Beer list formats • Craft Beer Restaurant Reference Library


Organizing Your Beer List

A well organized craft beer list is important to restaurant beer sales. You can use various strategies to organize your list. One is not inherently better than another. The format you choose depends on what works best for your situation.

Some formats, like By Color, work well for shorter lists. Emphasizing food pairings by using the By Cuisine format, is an effective way for restaurants to create impulse beer sales. Hybrid formats are also very useful and popular for longer beer lists, such as first separating by color and then grouping similar styles. This is common in the wine-list world, where all the Red Wines are grouped together, but sub-grouped by variety (such as Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, etc.). a complementary beer list would first group by Color (such as Brown) and then sub-group by beer style (such as Brown Ale, Porter, Stout, etc.).

The other common hybrid strategy in both beer and wine lists is using Place of Origin for major headings and next by Color and then by specific Style/Variety. There are several variations of this. Most important is having a consistent organization strategy that works with your customers.

Include taste descriptors and pairing suggestions

No matter the organization strategy, each specific beer listing should include a simple taste description and note of the types of food it best complements. The description should sum up primary flavor components (such as malty, toasty, roasted, fruity, bitter, sweet, etc.) and give a hint to the intensity of those flavors (Is it big/bold or subtle?). If the beer features a good dose of hop aroma and taste, that too should be noted in the description.

It helps greatly if each description also includes a recommendation of food menu pairings.

Don’t over-complicate the categories

Use categories to easily lead customers to the major style groupings. A beer menu does not need to have every category represented to be considered an excellent craft beer list. A highly-rated beer list does not need 100 beers. Most important to rating the quality of a craft beer list are two things:

  1. 1.Having some depth in beer styles that best complement the food menu and the restaurant concept/style.

  2. 2.Inclusion of high quality selections in each category offered, and offering beers in varying price levels.

Some restaurateurs are hesitant to offer a craft beer list with numerous style categories because they fear that to be considered a great list you would have to offer an extremely wide range of beers, including many that may not not sell very fast. This is a valid concern and underscores the importance of having a solid beer sales program including staff training and a well-designed beer list. However, it is not appreciably different from the same challenges presented by a lengthy wine list.

Read through all the different formats before deciding how you would like to start.

  1. By Color

  2. By Cuisine

  3. By Beer Style

  4. By Geography

  5. By Season

  6. By Situation


Selecting Your Beer List Format