Dear Thirsty Moose, Enough is Enough
For those who have read my blog for the 2+ years I have been writing it, you know I am not one to put a bad review in writing. If you want my opinion on something, you can ask me in person and I will be honest about it. That being said, I am compelled to break this mold after tossing and turning the subject around in my head for a long time.
The Thirsty Moose came into town as the biggest bar with the biggest selection of taps in town, at a considerable 116. Beer fans, residents and tourists alike were excited about its opening. Within the first day, a lot of the beer was gone (rightfully so), but that trend did not seem to die in the 4 months it has been open. Like any new restaurant opening in town, you need to provide a mental grace period to allow the kinks and growing pains to be worked out. Four months later, the kinks still remain. I will break down my review in a couple sections, and hopefully get my point across as to why I think the Thirsty Moose is doing the wrong thing in town.
In the interest of full disclosure, I contacted the Thirsty Moose when I heard they were opening to offer my guidance and assistance with their beer lineup. After three attempts I could tell the owner wanted to do it on his own, and I left it alone. A simple “no thanks” would have been fine. So this was the first sign of a “business” rather than a “beer bar”.
This is one aspect of this restaurant I can’t look past. I was not able to attend opening day in July, but I heard from more than a handful of people who said the service was lacking. Anyone will tell you that unfriendly and non-attentive service from day one will ruin a restaurant’s reputation. My first time there, I walked to the bar and sat for 10 minutes without getting eye contact with a bartender. Even a couple days ago where I got the “I really don’t know what we have on tap because it changes so often”. If your staff does not care about the customer, why would I care about your bar?
As I sit as a fly on the wall at the bar or in a booth, I see the same service being passed on to other new customers. From an excited newcomer wanting to know a little more about beer getting a big beer menu thrown at them, to someone sitting at a bar for so long they gave up and left. Why is this alright, Portsmouth? From a beer aspect, I went to the bar the day after Stone released a fantastic lineup of beer at the Thirsty Moose, some of which were new to the state. When I asked the bartender what they had from Stone, they had no clue. “You had a huge release party last night”, I said, “How do you not know?” I personally know the Stone representative, so to see his company’s beer not being sold or pushed properly is a shame. At the very least, train your staff to know what’s on tap. They should know the beer menu as well as they know the food menu, front and back. All the staff seem very friendly with each other, focusing on texting and chatting as a priority over serving the customer. There was one time I was very surprised how nice the waitress was to me and my fiancé. Jade (I believe that was your name) if you are reading this, you set the bar in that place and were extremely friendly. In summary, no one is training servers in the art of customer service, resulting in a free-for-all. Sounds like a fun place to work, but definitely not a fun place to be served.
Three Strike Policy
I say this to everyone that tells me they are going to Thirsty Moose for the first time: “Have three beers in mind when you order, because chances are they’ll only have one of them available”. With so many taps, you need to have someone managing the tap list in a different way, especially if you keep running out of beer. Use something like Taplister.com as a way to quickly manage what you have on, as opposed to keeping an out of date paper list. Even if you see the tap on the line, 2 times out of 3 it will be kicked. I was even told a beer was out one time, and 2 minutes later I asked for it again from a different bartender…and I got it. By now, I can see you are dizzy from all the eye rolling you’re doing while reading about my experience. It’s all too real.
The list goes on. Being served the wrong beer multiple times and even a couple receipts being put INTO MY BEER (no I didn’t drink it), improper glassware, but notice how I haven’t talked much about the beer itself? It’s tough to critique a staff on their knowledge of beer when I get the cold shoulder from the start. If you want a beer recommendation, you can try to ask them, but you can get better answers on your smart phones. I don’t expect servers to be beer enthusiasts, but a 116 tap bar should have some high level knowledge of beer. If all else fails shoot me a message (@seacoastbevlab) and I will get back to you.
In conclusion, I have given The Thirsty Moose in Portsmouth a fair shake, but you would be doing yourself a disservice by putting up with them for too long. Go there a couple times and come to your own conclusion. At of this writing, I would still like to help the owner to train the staff, help with their beer list management (use Taplister.com) or offer help in any way I can.