Thursday, October 26, 2006

What makes a draft list impressive?

Before coming to the central point of today’s entry, please permit me to confess that I haven’t actually been to the Pink Door, which recently opened in Louisville.

Here’s a description of the new restaurant, courtesy of LEO:

Pink Door Noodles and Tea Lounge opened in the Highlands on Friday, Oct. 13, reinventing the one-time home of Gibb’s BBQ in an edgy, high-tech Japanese style with a 23-foot video wall and facilities for patrons to pose and, in a wacky sort of recursive art, instantly become a part of the decor. Look for lighter fare, Japanese noodle dishes and sushi, along with a wide variety of teas, sakes and techno-Japanese cocktails such as the dubiously monikered Godzilla Fart, a greenish concoction of Finlandia, lime and club soda. We’ll leave it to the Bar Belle to check that one out.

Pink Door Noodles and Tea Lounge
2222 Dundee Road

When the doors to the Pink Door first opened, the usual discussion ensued at the Louisville Restaurants Forum, and none of the comments would merit turning the discussion toward beer if it were not for this observation:

“Service was very friendly, (the) beer list on tap was impressive (Erdinger!) and the ambience was almost too hip for the 'Ville.”

I decided to visit the Pink Door’s web site and see for myself. Here’s the list of drafts:

Erdinger Hefe-Weizen
Kentucky Ale
Blue Moon
Coors Light
BBC Nut Brown

And bottles:

Rogue Morimoto Soba
Bud Light
Miller Lite
Corona Light
Falls City

I want to stress again that today’s ruminations are not intended as criticism of the Pink Door.

Rather, looking at the draft list and others like it, how “impressive” is it?

To be sure, Erdinger on tap is seldom seen, and two BBC microbrews are a bonus … but otherwise, how adventurous is the draft selection?

Taken together with the bottled offerings, there simply isn’t much in the way of stylistic diversity. There are ten golden lagers, with only the Singha providing hop character. What need is there for Kentucky Ale when BBC’s superior Altbier is present? Morimoto Soba, Rogue’s buckwheat ale, while intriguing, almost certainly makes the list solely for its Japanese imagery, and the domestic Blue Moon and imported Erdinger serve precisely the same consumer taste.

In the final analysis, Pink Door’s draft list is “impressive” only in the context of demographic territory somewhat removed from its Dundee Loop locale.

It’s highly likely that the Pink Door’s owners and bar manager put little thought into the draft list, as it is the habit almost everywhere for management to defer to the suggestions of beer wholesalers, who in turn seldom can be trusted to think outside the box. The reason why it matters is that when an establishment purports to serve a particular clientele, it can do so far better by being pro-active in its choices, and basing these selections on reasoning that extends beyond the self-interest of the supplier.

Why is it an article of faith that the “hip” crowd is seeking ever more creative cocktail and wine options, but aren’t willing to apply the same desires to its choice of beer?

Why is it that these customers are duly challenged with a Godzilla Fart and not with Imperial Stout?

Why is it accepted that Japanese beer goes with sushi and Chinese beer goes with egg drop soup, when the Japanese and Chinese lagers offered are precisely the same style, and utterly lacking the brains or the brawn to make food matches interesting?

To conclude, and for whatever reason if occurs, it’s a shame that beer gets such short shrift in these matters. Dining and drinking establishments that are in competition for the discretionary income of consumers stand to benefit from differentiation, but although they commonly understand this in relation to cuisine, décor, wine lists and designer bourbons, many seem unable to extend the analogy to beer.

Why is that?


antzman said...

I for one am impressed to see Falls City on the list. That is definately on the cutting edge of dangerous beers. Nothing says Japanese Fusion quite like our own (at least it used to be local) Falls City. Seeing that alone on a beer list is impressive.

The Well Hungarian said...

Maybe it's the lack of education. Since you seem to be one of the local experts why don't you write a column in Leo or start a consulting business for restaurants or find a way to educate the public, then they will demand a better beer list.

Cavalier Distributing / Mat Gerdenich said...

I see this every day. A five star restaurant with a one star beer.

I wish I knew the answer to the question. The good news is slowly but surely a few brave souls in the restaurant biz are willing to try beer as a viable beverage. Some day (I may be old and grey) beer will get the respect in high end restaurants it deserves.