As a frequent traveler, one of the fun things I get to do is try out new brewpubs and beer bars wherever I go. This past week I was in Rapid City, SD and had to try out the Firehouse Brewing Co. with my colleague Charles. Anyway, off we went to Firehouse in downtown Rapid City, looking for some good beer! No doubt about it, it is a pretty building, and had a nice patio with outside seating--and we were there on a nice warm night, so that's where we went. For a Tuesday night, it was pretty busy, but we were seated immediately, very nice. Time for beer!
Our waitress informed us that they only had 3 beers on draught--a surprise there! Also, they have tasters, but you pay for 5 beers even when there are only 3.Not cool, since I want to try all three. So Charles goes for the Wilderness Wheat, and I have the Strong Arm Porter. The porter is not especially, er, portery, or even especially distinguished. It is drinkable though, and I enjoyed it. I followed up with a Firehouse Red, which also wasn't distinguished--frankly it was disappointingly ordinary, and even had some off flavors. At this point I thought I would ask our waitress about the beer--and this is where I was incredibly shocked! She knew NOTHING about beer, and was a self admitted whiskey drinker.
I can't help but contrast this with my favorite local brewpub, The Tap in Haverhill, MA. While they have had turnover in their brewers, the beer there is consistently good and consistently matches the descriptions. Haverhill, by the way is a little smaller than Rapid City (56,000 vs 64,000 population), but is part of the greater Boston area, so there is more competition. The Tap is all about beer. The last time I was there, my waitress Delsie, was able to tell me all about each of the beers. And about the brewer. And if she didn't know an answer, I'm pretty confident she would have been able to get me one.
If you are going to run a brew pub, it seems to me you really need to hire staff that know about beer to help sell your product. In this man's world, the only reason to go to a brew pub over and above another restaurant is because of the beer. The lure of fresh, regional beer is a big one for me, and I'm always looking for great beer, as I was in Rapid City. If you are ever in Haverhill, stop in at the Tap. If you are in Rapid City, go to the Delmonico Grill--it is across the street from the Firehouse, but the beer is MUCH better--and they know their product.