Rules for keeping regular

Always wanted to be in with the in-crowd? Ferment sets out the golden rules for becoming a true craft beer bar regular


Alongside the thrill of discovering something new and recognising the skill and ingenuity of a master brewer, one of the great joys of craft beer appreciation is the sense of belonging it can bring. Beer can be a bridge across almost any social divide and a fast-track to trust and friendship. From making friends with oil workers at a tiny bar in Oman airport, through to working behind the bar at my local in the Caribbean to pay off my tab, a lifetime of bar travels has made me fairly confident I could walk into any bar and end up having a decent time, or at the very least finding someone to chat to. 

A few years ago, after a period of lots of travel, I found myself based in one city for a while and I didn’t much like going home for the evening. My flatmate was not the best company and, having recently left a more social scene, I missed spending time with people. 

Fortunately, roughly equidistant to my workplace, my home and the gym was a bar that would turn out to be at the forefront of the craft beer revolution. Here was somewhere I could potentially spend my evenings, and it was here that – over time and with great patience – I learned what it takes to be a craft beer bar regular.

Rule #1 - Choose a bar that is reasonably busy, unless you want to literally live there

This might seem counterintuitive, but you want somewhere with a reasonable level of buzz to it. This not only leads to other regulars, but means the staff are more inclined to chat in between serving customers. It also means you’re not going to smother the bar staff with your lonely puppy-dog beer eyes. 

I spent gradually more and more time in the bar, slowly getting to know the lay of the land, the ebb and flow of punters, the familiar faces. A regular is not made in a day, my friend: this is a commitment. Which leads us to the second rule…

Rule #2 - Being a regular is a bit like being a busker. You might be good, but no one gives a shit unless you’re outside their window every day

Head to the bar whenever you can; make it your preferred place to spend the evening. Meet other friends there. You’ll gradually become recognised, perhaps they’ll even remember what sort of beer you like. They might get to know your name and you might get to know theirs, but for God’s sake don’t get in their way... 

Rule #3 - The staff are not your friends… Yet

Here’s a universal truth for you: regulars stand at the bar. If you’re lucky, you get a stool, but best work up to that so you don’t give the impression of permanence. This gives you proximity to the staff, yes, but remember they have shit to do and may not have that much time to chat to your lonely arse. So, bring something to do at the bar that isn’t staring creepily into the middle distance; you don’t look pensive and thoughtful – you look like a murderer. 

I used to work on my laptop mostly. Alternatively, read a book, write a memoir, design your next Kickstarter card game (don’t do this, please). Most of all look self-sufficient. At the end of the day you’ll likely mostly only have a discussion with staff members occasionally when it’s quiet, not all the time.

Rule #4 - You can’t be a regular if you only go to the bar on Fridays and Saturdays

What do you think this is, some kind of game? Much like bar staff, regulars drink Sunday to Thursday. Remember that, because being a regular is about grit and commitment, and nobody likes a fair-weather drinker. Even on quieter days though, you can be helpful to staff members, mainly by knowing your stuff.

Rule #5 - Be helpful if you can

No, don’t collect glasses all the time (although that’s nice if you can help out). Use whatever your strengths are. You probably know a bit about beer, right? Why not help out the clueless person waiting at the bar, who has no idea what they want, with some thoughts about what might be a good option. Lost tourist or visitor? Lend them your superior local knowledge. If you’re not good with people, skip this one. 

You might meet some new people (that’s why you’re here right?) as well as taking some of the time-wasting away from the staff. This is not necessarily guaranteed to win them over, but frankly it’s more interesting than standing drinking beer alone in silence. 

Rule #6 - Protect your spot 

I had a spot, and damn right I was affronted when a tourist or somebody who had NOT PUT IN THE HOURS took my seat. The approach here is to place yourself as near as possible to your spot and ensure you can pounce when the opportunity arises to reclaim it. Worst case, you might get to know the usurpers, and they might be lovely. Familiarity breeds comfort, so it’s important that you maintain this part of your regularity (regular-ness, regular-dom?). 

Rule #7 - Staff taste

Buying a bottle of something awesome? Staff get a glass. They probably helped you choose it or let you know about it. Oh on that note – so do the other regulars. 

Rule #8 - You are part of a community

That’s right: there are more of you. You’ll all represent a variety of tenure and attendance, but you’ll know who they are. You’ll likely get introduced to them by the staff. 

Remember that other regulars are at the core of the whole experience: at the end of the day, it’s these guys you’re looking to get to know. They’re your constant. What would Cheers have been without Norm, Sam and Diane? Exactly.

Despite eventually cutting my attendance from five nights a week to once a month, I remained a regular for about a year and a half. This was because I had a great relationship with the other regulars: they kept my memory alive. 

Rule #9 - Being a regular only lasts as long as you’re regular

It’s pretty self-defining. One day you will decide that you’re no longer going to be able to head to the bar every week night, because of life/wife/husband/child/work/moving/sport or some combination thereof. This is fine. But make it a reasonably clean break, and don’t be upset when someone takes your spot, when new bar staff don’t know your name and you have to wait to get served.

Rule #10 - No-one owes you anything

Remember being a regular doesn’t give you any more rights than any other customer. You’re there to make friends and get some nice company, but respect the bar. Sure, you might get a free beer occasionally if there is a mispour, but you should be willing to pay full price every time. Equally, if you get drunk, take yourself home before the staff need to get involved. Nobody wants that awkward situation!

Overall, being a craft beer bar regular is an excellent way to meet new friends and have somewhere warm to go to which isn’t your house, and isn’t awkward, like that time you went to an alpha course because it had free tea and coffee. It’s also a great way to spend far too much money on really great beer. Just remember, don’t take the piss, don’t disturb the staff, and be your good beer-loving self.

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