You’re Opening A Bar! An Essential Buying Guide Part 3: Beer, Wine and Other Alcoholic Beverages

This is the third installment in a four part series. We’re going through all of the essential elements your new bar needs to ensure that it is ready for success from the word GO! If you missed it, check out Part 1: Essential Equipment, Glassware and Extras right here. Then check out Part 2: Liquors, Liqueurs and Balancing Your Shelves right here.

How far you delve into each of these beverage categories will be determined by what sort of bar you’re trying to be. Are you a hip-local joint that’s heavy on the craft beer? Maybe you’re a more fine dining location with a long wine list carrying wine from both the old and new world. Whatever your bar is, you’ll obviously make alcohol choices based on your brand.

Having gone through the process of creating your bar you should know what drinks you’re probably going to be serving the most. Unlike with spirits, wine and beer offerings can vary greatly, and it’s up to you to work out what exactly you’re going to offer. Again, head out on a field trip and visit your local competition. Specifically visit bars and restaurants that fit your model. See what they have on offer. This will give you a good estimation as to what your target audience is expecting.

Beer

You’re Opening A Bar! An Essential Buying Guide Part 3: Beer, Wine and Other Alcoholic Beverages

Draft Beer – The most common setup in a bar is a four tap system. That will include a popular American light lager, a name brand Belgian White, an IPA, and an amber ale, porter or stout. This is the most common setup around the country and for good reason; these beers sell from the tap. Consider having -excluding taps 1 and 2- at least one of your drafts supplied by a local brewery. A guest ale tap is definitely an option, and your no 4. tap can take on this role. It’s typically a full bodied stout in the winter, a fruity or summer ale in the summer, and even becomes a pumpkin ale in the fall if you want.

Bottled and Canned Beer – Your non-draft beer selection allows you to extend your draft beer lineup and offer greater variety to your customers. Your bottled beer selection will really be determined by the amount of fridge and cellar space you have available. Remember that you have to be able to keep enough so that if a few people are drinking a certain beer you will always have a cold one for all of them. With that in mind, your non-draft selection should contain the following: big name imported beer(s), popular local crafts, and common national beers often asked for that you can’t fit on your draft lineup. Don’t want to do a seasonal draft? Seasonal cans and bottles are also an option, and a much cheaper and less risky investment.

Wine

You’re Opening A Bar! An Essential Buying Guide Part 3: Beer, Wine and Other Alcoholic Beverages

Wine is different from beer in some key aspects. Firstly, local is nowhere near as big a selling point. However, people can be specific about terroir with certain grapes. Specifically, this is true of Sauvignon Blancs and Malbecs. These have to be from New Zealand and Argentina respectively, or they struggle to sell. Secondly, wine trends a lot more than beer. These trends often last for a long time, they are also not as seasonal as beer trends.

By the glass or by the bottle? All your wines should be available by the bottle. Unless you find yourself unable to shift your house wines by the bottle. Then you could buy larger size bottles and just serve them by the glass. Not all your wines should be available by the glass and your glass selection is usually restricted to house only. Unless you plan on having a extensive wine list.

Reds – Offer A minimum of three choices. You can often go with four or five, all of different grapes ranging from light to full bodies, dry to fruity. The standard line up is a Merlot, a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Pinot Noir, and a Malbec. Your by-the-glass offerings should be at least two but probably 3-4, reflecting the full range of flavors found in red wine.

White – As with red you want a minimum of three offerings, again reflecting the full range of white wine. Include dry, sweet and semi-sweet. Again you should really offer one of each by the glass. On a basic wine list you’ll find a Chardonnay, a Pinot Grigio, and a Sauvignon Blanc. But, as with red wine, you don’t have to set this selection in stone.

Rose – One, by the bottle and the glass, is often enough. If you’re going to offer two make sure that one is dry and one is sweet.

Sparkling – You can serve splits if you want. However, it usually makes more sense -and is more cost effective- to have full bottles available. Especially if you’re going to be open for breakfast or brunch. That time of day is when mimosas are most called for. If you’re only stocking one it’s better if it’s more on the sweet side than the dry side.

Other Alcoholic Beverages

You’re Opening A Bar! An Essential Buying Guide Part 3: Beer, Wine and Other Alcoholic Beverages

Cider – Cider is growing in popularity in the states and, especially in the summer, you’re going to want one on your line up. There are two well known brands out there, but craft cider is emerging. Like craft beer, it could soon be in high demand. Cider is also popular in the growing gluten free community.

Hard Seltzer – The “in-thing” at the time of writing, hard seltzer should not be over looked when you’re planning on stocking your bar. Flavors? They’ll be your choice.

Spiked Tea – These are rising in popularity and we’re likely to see other “spiked” variations emerge sooner rather than later. Do you need to stock it? The results from your field trip will give you an answer.

The main difference between wine and beer and the liquors and liqueurs we discussed in Part 2 is that wine and beer have a much shorter shelf life once they’re opened. This leaves them susceptible to ending up on your wastage sheet, and being counted as losses at the end of the month. Not good! The key with your wine and beer is to have enough variety to keep your customers happy, but not too much that you’re not regularly moving though all your stock. More than with liquors and liqueurs, keep your ear to the ground with your wines and beers, if there’s a grape variety or national brand being requested regularly then try getting it in, and maybe eventually swap it out for something that isn’t shifting.

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Benjamin Michael Beddow

Benjamin Michael Beddow

Food and Beverage Professional

As a food and beverage professional for over ten years, Ben has spent most of his time behind the bar, giving him a broad and in-depth knowledge of all things drinkable and drink related. Now, as a traveling freelance writer exploring the gastronomy, drinks, and food service industry of the world, Ben has taken his knowledge and experiences to the world wide web to share with others. The love for the trade never dies and Ben can still be found running around restaurants and slinging drinks in ski resorts in the USA during the winter season.