Behind bars: beer

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SLTN interviews two Scottish bartenders about their outlet’s beer offering

Conor McGeady, Niven’s, Glasgow

Which occasions do you feel are particularly well-suited to bottled beer?

Nothing quite beats that dank, hoppy, fresh cut grass aroma that fills your nostrils when you pop the bottle cap on your favourite IPA or crisp lager straight from the ice bucket on a hot summer’s day. I don’t think bottled beers are only suited to such informal situations though. Bottled beers make the perfect pouring and sharing companions over dinner. Be it 330ml, 500ml or 70cl bottles, it is an easy way for dining guests to share a few styles of beer over a meal. Good beers can complement different foods in different ways, much like wine.

How popular is bottled beer in your outlet?

Bottled beer is very popular in our bar and restaurant, although the can is growing in the world of craft beer with fewer brewers bottling their products these days and more and more opting to can their brews. Bottled beer, however, still takes up to around 25% to 30% of our non-draught beers.

How important is visibility in back-bar fridges to the sale of bottled beers?

I believe it’s an absolute necessity these days. I’m not sure that everyone would agree but I believe that people taste with their eyes first of all. Before we have even decided which product we would like to crack open next, our eyes are looking for the tastiest branding or eye-catching colour scheme on the labelling. Show your customers the products and let them sell themselves. There is so much on offer when it comes to beer.

How many bottled beers do you stock and what are the biggest sellers?

All of our beers rotate. From draught to bottles and cans. Currently we have around 15 bottled beers. I would say that right now our most popular would be Brewdog’s Quench Quake. It’s a tangerine and grapefruit sour and is a great introduction to that style of beer. A popular beer with diners looking for something a bit different is the Out of Town Brewing Islay barrel-aged stout. At over 10% ABV, it’s certainly not for everyone but it packs incredible layers of flavour.

What is your own favourite bottled beer and why?

A tough question for sure. I would say that drinking a cold bottle of Augustiner Helles might be one of my favourites as it evokes memories of spending summer days with my dad drinking it in Munich beer gardens while over in Germany to visit family. Something less straightforward would be Brewdog vs Amundsen Mallow Mafia, a marshmallow imperial milk stout. Our head chef paired it with a rich chocolate dessert and vanilla ice cream when we hosted a tasting with the brewery; it worked wonderfully.

What can be done to upsell bottled beers?

Make sure staff are well-trained on the beers that you are selling, where they come from, what the various styles are and encourage them to make recommendations. Rotating our beers has been a great technique for us and we have our packaged beers written up on boards in the restaurant. I try to make recommendations such as why not try something hoppy, sweet, sour, local, dark and so on, each with a different recommendation. It gets people to think about what style they are in the mood for before choosing one of your suggestions.


Kieren Joseph, Foundry, Aberdeen

Which occasions do you feel are particularly well-suited to bottled beer?

I feel that bottled beers are suited to when the pub is filling up and the bar team are stretched. During big football matches and boxing is a great time to sell and promote bottled beers as they make it quick and easy to get people away from the bar. Another advantage to bottled beer is that you don’t need to wash a glass and they are easy to tidy up. They are also well-suited to pre-booked sales and packages as you can easily have them ready for a customer’s arrival, cold and on their table.

How popular is bottled beer in your outlet?

Bottled beer performs well for us and easily outsells cans by about ten to one. Draught sales are huge and I don’t see that changing, however people are happy to have a bottle if there is sport on and they want to get served quicker.

How important is visibility in back-bar fridges to the sale of bottled beers?

Visibility in back-bar fridges is important so people can see what selection you stock and I think customers like to see them in a fridge so they know when they order a bottle of beer that it will be chilled; there is nothing worse than a warm bottle of beer. It also shows off your range of beers and this helps gives the customer a quick overview of what you have so they can make their decision.

How many bottled beers do you stock and what are the biggest sellers?

We stock 13 different types of bottled beer in total and this ranges from lager to IPAs. The biggest sellers are Corona and Peroni; these are two that we can’t get cold quick enough and fly out the fridge on big sporting occasions.

What is your own favourite bottled beer and why?

My favourite bottled beer is Corona, I like it as it is quite sweet and easy to drink and I’m not a fan of bitter beers. I add a wedge of lime to it and sometimes some lime cordial just to make it a little smoother.

What can be done in bars to upsell bottled beers?

A good price always helps, along with good promotion. Have the beers visible so the customer can see them. Packages can work well too, such as a bucket of Budweisers for a set price during football.