Ask The Salty Waitress: How Many Free Beer Samples Is Too Many?

Hey Salty, I hang out pretty regularly at a craft beer bar that offers free, one-ounce-ish samples people can try before ordering a full pour. I'm pretty decisive, but I'll sometimes sample one beer before I order, especially if it's a flavor I'm not sure I'll like. But I see some people ask for two, three, even once four samples before they order. The bartenders are super nice and patient and never seem to mind, but am I wrong thinking that's excessive? I feel like you get one sample before you decide. What's the line?

Thanks, Not Afraid Of Beer Commitment

Dear Commitment,

Hrmm. This one's a little outside my realm of familiarity, seeing as how we don't do samples—of anything—where I work. You want to try that Key lime pie in the rotating case? Better commit, Jack. I promise it's good.

So I asked the staff at some of the bars and brewery taprooms around here, and arrived at something like a consensus. Most of them said first and foremost, they are happy to pour samples, because it means customers get a beer they want and are happy and more likely to order another round.

Now that said, there's no such thing as a free lunch, and it's not like people should be using samples to get as much comped beer as they can. One bartender friend told me that her taproom offers flights, so if a customer wants to try more than two beers, please, just order the flight. That's what it's there for: trying beers. Not that hard a concept, folks.

If a bar doesn't offer flights, it's best to keep samples at two, generally. It's not like those customers you saw are putting the bar out of business with one-ounce pours, but it's just a courtesy to the staff. They have to get you a new glass and wait while you hem and haw, which is—opportunity cost, my sweets—time they could have spent helping another customer. If it's slow and the bartenders seem fine with all the samples, Commitment, then why let yourself get bothered by it? I'm with you, they should stick to two, but it doesn't sound like the bartenders are losing their minds over it. Hopefully the customers tip well for that extra bit of work.

You're doing it right by getting a sample here and there, but you really don't need to police the other folks' orders. If the bartenders are happy to pour a baker's dozen of samples, live and let drink.

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