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Behind The Bar: How We Bring Draft Back

Craft beer on draft is struggling to make its comeback, but by focusing on certain details—and by helping to educate bars and restaurants on service and presentation—we can restore it to pride of place.

Greg Engert Mar 2, 2023 - 9 min read

Behind The Bar: How We Bring Draft Back Primary Image

Photo: Matt Graves

It was easy to miss, but the fall and winter of 2022 delivered some good news for our industry. Autumn beer festivals brought customers out in droves, and they kept coming into our bars, taprooms, and restaurants straight through what was certainly a more celebratory holiday season than we experienced the year before. Without major COVID spikes to derail the second half of our year, business seemed like it was getting just about back to normal.

But was it?

Even as on-premise sales came roaring back, with holiday travel and office parties signaling a long-anticipated rebound, something was clearly different on the ground. The sales of draft beer, whether experienced through over-the-bar business or keg distribution, were clearly slipping. Now a familiar cast of characters, the litany of craft beer–crushing competitors had struck again—only this time hard seltzers, flavored malt beverages (FMBs) more broadly, spiked kombuchas, nonalcoholic (NA) offerings, cocktails, ready-to-drink cocktails (RTDs), and the like were specifically choking off the flow of craft beer at the tap.

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Greg Engert is beer director of the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, whose bars and restaurants include ChurchKey, Rustico, and the Bluejacket brewery, among others.