As a consequence of the craft beer revolution, there is a vast choice of beer from abroad and closer to home. When confronted by a line of tap handles stretching the full length of the bar, do not overlook your local craft brewer. Independent local breweries are the backbone of any serious beer-drinking culture and should not be taken for granted in the competitive commercial environment. Recognize that a beer brewed in smaller quantities with 100% malted barley and high-quality hops will necessarily cost a little extra. Fresh, well-brewed beer that has traveled only a small number of miles will invariably taste better than an equivalent beer that left the brewery a few months ago. Indeed, a draft beer that has traveled a great distance will certainly have been pasteurized, thus is slightly handicapped from the start. The flip side to this is that a pasteurized imported keg of beer will certainly last longer when it is tapped than an unpasteurized, “live,” craft beer. The latter needs to be drunk fresh. A conscientious draft bar should keep a few tap handles devoted to local craft brews and ensure that they remain fresh.
If a beer fails to live up to its obligation of being fresh, send it back over the bar-politely of course. Beer condition must always be the primary concern of any good bar. When confronted by a long line of tap handles, your first question to the bartender should be, “What�s fresh?”