A Guide To When It Is—And When It Is Not—Permissible To Return A Beer To The Sender

RealClear Staff


     Many times, when we buy something, we get it and are often disappointed in what comes—and we’re stuck with it. It’s like a too-damn-bad banner wrapped around our face. But what about those time when it doesn’t have to go down that way—like expecting a good beer?

Recently, this Maine woman, Carla Jean Lauter, shared an interesting experience about a craft-beer bar—yeah, she walked into a bar... (No, it’s not one of those stupid jokes.) Several times, she spotted the bartender letting the draft beer touching the tap faucet as he prepared a pint. And though it was kindly called to his attention, he dismissed the dire deed by explaining the tap lines had been given a good cleaning. (Squeaky-clean lines do not counteract against airborne bacteria that builds onto a tap!)

[Source: Glacier-Design.com]

Let’s examine this erroneous act in order to find the proper form of redress she’s justified in seeking. First and foremost, it’s not vindictive to verbally address ignorance when ordering alcohol—but be tactful. Second, nobody wants faucet fungus in their foam. But there are three, different environments for that type of engagement:

A)    Immediately exit the bar if it’s a swanky set up—you should be expectantly offended.
B)    Replace your next order with packaged beer or hard liquor if it’s a usual haunt.
C)    Be cool and have the barkeep continue with the PBR pints if it’s a seedy situation.

But would anybody else have their cause cosigned when not accepting the ale and asking for a second attempt or totally absolving the exchange? Uh, yeah. You probably wouldn’t pucker to the taste of faucet-fungus beer, but a refund’s the best recourse when seeing the scum soak in your suds. There are a number of anomalies that could ensue between your words to the well wizard’s ears and back to your tongue. With that in mind, here’s a packaged guide to when it is—and when it is not—permissible to bounce a beer back to the sender.

[Photo: Lynn Murrell]


Let’s say you ask for a “Del’s (Narragansett’s Del’s Lemonade Shandy), but the barkeep brings out a “Dale’s (Oskar Blues Dales Pale Ale).” The two have an array of non-dialectal differences, so it’s permissible to point out the problem—even though it’s mild mix up. But don’t be bossy and belligerent about it. (In a sincere situation, the server would indubitably double check any doubt in their mind, but you can be friendly about foam replacement.)

While the days of good service have diminished—a lot of it points directly to under-qualified labor (everyone’s trying to be tight in today’s market)—you’ve a right to the ale you’re expecting.


You could let this go, unless they sling a room-temperature bottle at you—it’s a reality in terms of poor, stock rotation (but rare). A barkeep can tell the second they grab a bottle—and the beer never pours right. An honest ale house will suspend sales until the cooler problem’s corrected. Bar beer’s usually colder than the required, serving temperature, as most patrons prefer it—that, and the lager league’s still stuck in past when an “Ice Cold Bud” was the greatest thing going.

If that’s a sucky scenario for you, either order it early and allow the ale to temper to your liking, or suds up on the sofa at home. It’s impolite to be unaccepting of an IPA that’s frostier than you prefer.

[Photo: Tommy Kha/Trending NY]


Honestly, this one’s nothing but bad form. But if your beer has horrendous head, you’ve a right to request a proper pint once the bubbles bail and it’s apparent you paid for a 16 ouncer but were poured 12... No need for a full replacement rather a quick trip...to top it off.


It’s “too bad, so sad...” on this one. Unless it’s clear your bottle’s over a year old, ordering hoppy beer’s ultimately wandering into the unknown. Yes, your brew should be bold and bucksome—but the growing addiction for hop-forward foam adds unnecessary pressure on pubs. (It’s our own fault.) If infinitely many IPAs are on a menu, know that some have been sitting for a good while. Though dusty beer can be a dud, remember pale ale’s not made of milk. Hops never go bad rather less fresh—you can deal...


If you get freaked over not getting the theatrical thrill of watching your stout go through the steps to become hands-down the world’s prettiest pint, relax... It still tastes terrific and hits the same spot.


When next at the bar and feeling frisky about a new foam, but it ends up as an emotional downer, don’t project your pain and disappointment onto the people who passed it to you. Trying out a new tap or bottled brew’s always a roll of the dice.


If it’s cracked, send it back! If you don’t notice the ding until you’re almost done, you might be SOL—but a reputable bar should supply you a full-sized replacement as a war-wound prize. Beer snobs stick their noses up at shaker glasses for good and bad reasons; but the best course of action is a special request for stemware, which are never used in possible-sliver shows. These glasses are a pain in the barkeep’s ass, but you know they stay on the shelf in terms of entertainment via alcohol elixirs.

[Scene from Cocktail | Touchstone Pictures All Rights Reserved]


God forbid you find a hair, bug or whatever in your beer. It’s basically constitutional to complain when finding anything but...in your beer—a refund and/or gratis glass...isn’t entirely out of the question either.

By now, you should be well educated on beer etiquette in terms of tolerance levels for abnormal instances. At the expense of being a bit of a crank, you could haggle for replacement parts in any of the above encounters. But always preface with patience and reason. If you get the beer you bargained for, you’re beautiful. Ultimately, try to think twice before turning into the terror of the tavern.



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