From Yeast to Malt, This is Where Alcohol Comes From

From Yeast to Malt, This is Where Alcohol Comes From

Alcohol, specifically ethanol, is the stuff we drink. Beer, wine, whiskey, vodka, tequila, schnapps, it doesn’t matter. The alcohol itself is all the same. But where does ethanol come from? Yeast. Yeast makes alcohol. How they do it is pretty amazing.

Yeast is a microorganism, a living thing. Like all fungi, they have some plant characteristics and some animal characteristics. Yeast makes alcohol through a biological process. Sugar, dissolved in water, is ingested by the yeast organism. The sugar is metabolized, generating energy for the organism’s life processes such as reproduction. The waste product it discards consists of alcohols (primarily ethanol) and carbon dioxide.

This process is called fermentation.

Since yeast eats sugar, it is easier to make alcohol from sugar sources (fruit, honey, sugar cane juice) than from starch (grain, potato). Saccharification is the process of converting starch into sugar, thereby making it something yeast can eat. It is a prerequisite for making beer and whiskey.

Grains are seeds. To grow, new sprouts need sugar, just like yeast do. So at the beginning of the germination process, the new sprout produces diastatic enzymes that convert the starch surrounding it into sugar. The process of sprouting grain to capture those enzymes is called malting. Any grain can be malted but barley is particularly good. The enzymes produced are so effective that a relatively small amount of malt (about 10%) will convert a mash of unmalted grains.

In Scotland, the law requires that only barley malt is used in the production of whiskey. In the United States, enzymes derived from other sources may be used and sometimes are, but most whiskey-makers use malt. Some use both.

All of the alcohol we drink is still made the old-fashioned way, by feeding sugar to yeast.

Enzymes are proteins that promote chemical reactions. All chemical reactions within cells are controlled by enzymes, so enzymes are also involved in the biological process by which yeast makes alcohol. You might think that modern science could just synthesize all of these different chemicals and make alcohol in some kind of machine. Maybe it can, but all of the alcohol we drink is still made the old-fashioned way, by feeding sugar to yeast.

All of these processes take place in water so before anything else can happen the starches have to be dissolved. First, they are ground to the consistency of corn meal, then water is added. Most starches have to be cooked to fully dissolve. This is especially true of corn, the main ingredient in bourbon whiskey.

Some solids, mostly cellulose, remain undissolved. Most brewers and some distillers discard the solids. Bourbon makers typically do not and they continue through the distillation process.

Regardless, in the end, after the yeast and sugar are mixed and mashed, we have alcohol and it’s delicious!

This article originally appeared on the Chuck Cowdry Blog.

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Implementing Responsible Alcohol Service in Your Establishment

Implementing Responsible Alcohol Service in Your Establishment

Each state regulates alcohol — from its manufacturing, to selling, and the actions resulting from its use. This includes assessing the liability of any violations. If you serve alcohol in your restaurant, it is important that you and each staff member are aware of the laws, rules, and best practices in your state. Serving alcohol involves many risks. 

The failure to act responsibly may result in fines, loss of your liquor license, increased costs of insurance, or even imprisonment. Ultimately, it could result in losing your business.

Consequences of Serving an Intoxicated Guest

In almost every state, it is illegal to serve alcohol to an intoxicated person. There are numerous types of liabilities associated including criminal, administrative (liquor control commission), and broad civil liabilities via the Dram Shop Law. Therefore, it is imperative that you develop specific policies that ensure the responsible serving of alcohol in your establishment. This includes having a clear concise process for the difficult situation of denying service to an intoxicated guest.

Alcohol Awareness Training

Most liability insurances now require that all members of a restaurant, bar, or tavern staff undergo this type of training. Additionally, it is important because it helps underscore the importance of responsible service as well as the consequences of failing to do so. It also provides bartenders and servers with a factual base that enables them to make informed and often difficult, service related decisions with confidence. In addition to outside training, it is important that you have internal policies that define what to do when faced with these judgment calls.

The failure to act responsibly may result in fines, loss of your liquor license, increased costs of insurance, or even imprisonment.

Situational Awareness Training and Empowerment

Each member of your staff, no matter if they serve alcohol are important in the success of these policies, as often situations like these can be prevented. Train your staff to be observant. They should be listening and watching what is going on in your restaurant. Encouraging them to use their best judgment, empower each staff member to report any person or group they believe may present a problem. This is the best opportunity you have to prevent an incident from occurring. Once a report has been made, that is the time to have a manager or the owner drop by the table, speak to the patron, further assess the situation, and perhaps intervene.

Other Preventative Measures

  • Servers and bartenders keep track of how many drinks have been served.
  • Don’t serve drinks ordered for someone who is not yet present. As this person could already be intoxicated or perhaps even underage.
  • Have a visible authority presence in the bar area. This could be security or management.
  • Have signage posted with your policy

…it is important that they have the trust and support of management.

Tips to Refusing Service to an Intoxicated Patron

Because this is a judgment call that servers and bartenders are in the best position to make, it is important that they have the trust and support of management. Having a written policy that outlines the process is also helpful. These factors make it easier for them to exercise good judgment of how and when to refuse service. Robert Plotkin, founder of Bar Media offers the following advice on how to cut off an intoxicated guest.

  • When in doubt – don’t serve- Make this your policy. Because of the potential liability, isn’t it better to err on the side of caution?
  • Keep it simple- In the fewest words possible, explain that as a matter of policy, you will not be serving any more alcohol.
  • If possible, be discreet- There is no need to cause a scene that may embarrass the patron and potentially provoke an incident.
  • Utilize tact and diplomacy- Avoid using inflammatory language, disapproval, or criticism.
  • Remain firm- Once you have committed to this decision there is no turning back. To do so would undermine your credibility and authority.
  • Keep everyone in the loop- Notify the other staff and servers so that they do not mistakenly serve the guest additional alcohol.

For general precaution, management on-duty should be notified to take any further action needed, allowing the bartender or server to resume their regular roles. Management should determine whether to offer and arrange alternate transportation for the patron.

Keeping the patrons safe from harm and your establishment safe from liability is a job that falls to every employee. Knowing when and how to cut off an intoxicated guest is a judgment call often left to the bartender and servers. It is sometimes awkward and difficult, however, with proper training, guidelines, and internal support it can be accomplished with dignity and tact. 

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How to Run a Successful Wine Program

How to Run a Successful Wine Program

There’s nothing quite like a glass–or a bottle–of wine with dinner when you’re out to eat. Unfortunately, all too many restaurants are failing to take advantage of this great source of income. You have a wine list, but you’re not using it to its full potential! Below we offer some suggestions on refining your wine program in attempt to offer your guests as dynamic of an experience possible!

Choose Your Wines Carefully

Ideally, you want to have a rotating selection of wines that reflect the trends your customers will enjoy most. Some customers are eager to check out the new wine that you’ve just added to the menu, others have old favorites and won’t often branch out.

Choose your wines with care, being sure to offer them at a variety of price points to attract as many customers as possible. Always keep in mind the cuisine you offer and ensure that your wine selection can be paired with any dish you serve.

The excuse of, “well we just don’t sell that much wine” is essentially inexcusable.

A great resource for information is your liquor sales representative/consultant. Liquor distribution companies train their staff very well and provide them with a multitude of educational sessions throughout the year.

Don’t get us wrong, they are always trying to make the sale and get you to purchase higher priced bottles or ones they can’t seem to unload out of the warehouse. But they are also very, very knowledgeable of their product and can walk you through the selection process.

Watch Your Prices

Base your glass prices on market value/competitive pricing as this will encourage customers to consider your particular wine options. By pricing your glasses of wine reasonably, you encourage more guests to (at the very least) try a glass. A well-chosen glass can easily lead to a bottle, as well as a satisfied guest with the intent to return!

A well-chosen glass can easily lead to a bottle.

As for bottle pricing, an effective strategy is to offer a reasonable price on bottles of your house red or white; select a price point that makes it cheaper than it would be by the glass. Your house wines are great options to include on happy hour menus as well and are an easy choice for many of your guests who are not picky about their wine.

As for the higher end bottles, charge market price because these should not be discounted and won’t ever have to be as long as they are attractive options.

Educate Your Staff

It’s crucial for your waitstaff to be knowledgeable about your wine selection and be able to properly talk about wine with guests. A waiter who is uncomfortable speaking about wine and/or guiding guests through the selections will be a poor salesperson, and that’s not necessarily their fault!

It’s crucial for your waitstaff to be knowledgeable about your wine selection.

Ideally, you want as much of your staff possible to have tried the wines that you’re offering. Not only that, they should have an idea of the characteristics of the wine, what wine pairs well with the signature dishes on your menu, and how to choose a wine that will fit your customer’s preferences.

Discussing the wines you carry during any type of pre-shift meeting is an ideal time to provide information for your staff. Maybe even consider a bi-annual all-staff meeting to go over your entire beverage campaign and include a wine education portion in those meetings.

Improve the Experience

All waitstaff should be presenting and offering wine service in a professional and proper manner. There are traditionalists out there that will refuse a bottle or ask for a replacement if it is not presented properly.

Wine service takes practice and a first timer is always going to be nervous. It’s a pretty simple process, made easier by following these steps:

  • Always carry a wine key and not a cheap one either, they don’t last and often don’t work all that well.
  • Carry the bottle with the label out with the palm of your hand placed on the bottom of the bottle
  • Ensure that all wine glasses are polished and feel free to carry the glasses on a tray or in your other hand
  • Bring a linen folded and draped neatly across your arm to help with small spills
  • Present the bottle to the guest who ordered it prior to uncorking
  • Always be talking to the guest as you are uncorking the bottle (this avoids awkwardness and allows time to talk menu options)
  • Pour a small sample and present to the guest who ordered the bottle
  • Once an approval is given, pour for each guest (ladies first)

Selection, price, variety, pairings, presentation and education are essential to a restaurant’s wine program.

Selection, price, variety, pairings, presentation and education are essential to a restaurant’s wine program. The excuse of, “well we just don’t sell that much wine” is essentially inexcusable. If you do not have an attractive wine presence on your menu or a staff that is uneducated about wine you are letting money walk out the door as a business owner. Make it a priority and be passionate about an age old beverage selection that will not only attract a certain audience but will also make many of your guests feel that they were provided with an experience and sometimes an education. 

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Best Tips to Advertise Your Restaurant’s Happy Hour

Best Tips to Advertise Your Restaurant’s Happy Hour

At the end of the workday, many people have just one thing on their mind: happy hour! They’re hungry and thirsty and as a restaurant or bar of any type, this is a real asset. The thing you need to know though is how to advertise your happy hour so you can make the very most of it. With this in mind, here are the pro-tips.

Understand Happy Hour’s Purpose

Unfortunately, many bar owners think of happy hour as a stand alone part of their day when it’s really not. Happy hour is a transitional time you should use to drive traffic to your bar or restaurant that evening.

Don’t think of a busy happy hour as a success. While it may help you break even, it’s not a success unless you have a busy lucrative dinner or evening. As such, happy hour is actually a traffic and sales driver. You want this traffic to stay for a full-price dinner, which means you need really compelling advertising for that.

Ramp Up In-House Marketing

You want to create a special place or, at the very least, have posters and signs around your establishment advertising happy hour. Make sure these show a list of the deals you’re offering. This way, even if your customers missed happy hour, they know to come in for it tomorrow.

It’s important you train your team on running a successful happy hour.

It’s also important you train your team on running a successful happy hour so they can turn it into a profitable experience. By investing in walking your guests through a happy hour to an enjoyable dinner or late night experience, you’ll bring in more business. Make sure your staff is ready to offer recommendations, talk up full-priced signature items, and, of course, answer questions about the specials.

Use Social Media to Your Advantage

Most bars and restaurants understand how important social media marketing is when it comes to bringing in customers. However, what many don’t understand is how helpful it is for advertising purposes, especially when it comes to happy hours.

Why? Because lots of people get antsy towards the end of the workday and start playing around with their social media feeds. By tweeting about your daily specials around 3-5pm, you’re reaching potential customers at exactly the right time – when they’re deciding where to go for that after-work drink!

Take your social media post to the next level by including an enticing image of either a food or drink special you’re offering. The visual aspect goes a long way in this respect.

Create More Deals

Since most people don’t go to happy hour by themselves, but instead go with a group of friends or coworkers, offer group deals on appetizers or pitchers. These turn your happy hour into the place they want to go.

Also, don’t forget about the power of bounce back coupons.

Also, don’t forget about the power of bounce back coupons. Giving your customers additional coupons for the next happy hour gives them extra incentive to return!

A Little Something Extra

Although cheap drinks and food are stars in their own right, they’re not exactly unique. To make your happy hour stand out in the crowd, try adding a little something extra. Think karaoke, live bands, trivia or games of some sort.

Whether it’s once a week or once a month, this will not only draw a wider crowd but also extend the amount of time, and money, customers are spending at your restaurant. Plus, it’s just another perk that you can advertise!

Offer a Special Menu

Most of the time, happy hour discounts are on drinks and appetizers that are already on the menu. However, if you spend time creating a menu just for happy hour, customers are more likely to stop by and try these offerings.

If you spend time creating a menu just for happy hour, customers are more likely to stop by and try those drinks or food.

There’s a lot to consider when it comes to happy hour, but the gist is that it should be a unique and relaxing experience for your customers that’s affordable, so they can enjoy it on the reg. Then, it’s all about spreading the word!

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How to Host an Unforgettable Dinner Event, According to a Sommelier

How to Host an Unforgettable Dinner Event, According to a Sommelier

Planning a dinner for clients and employees is never an easy task. These personal events can and should create lasting memories for all guests. That’s a lot of pressure! So take the time to create an evening no one will forget. A sophisticated wine paired meal with an elegant atmosphere, adventurous food, and good fun to be had by all.

Ask a Professional for Planning Help

Wine is a little world for a huge topic! Sommelier’s train for years and there is always more to learn. No one expects you to know it all right away. So, ask for help when planning a wine-centric event. Caterers, wine merchants, websites, wine forums online, the sommelier organization are all great resources for guidance in the planning stages.

Treat All Guests Like VIPs

Modern entertaining is certainly more relaxed than it used to be, but there are a few hosting rules that never go out of style. The most important entertaining ‘rule’ is that it’s the host’s job to make every guest feel special and welcome.

Be available when a guest arrives to welcome them and make sure they are comfortable right from the get go. If your event has a theme or is organized in a specific way, make sure your guests are aware and excited so that they are never lost or unsure as the evening progresses.

Some people are uncomfortable mixing socially with colleagues and clients, so make sure everyone is comfortable throughout the evening.

Some people are uncomfortable mixing socially and it’s up to the host to make sure everyone is comfortable throughout the evening. Introduce nervous guests to those you know will be welcoming, and encourage conversation about the wine and food to get your guests to relax.

Start With A Bang

Set the tone for your event by wowing your guests right out of the gate. Have a special cocktail, champagne, or apéritif ready for your guests to enjoy. Pair it with small but elegant bite-sized snacks to whet appetites and set the tone for the meal to come.

Think luxury and comfort for these initial snacks – creamy truffle mac and cheese bites, velvety smoked salmon and whipped mascarpone on a pumpernickel crouton, caviar deviled eggs. Yummy!

Take Care of the Wine

When wine is the centerpiece of your evening it’s vital that it is presented at it’s best. For both red and white wines this means paying attention to temperature. Serving white wine at too low a temperature deadens its subtle aromatics. Pull your white wines out of the refrigerator about 20 minutes before they will be served.

Offering options in this way will inspire your guests to try new things and talk about the wine with fellow guests.

Inversely, refrigerate red wine for about 20 minutes prior to serving. This removes the harsh edge or finish found in improperly tempered red wine. The proper temperature for whites is about 50 degrees Fahrenheit and about 65 degrees Fahrenheit for reds.

Encourage Your Guests to Have Fun

The best way to do this is to both pair wine and food and serve them in pairs. For example, serve different vintages of the same wine with differently aged cheeses. Or a New Zealand wine and a French wine of the same grape at the same time. Or even pair both a red and a white with one dish to highlight different aspects of the same ingredients.

Pair both a red and a white with one dish to highlight different aspects of the same ingredients.

Offering options in this way will inspire your guests to try new things and talk about the wine with fellow guests. Depending on your food progression you may want to offer multiple wines with each course, each one displaying intriguing differences between vintage, grape, price, location, brand, and more.

End the Evening With Thanks

Hosting a business wine dinner is so much more than event planning. It is a strategic marketing move and brand awareness tactic that presents your brand in a sophisticated and open way. Hopefully, events like these will be the beginning of strong client relationships and strengthen relationships within your company.

So end your evening with thanks. Publicly thank those who helped you, tip any waitstaff or caterers, thank clients for attending. And then, end the evening with fruit, nuts, chocolate and the last of all the wine. Sometimes these final relaxed moments are when the deals are made!

But, most importantly, have fun playing host!

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