Monday, August 8, 2011

Props Out: Mark, the Chap's Bartender

What makes a good bartender?

To answer this, let me relay a scenario that I experienced when I recently visited our local beer go-to, Chap's Taproom:

I needed some beer for a family get-together. So I grabbed a growler and headed to Chap's. I figured I'd grab one of the $10 specials that they run on a regular basis. Upon perusing the list, I saw that Sly Fox Pikeland Pils was on the menu so I decided to settle upon that sure-fire winner. The bar was a little crowded for a Sunday, so it was taking the gal behind the bar a minute to get to me. A guy asked me how much beer one of the growler holds. I said "64 ounces, about five beers." And then I got scared because I don't like to get into conversations with strangers at bars. I immediately envision them trying to get close to me so they can jack me flash-mob style in the parking lot. It was right at that moment that I heard a voice from behind me: It was Mark, the Chap's bartender. He was evidently working the front desk on this day, but he took the time to greet me and save me from the random who was all in my business. Seeing that the bartendress was busy, he took the initiative to ask me what I was having and then he went ahead and began the lengthy pour. While the growler was filling, he pointed me to an interesting promotion. They are calling it the Battle of the Imperial IPAs, and the standoff is between Dogfish Head 90 Minute and Bear Republic Apex. Seeing that they were selling them for $2 per flight glass, I said that they should run something where they sell you both flights for three bucks so you can drink and compare simultaneously. He said that sounded like a lovely idea and that he was going to run it by the management. I felt very proud of this suggestion. Then I noticed that they were selling a Lagunitas beverage on draft. Being a major fan of Lagunitas right now (Little Sumpin Sumpin is epic), I asked him how this beer - Lucky 13, was its name - tasted. Wouldn't you know he let me come behind the bar and put my head under the tap for some quick consumption? Just kidding! That would be stealing, but it makes for a funny image, doesn't it? In any event, during our pleasant conversation, the growler concluded its fill-up. Get this: He checks it out, sees that it isn't quite up to the top, and makes sure that I get a completely filled container. After this, he gives me my check, I give him a very decent tip for his efforts, we said our goodbyes, and we both went about the rest of our day.

So let's go through this story and count the ways by which Mark showed his incredible worth as a keeper of alcoholic spirits:
1) He greeted me when I came through the door.

2) He saved me from having to talk to the stranger who was inquiring about my growler in incredibly odd and desperate fashion.

3) He poured my growler even though he wasn't even working the bar that day.

4) He attempted to open me up to new beers. True, I have had both Dogfish Head 90 Minute and Bear Republic Apex, but it is the effort that counts. (Not for nothin', but it should be said that Mark prefers Dogfish Head 90 Minute, while I believe that Bear Republic can do no wrong, and is therefore victorious in that battle.)

5) He pretended like my idea about the two flights for $3 was a good one. In all likelihood, it is an idea that they considered and rejected after calculating that it would bankrupt their establishment, but he simply nodded his head and allowed me to feel like I was providing a valuable service to my beer-slinger of choice.

6) He allowed me to place my head under the Lucky 13 tap and chug to my heart's desire. Oh right, he didn't really do this. It is just a vision that is making me very giggly right now.

7) The growler fill is obviously the most important thing. There is nothing more infuriating than getting a growler home just to find out that, once the head settled, you got nothing more than a 3/4 fill. Sometimes, you even notice this, but what are you supposed to do? Slam that baby back on the bar and DEMAND more meticulous work? I suppose one could do that, but way more preferable is the bartender who stands sentinel to ensure that your growler is of optimum occupancy level. What a truly appreciated gesture!

These are seven great steps that were taken by Mark, the Chap's bartender, on this particular day. They prove him to be a gentleman, a scholar, and a bro of great esteem. But it was the eighth, a gesture that would not be recognizable to the human eye, that truly pegs Mark as the greatest bartender in the Norristown area and beyond. You see, he once dated my wife. And all the time we have known each other, he has wisely NEVER mentioned this. It is almost as if the tet-a-tet never existed! This is a good thing. I would imagine that nothing would make beer go down rougher than a side comment like, "Hey, did you know I dated your wife? It was a really enjoyable experience." It is an observation that is shrewdly withheld by any businessperson who values repeat customers.

So, Mark, tonight we say to you, PROPS OUT! For your attention to your craft. For your friendly and courteous manner. And for never, ever, EVER mentioning that you got it on with my wife.

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