewing Company &
NABC Bank Street Brewhouse
New Albany, Indiana