words + interview by Dana Ball
You know that feeling that rushes through you when you hear your favorite song? The instant happiness that hits you as you sing along to every word? That is the exact feeling I get when tasting my favorite beer or having a conversation with a fellow beer enthusiast. I recently sat down with Kip Snider, Lazy Dog Beverage Director, and Roder Montenegro, Lazy Dog Bar Operations Manager, and talked about their history in beverage and their process for curating the bar program in our restaurants.
Beer has been a staple of the Lazy Dog beverage program since the beginning. We are currently in the process of launching a new beer program; keeping the list fresh and exciting, with offerings that allow our guests to discover the diverse styles and flavors of beer, with an easy–to-navigate progressive beer list.
Dana: So Kip, how did you get into the beverage game? Start from the beginning
Kip: Back in the 60’s…
Kip: My beverage career started in the late 80s as a server. I always had a passion for drinking (laughs) and that progressed into wanting to be a bartender. In Texas it’s legal to pour as a bartender at the age of 18, that’s when I had my first opportunity to get behind the bar. I spent a few years as a bartender, until I became a bar manager and started stepping into the development of beverages. It was an easy decision for a career, I love being around people and have a passion for beverage.
Dana: I love hearing stories like this, it was meant to be! Roder, let’s hear how you got your start in beverage.
Roder: It’s funny I got into the industry the opposite way, I finished college…
Kip: He’s trying to say he’s smarter than me
Roder: Kip caught the bug early. I didn’t start working in hospitality until after college, I enjoyed it so much that I went to bartending school. I found the process of creating drinks that people enjoy to be fascinating. From a young age I was an introvert, bartending gave me that push I needed to be comfortable around people. Once I got the bartending bug, it became a passion of mine. As I learned more it enhanced my passion and career in beverage.
Dana: So cool! Noted, beware of the bartending bug. Let’s talk favorites…what style of beer comes to mind?
Kip: I was always a hop head and I love the Belgian beers, the Belgian Tripel is probably one of my favorites. For easy drinking, the German & Czech Pilsener would be a top runner.
Roder: Belgian Tripel is also my favorite, but my style of beer drinking depends on the season. A witbier when it’s hot during the summer, reds to stouts during fall or winter, and Belgian styles all year round.
Dana: Can’t go wrong with a Belgian beer, also my favorite style! Just watch out that ABV can sneak up on you J Kip, you brought up something about being Knighted in Belgium the other day, I am dying to hear that story!?
Roder: You were Knighted in Belgium? (Laughs)
Kip: The story of Sir-Kip-Alot… I worked work with a Belgian beer group in my past life, during that time I was one of about fourteen people from all over the world nominated by the Knighthood that year to receive this honor for promoting Belgian beer in the United States. I traveled to Belgium during Belgian Beer Week where the ceremony took place in Town Hall. The ceremony starts when the musketeers carry the beer to the cathedral and bless the beer, the Knighthood talks about how each person has achieved the promotion of Belgian beer in their country, we toast and that starts off beer week.
Dana: Wow! You must be proud of this accomplishment.
Kip: I am very proud, there have only been about twelve hundred people who have been knighted, it’s a true honor to be a part of. It was eye opening to see the history, culture and family traditions in Belgium. Drinking beer for breakfast is the way of life, they respect the fact that beer has given their country a way to prosper.
Dana: Amazing, I can’t wait to see the photos. Let’s talk about your process for selecting the beers served at each Lazy Dog location.
Roder: I think the vision has always been that we want to give guests the best product out there. We support local breweries as much as we can, ultimately offering the freshest product and it varies by market.
Kip: I agree. We look for feedback from the bar teams, our guests, and look at what beer is popular in each restaurant. Beer drinkers of the world have come to understand what they really like and will follow certain breweries no matter what style it is to try their product, because of their loyalty to the brand.
Dana: Tell me about the idea behind the progressive list.
Kip: Just like a wine list, beer drinkers or people interested in beer expect the list to be in categories; a start to finish guide of styles. Starting at the top of the list with the intro section, a House Blonde or Lager. The mid-level drinkers looking for something like a Hefeweizen or Red Ale would move to the middle. The advanced drinkers or those who want to be adventurous might try an IPA, Stout or Belgian beer.
Roder: It’s a cool thing to see the guests make the jump from a light beer to a pale ale, the progressive list lays it out with the next beer in line.
Kip: It’s really a training tool for our teammates and guests, the menu answers all of the questions. We want our guests, who are familiar or unfamiliar with beer, to be able to navigate through the list with ease.
Dana: Definitely makes finding a beer user-friendly! Word on the street there is a new Lazy Dog Nitro Stout comin’ to town, what’s the story there?
Kip: We wanted a House Stout that was similar to Guinness that would layer nicely for beer blends, giving us the best of both worlds. We went to our House beer partner, Golden Road, and asked them if they would be willing to try a nitro stout. They were on board and provided us with a couple of kegs to test in our Brea restaurant. Our previous House Stout was an American Stout, which was too heavy to layer for blends. The new stout is a classic Irish Stout with a lower ABV, rich and roasty, with a smooth and creamy balanced finish.
Dana: Awesome, I love nitro stouts, can’t wait to try it!
Roder: We are very happy with how the Irish Stout turned out and are excited to revamp the beer program focusing on the progressive list, seasonality, and bringing attention to the great beer on tap and having something for everyone.
(Visit your local Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar April 14th to try the new Lazy Dog Nitro Stout!)
Dana: As far as beer trends go, what do you guys think is next?
Kip: We think people will start trending towards Session styles, which maintains their flavor profiles at a lower ABV, so people can have more than one or two per visit. We feel that Ciders will probably be on the decline with craft ciders still in the running. Hoppy brews will remain trending higher than other flavor profiles. Beer cocktails will continue to evolve and is something we plan to take a look at for the future.