Want an Educated Taproom Server? Great! Let Them Know How to Learn More

An important aspect in what constitutes a great consumer experience can vary, but having a great bartender or server in a brewery taproom can lead to accomplishing some of those goals. The biggest issue is sometimes those working in the front of the house don’t necessarily come with a deep knowledge base of craft beer to start. Some may want to learn more while others are just learning different styles or the difference between an Ale or a Lager.

Since Scratchtown Brewing is located in such a remote location (Ord, Nebraska), nearly all of the brewery’s hires have been completely new to the craft beer universe and frankly, fermentation in general, said co-owner Caleb Pollard.

“Alcohol has always been something they’ve enjoyed but often they’re completely unaware of how fermentation happens, how products are packaged, and how that delicious beverage gets to your mouth,” he said. “So we have to start from the very beginning with both our customers and our employees.”

Adding in education pieces, from Basics 101 to furthering education in both serving, fermentation, packaging, and more can make employees a major benefit to your taproom.

“We firmly believe a well-educated beertender can and does drive better sales,” Pollard said. “Whether it is helping the craft-curious beer drinker to try a new style they might not have had interest in, or show to the beer geeks that we take both fermentation and the joy of drinking seriously. Knowledge is power.”

In a more craft beer-savvy community like the Colorado market, communication between the brewhouse and taproom is so important, said Jake Goodman of WeldWerks, because they want to ensure there are no unnecessary dividing lines between front- and back-of-house. So that means education helps in creating cross-team trust and the understanding that everyone’s roles and responsibilities may be different, but all are equally important.

“Our taproom staff needs to know how exacting our production team is, and our production team needs to know that the taproom will present their finished product with consistency and the knowledge necessary to educate our consumers,” said Goodman, the Greeley, Colorado brewery’s Head of Experience Manager.

A big change recently for the brewery to enhance FOH education is being more defined, Goodman noted.

“For a long time we had simply given the blanket statement that ‘all relevant educational pursuits will be paid for,’ without properly following up or providing guidance,” he said. “More than anything, this ultimately resulted in a paradox of choice, and thus inaction.”

The brewery has started to address this by creating more curated lists of educational opportunities, tailored to the employees’ position and current level of expertise.

Goodman summed it up as such: “If you are doing X and interested in Y, then this list of three different courses might be of great use to you.”

Creating the breakdown helps ease the paradox of choice. That can mean taking some time to see what is available, how it can be useful for a certain employee, and then exposing those employees to that opportunity.

Employees feeling stale or stuck in a holding pattern due to a lack of challenge. which is why every employee has various roles at the brewery. Scarce rewards for achieving goals set by employers, which is not what we do.

Aaron Uhl of Uhl’s Brewing said as an owner he encourages knowledge advancement and makes sure that the brewery pays for that along the way.

“Inadequate training is something we definitely don’t do,” he said. “Knowledge is power and learning more and more about what we do every day only enhances the employee-customer interactions.

“The most important reason to have everyone on board like this is to provide the ultimate experience to any customer that may walk in. From the ‘regular at the bar’ to the ‘ultra savvy beer fanatics,’ we’ve got ya covered.”

Pollard said, though, that having a neophyte to beer as a server can be a significant advantage for Scratchtown.

“It gives us a blank canvas in which to educate and bring both our patrons and employees along with us,” Pollard said. “I also very much believe a well-educated, well-compensated employee is worth their weight in gold.

“We have very little staff turnover and because of that, we have very loyal customers.”

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