Tipping in Tasting Rooms: A Conversation With a Veteran Beertender

One can read Instagram and Twitter all day long, but the best way to get a true sense of what the beer-curious are into, and the most entertaining way to learn what’s hot and new in the world of beer, is to sit where everything is ordered. At one local brewery, I noticed a trend: people still tip on the age-old $1 per beer rule. If a beer is $7 (plus tax), a dollar tip is equal to a measly 13.2 percent tip. For an industry that relies on knowledgeable and often certified bartenders, this feels wrong.

This got me thinking. What should I tip on a flight? I normally tip a couple bucks per crowler fill, should I tip based on dollar amount?  I asked beertender Patrick Whittaker of Bottle Logic (arguably one of O.C.’s busiest tasting rooms) about all of my curiosities.

Do people still tip a dollar a beer? If folks are paying cash, the golden rule of a buck a beer still holds true. If paying with a card, I’d say the vast majority of our guests hit the 18 percent tip option on our closing screen without much deliberation. Occasionally we’ll get stiffed, but it’s fairly uncommon—just part of the business.

What should we tip on a flight?  Flights can vary in price depending on guest selection, so it’s tricky to put an arbitrary tip amount on the idea.  If a guest is new to our brewery, or craft beer in general, I like to spend some time discussing their flavor preferences in order to build a really well-rounded tasting experience. Our team strives to deliver world-class guest service, and I’d like to think that if we’ve been prompt, courteous, and helpful in crafting their experience, folks will tip generously in return.

“Hey buddy, can I get a just a splash of that…”  If we’re not slammed, I’m happy to talk and taste through our unique offerings and more experimental styles, but it gets difficult when people are looking to ‘splash’ through the entire menu. We have a two-splash limit for folks looking to decide between our menu options, for this reason. As a beer enthusiast myself, I welcome the conversation and opportunity to help folks learn about the craft. If you’re looking for this kind of experience, make sure you sit up close at the bar top!

Should customers tip on growler-only to-go orders?  Absolutely. Filling beer vessels to-go takes time and affects the flow of our operation.  If you receive great service in any service capacity, reward it.

Suppose I buy three crowlers to go at $16 each ($51.84 with tax), what should I tip? $8 to $10/18 to 25 percent if the beertender is doing a great job: maybe they’ve offered you samples, or have cold-stored the vessel while you’re having a pint, or they remember your name and order, etc.

What about merchandise or pre-packaged beer to go…should we tip? If the beertender is helpful and goes above and beyond to offer great service, show you appreciate it. Tips make up the incredible majority of the income for anyone standing behind a bar.

If I come in with a large party, should I reach out to the tasting room manager beforehand? Should I tip more if we’re attended to? Absolutely, a courteous head’s up is always appreciated. If the tasting room staff makes special accommodations and offers exceptional service, 18 to 25 percent is generally appropriate here.

Do people from other countries understand tipping here?  It’s a mixed bag, truthfully, and I totally get it.  We’ve had guests from all over the world join us and I’m never offended if I don’t receive a gratuity from someone who isn’t culturally accustomed to the practice.

Let’s talk inside baseball: Are other industry/brewery folks great tippers?  Surprisingly, not always.  It can be disheartening to buy a beer for an industry visitor on a personal tab and have them just walk away. If I’m visiting another brewery and a beertender buys a pour for me, I tip the cost of the beverage to the staff. If I’m offered a discount on a pour, I’m tipping 25 percent plus. You’ve got to take care of family!

Photo by iStock.com/tfoxfoto

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