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Q&A: Talking beer with Jon Taffer

Jon Taffer can be a bar’s best friend—or its worst nightmare. Here, the "Bar Rescue" host talks beer, bars, and the country's best drinking city.
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Photo courtesy of Spike.com

Photo courtesy of Spike.com

Jon Taffer can be a bar’s best friend—or its worst nightmare. As the host of Spike’s “Bar Rescue,” he swoops in to save failing bars by dishing out tough love and, hopefully, turning a mess into moolah. New episodes hit this summer, proving that there are still plenty of watering holes in need of Taffer’s no-bullshit brand of CPR.

Interview by Kate Bernot

Are you a beer drinker?

Sure, I’m a guy who drinks everything at a bar.

What do you think about the craft beer trend?

Craft is taking over; it’s elevated beer to where the similarities between beer and wine are growing every day, with regional differences and specific varieties. The downside is that not every craft brew is good… On one hand, it’s great because it’s blowing up the industry, but the phrase “craft beer” is a double-edged sword. What worries me is that the craft brew explosion could create a negative impact long-term if the quality of some of these craft beers doesn’t improve.

What are trends that will carry over from the cocktail world into beer?

I think that we’re going to see two things: First, I see an explosion of flavors in the next year. Beer is going to become more fun, sort of like spirits have. Years ago, I never thought I’d see a wedding cake- or Froot Loops-flavored vodka. The fact is, they sell really well. As the beer market gets more crowded, everyone’s going to start trying to play with their new flavors and new derivative products. Second, beer cocktails are just starting now to take root. Some great mixology bars are starting to really work with them.

You travel a lot. What’s your favorite drinking city?

I spend 40 weeks a year on the road for “Bar Rescue,” and it’s a city’s psyche around drinking that makes drinking fun. So maybe you’re going to laugh when I say this but: St. Louis or Milwaukee. They’re beer towns. They love their beer. They feel connected to it because they make it there. Golden, Colorado, is another one. Cities like that were built by their beer brands.

What are the hallmarks of a good beer bar?

In a good beer bar, it’s all about quality. And it’s so easy. It takes three things: the right temperature, pressure and clean lines. It’s frustrating to me how many bars can’t accomplish those three.

Do you own a bar yourself?

I’m actually working now to open one in Las Vegas early next year. It’s going to have the world’s best custom-designed draft beer system with an LED screen above every tap that gives you real-time information about the temperature and quality of the lines.

How can we all become better bar patrons?

A good bar patron brings a lot of friends, that’s my selfish view. But really, a good bar patron tries new products or new beers. The best bar patron is the one who’s passionate about what’s behind the bar.

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