Taproom Staff: Know-How & Service

Finding the fine line between educating a consumer versus talking down to them is tough for breweries in their taproom. Brewer talked with multiple breweries on this topic and came away with two lines of thinking.

All of Core Brewing‘s Public House team members are Certified Cicerone beer servers.

“This line of work is not a job, it’s a lifestyle and beer knowledge appreciation is at the forefront of our mind during the interview process,” said the brewery’s Sales and Marketing Director, Chris Reed.

Meanwhile, Jamil Zainasheff prefers people that work in his taproom to be without any certification at all.

“What we’ve found is some of those folks hold a ‘holier than thou’ type of attitude over the customer, which is exactly the opposite of what we want,” the Heretic Brewing co-founder explained. “I want people that are friendly, helpful, and personable. I can teach them what they need to know about our beers without them becoming some beer know-it-all.”

Many come to LA’s Angel City as relative newbies said the brewery’s Dan Shapiro.

“It’s more important to us that our staff are personable, hard-working and customer oriented,” he said. “We’ll teach them whatever else they need to know.”

Zainasheff argues it isn’t the job of the taproom staff to disagree about some historical aspect of beer.

“Serve, engage, share,” he said. “I’d rather the beer expert customers that come in tell me my staff doesn’t know as much as they do about beer, but they were friendly, versus someone that argued with them about beer.”

Now, that said, Zainasheff said he has hired some folks that do have their certifications and do know more about beer than most customers, but they don’t lord it over them.

“Instead they know how to engage them in a friendly discussion without acting all high and mighty. Perhaps that should be on the certification tests?” he quipped.

Aside from immersion into Core’s brewery culture, Reed says the staff goes through a brief training session on the brewery’s history as well as continued updates on direction and developments.

Angel City has a few different educational programs to keep their staff excited and have them learn as much as they would like to about beer, Shapiro said.

“We have a general training program to get everyone trained as a Certified Beer Server: guards, bar backs, bartenders, and tour guides,” he noted. “Once they’ve received that first certification, they can apply to become a Certified Cicerone — it’s how I received my certification, when I was bartending.”

Currently, Angel City has five Cicerones on staff.

Brewery Vivant is actually a restaurant/pub so the Grand Rapids’ brewery’s taproom staff is maybe a little more than “taproom staff,” explained Kate Avery.

“We take service seriously and we do find ourselves reaching a broad restaurant audience with plenty of opportunity to educate about what craft beer is and means to us,” she said. “In fact, we have a series of in-house classes that we require of our staff.”

“L’ecole Vivant” or “Vivant school” is eight hours of lecture and experiential learning spread over two days in which service, Vivant ethos/mission, and beer and food pairings are all covered. Additionally, throughout the year they hold in-services for their serving staff: two-hour blocks that focus on particular styles of beer, cheeses, charcuterie, techniques and other aspects

“A big part of our farmhouse story is living the good life — “the Bon Vivant” — and so educating our staff on how they can help our guests live the good life here inside the chapel (what they call the pub) and beyond is a big part of our training program.”

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