journal of a self proclaimed beer connoisseur

Opinions: Pourhouse Bier Bistro

Pourhouse Bier Bistro

I don’t plan on making this a blog about reviewing pubs or other watering holes but I can’t shake the feeling that I need to air my thoughts on this place. Maybe someone along the way will read it, learn some things, and make some improvements to a pub or restaurant somewhere out there. Maybe even the Pourhouse itself?

Background: On Saturday we went out for a friends birthday and chose to go to the Pourhouse Bier Bistro (www.thepourhouse.ca) on Whyte Ave in Edmonton. We arrived to a moderately busy place with I would guess about 10-20% of the tables available.

It is important to note that this bistro is obviously trying to establish itself as a first-class location for beer connoisseurs in Edmonton. For that, I commend the Pourhose and wish it the best. BUT…this subjects an establishment to a whole new set of standards and expectations from these specialty customers.

On to the nitty gritty.

There were several things about the Pourhose that I liked and at least as many that I did not. Please do no interpret this as pointless bitching but rather bitching for the betterment of the Edmonton beer scene. I just want to take a look at a for-profit business and the ways in which it could better satisfy the niche market it carved out for itself. Know your customer.

I’ll not spend a lot of time on regular complaints for a restaurant or food-establishment. This includes snippy servers and taking too long to come back with ordered drinks. Definitely something they were guilty of here – but not my main focus.

Observation one

The beer menu is impressive. The Pourhouse has done an excellent job of selecting their beers. There are craft beers galore and a very respectable selection from Canada. This includes beers from the Maritimes, Ontario, Quebec, the Prairies, and BC for sure. I was especially pleased to see several beers from Unibroue.

The Pourhouse has established itself immediately as having one* of the most impressive beer lists in the city. *The Sugar Bowl still hasn’t been outdone

Although mostly positive comments, I have one thing to mention. The marketing materials I have seen state the Pourhouse has over 100 beers. I confess I did not count them but I would challenge that claim. It didn’t seem like there was quite that variety.

Observation two

The availability of beers from said beer menu. My brother-in-law ordered two consecutive beers from the menu only to be informed after the server made an unusually long trip to the bar that they do not have those beers in stock at the moment.

This, to me, is bad business. A server in this type of establishment ought to be informed immediately when starting a shift of the beers that are not available for the day. This information should be communicated to patrons upon their arrival and seating.

You take 5-10 minutes (for a beer geek) to pick what you want. Then another 5 to be told you don’t have it. Then you repeat that again. Once they confirm they have a beer for you the total time to get your drink is 20-25 minutes. Not acceptable.

Such an easy fix too – just tell people what beers they can’t order!

Observation three

This is a bistro specifically targeting beer connoisseurs and you have your servers bringing people some of the best craft beers available in the country in their fucking bottles with no glass?

Notice to any other potential operators out there: don’t do this. This is about the stupidest thing you can do. Would you serve some wine buff their wine without glasses? No? Well it is equally ridiculous to drink these beers from the bottle.

I had to specifically ask the server to bring some glasses. Then she only brought enough for half the table. This was frustrating.

Also, when we finally did get glasses we were given imperial pint glasses. This is good if you are drinking a stout; however, there are specific types of glasses for each style of beer. If you are going through the effort of setting up a bistro like this you should just go the next step and acquire an assortment of beer glassware.

No one No beer geek wants to drink their wheat beer or belgian strong ale from an imperial pint glass.

Next, you should properly train all servers on which glasses go with each beer. You can even give them cheat sheets! Who cares…just make sure when the specialty beer arrives to an excited and waiting customer – it has the correct glassware. This really makes a big difference.

Last related point: when providing glassware for any beer at anytime – do not have your bartender stick them on those rinsing blasters. All the glasses we got had about a cm of water on the bottom and were wet all over. This sucks. You went through the trouble of acquiring some of the best beers in the country and then you have no issues about diluting it for no apparent reason? Stupid and disrespectful to the brewer and the customer.

Closing thoughts

Despite my ranting I actually really liked the place otherwise. I would continue to go back for the beer they stock that you can’t get at any other bistro or restaurant. My frustration is born from the great divide between what this bistro could have easily achieved with a little more effort and what they have settled to achieve.

I get excited at the prospect of specialty beer pubs in Edmonton but we have yet to see more than one get it right. To me, it is simply puzzling. I wonder if they consulted a single respected beer expert? Anyone with the desire could probably track down Jason Foster (www.onbeer.org), Jim Pettinger (www.sherbrookeliquor.com), or any other veteran for some opinions.

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