Simple Steps to Build a Better Beer Program

 
Lauren Feighery
Stocking quality, nurturing relationships with breweries, keeping it clean—some things are a given. But weekly tastings for employees, free tattoos for guests, and no TVs in the bar—these are some pretty dramatic ideas to draft.

Ben Siegel called his boss to quit his job the moment the flight attendant announced: “Cell phone use is now allowed.”

He had been dreaming of opening a restaurant and bar since his days as a college student in Austin, Texas, when one night he noticed that the Best Wurst sausage cart on Sixth Street always had the longest line.

Ben Siegel was done dreaming.

“I realized in the middle of that flight home from a friend’s wedding that no one was going to give it to me—I had to make it happen,” he recalls. “So I quit my job as soon as we landed and dove head first into the hospitality business, a world in which I had zero experience.”

Two years later in July of 2012, Siegel opened Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden on Austin’s Rainey Street, an up-and-coming part of town that’s in the process of transforming from a neglected residential area into a thriving restaurant and bar scene, thanks to a neighborhood redevelopment plan.

Siegel’s concept was simple. “I opened a place that had everything I love and two things every civilization of all time has had—sausage and beer,” he quips.

Clearly more gourmand than historian, Siegel started a restaurant that sounds a little pedestrian on the surface, but the food and beer offerings at Banger’s are anything but. The restaurant offers dozens of sausages, from the humble bratwurst, to a sausage comprising duck, bacon, and fig, to one made with beets and goat cheese for vegetarians.

Banger’s also has a very ambitious beer program. At its heart is a massive tap wall boasting 104 beers. “My goal is to become the best beer bar in America,” Siegel says.

While he has yet to receive his crown, the way he approaches beer selection, staff education, and brewery relations is dripping with insights and good ideas that are sure to be useful to any operators looking to take their restaurant’s beer service to the next level.

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