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No free sampling at Fredricksburg Brewing Company

My friend stopped at the Fredricksburg Brewing Company last week for lunch. The bartender asked him if he wanted a beer and my friend asked for a taste of the Pale Ale to make sure he liked it before ordering a full pint. The bartender poured him a 4oz glass and told him it would cost $1.50.
My friend asked if the bartender was joking and he replied, "No, we charge $1.50 for a taste".

Seems way out of line to me - I heard the beer wasn't any good anyway...

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  1. I think 4 oz. is WAY more than a taste. But I think it should have been explained to him ahead of time.

    1 Reply
    1. re: c oliver

      I have one of those little 2oz. measuring "cups" so I measured out 1, 2 and 4oz. One was clearly, again IMO only, a "taste," two was what I'd call a generous pour for a "taste," and four was a partial glass of beer. I think a bar would be nuts to give someone 4oz. as a taste. To me, having a taste of one means I might want to taste a second one. Still doesn't excuse not telling the customer ahead of time.

    2. Samplers at brew pubs of 4-6 varieties of your choice in about 4-ounce glasses are a lot of fun, and the $6/ pint your friend was charged seems reasonable.
      Was your friend looking for money for nothing, and the chicks are free? There is no free sampling at the Federal Reserve Bank in Dallas, either.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Veggo

        true, but if that tender had pulled that shenanigan on me, I would have been calculating 15% of $1.50 instantly!;-)

      2. 4 ounce Samplers of all 8 microbrews at a local place in San Diego is ~$8.50.

        The only place I've seen free samplers is Gordon Biersch. Those are an ounce or less and meant to get you to sample a taste then order a pint. GB is also a chain.

        1. If my husband is unsure about a beer he hasn't tried before, he'll ask for a taste or the waiter/waitress will offer. He has never been charged and he's done this up and down the East Coast and West Coast. The general understanding is that you'll order a full pint if you like it, if not you'll get something else.

          Restaurants should charge for the flights because you are getting 4-6 differen't tastes at 4oz each which add up to at least a full pint. But to charge for tasting one beer seems like a "nickel and dime" tactic.

          Or, maybe they charge because they know their beer isn't good/customers weren't ordering a full pint after getting a taste so they started charging for the tasters to generate some revenue? :)

          21 Replies
          1. re: SeoulQueen

            I think there's a HUGE difference between a "taste" and 4 oz.

            1. re: c oliver

              Not sure what your point was, but based on experience, my husband has received "tastes" that range from a generous sip to a full 4 oz. The full 4 oz happen enough that we don't see it as extraordinary when it occurs. Maybe it has to do with the fact that my husband is very knowledgeable about beer and will often have chats with the waitstaff about their beer list before he orders.

              The OP's friend asked for a taste - the bartender could have given him 1-2 oz and not charged. At the least, the bartender should have told him the policy BEFORE pouring that 4oz.

              1. re: SeoulQueen

                My point was that I and it appears others think 4 oz. is more than just a taste. I'm not sure what you don't understand about that but let me know if I can explain further. And I and others have also stated that the bartender should have communicated their policy. What happens with one person and what the policy is and how it should be communicated are, IMO, totally unrelated.

                1. re: c oliver

                  So 4 oz is not a taste. The person asked for a taste. Why did he receive 4 oz then? I think that is their point...he didn't ask for 4 oz. He asked for a taste. You agree that 4 oz is more than a taste. I actually am not fond of free sampling myself, but if you do have someone asking for a sample, and your policy is no free samples, then i think you should tell your customer that we don't do samples, but we can give you a 4 oz glass for 1.50.

                  1. re: c oliver

                    how much would four ounces set back anyone? i'd happily pay for four ounces knowing there is substantial cost of brewing and serving good beer.

                    to grumble about being denied a freebie reveals quite a bit.

                    1. re: epabella

                      >>> to grumble about being denied a freebie reveals quite a bit

                      No. That is not the point at all

                      1. The OP asked for a taste, not 4oz
                      2. If there is a charge, the bartender should have said so

                      Therre are times when I personally don't want to be stuck with a glass of something I hate ... even 4oz.

                      The best would have been for the bartender to say that they don't offer tastes, but they have small samples for a reduced price.

                      1. re: rworange

                        if i wanted to taste a bigmac, i guess old mcdonald will quarter one? or maybe sample a pizza so i get a free slice at pizzahut? every little counts given the high cost of living today.

                        1. re: epabella

                          Actually both Mcdonald's and pizzahut near my last home in the US did give free samples on certain days. I always thought that was stupid because who hasn't tried a quarter pounder?

                          Sometimes, as the old saying goes, people are penny-wise and pound-foolish.

                          I wonder if the poster's friend actually bought another beer after drinking the 4 oz glass. Personally, I would have walked out and left the 4oz glass so they would have lost the beer and the money.

                          I know a few places that have built their businesses on freebies. This one bakery would give out whole scones, muffins and cookies. They just opened their second location.

                          Some Walmarts in Latin America even give out free booze tastes.

                          I didn't think the local Walmart did that in Guatemala. So far they don't but the other day I had an excellent sample of rum at Walmart ... about the size of a dixie cup ... for 1 quetzale or about 12 cents. If they had a smaller bottle I would have bought it. I may pick some up before I return to the US.

                          And ... even at Walmart they were upfront that a taste was 1 quetzale ... which is more than the beer joint did ... and this was on pricy bottle of booze ... a lot more than a beer.

                          1. re: rworange

                            There's a huge difference between a free sample offered by a business and a free sample demanded by a customer. It's rather telling that people keep trying to claim that they are equivalent.

                            1. re: lavaca

                              by the same logic, some people will probably order a tasting menu and demand it be free as well. could this be insight to personality?

                              1. re: epabella

                                A tasting menu would involve being handed a menu with the price on it. Trying strawman arguments don't work here.

                              2. re: lavaca

                                No. No one said they are equivalent. Please link or quote any part of this thread which says the customer DEMANDED anything.

                                The customer asked for a taste. Without being told there was a fee he was NOT given a taste but a 4oz serving.

                                I don't see anything telling about that or a reason for character judgements on anyone's part.

                                1. re: rworange

                                  You listed a list of examples of companies willingly giving things away for free to build business in the context of a thread about a customer expecting to receive something for free. I'm sorry if this wasn't your intention, but it looked to me like you were conflating the two concepts.

                                  1. re: lavaca

                                    I was responding to "if i wanted to taste a bigmac, i guess old mcdonald will quarter one? or maybe sample a pizza so i get a free slice at pizzahut? every little counts given the high cost of living today."

                                    Especially the latter part of that sentence. Smart businesses know that sampling ... free or low cost ... increases revenue ... unless you truly have a lousy product.

                                    I continue to think the backlash such as yours is regional. If almost every business gives tastes if asked and sampling is often encouraged, then a business with a different policy seems out of step with everyone else.

                                    I just moved to Guatemala and don't have the vibe yet, so I don't ask for samples. There are a lot of ice cream joints that I'd like to get a taste first, but so far no one offered, I haven't seen anyone else do it, and I'm not going to ask or feel deprived if I don't get a sample.

                                    On the other hand, certain places as I mentioned, do sampling. It is just their thing. I am certainly not going to walk into Walmart when I return to the US and start asking for booze samples. It just isn't done there.

                                    IMO, it just depends on local conventions.

                                    It has nothing to do with character or greed or whatever "It's rather telling" means

                                    1. re: rworange

                                      I live in a place where businesses regularly give out free samples of their products (such as my example in another post below), and I see nothing wrong with such a practice. My opposition is to the spread of the ice cream shop mentality, that every customer is entitled to request and receive a free sample before committing to a purchase. It's cute when you're eight, because nobody is going to say no to a little kid, but it's not cute when you're an adult complaining about the principle of having to pay $1.50 for something.

                                      1. re: lavaca

                                        I don't know. The issue for me was not telling the customer up front about the cost. The other being 4oz is not a taste. Seriously, if it is lousy beer, I don't want to be stuck with more than a taste.

                                        It would have been fine if the bartenders said they were sorry they don't offer tastes, but they do have 4 oz samples for a $1.50. Then it is up to me if I want to spring for the money and portion size or not.

                                        I just don't see the entitlement issue. Some people just feel that way, I guess.

                                        Also I read your other replies and it seems you are fine with just knowing the type of beer and losing out on the money if you don't like it. That seems to be the same for some people on the last thread I read about sampling ... ice cream. I mean, it's strawberry, for heavens sake, just buy the damn cone.

                                        But even the simplest thing can taste wildly different. It's just sliced white bread, for example ... but that can be anything from cheapo no brand white to master baker wonderfullness ... and many things in between. To some people variations of taste matter. Sometimes even the cost of a $4 beer can matter to a budget. Sometimes the calories matter. Some people don't like the principle of throwing out food (or beer) when they don't have to There's lots of reasons and not merely chalking it up to someone being childish.

                                      2. re: rworange

                                        "It has nothing to do with character or greed or whatever "It's rather telling" means"

                                        it's not like the bar enticed it's customers, the sample was REQUESTED by the customer - $1.50 is nothing to winge about.

                                        "If there is a charge, the bartender should have said so"

                                        there was no ill intent to make an instant sale just because the barkeep wasn't as UPFRONT as some would expect. read the OP and you'll see the bartender wasn't remiss pointing out:

                                        *My friend asked if the bartender was joking and he replied, "No, we charge $1.50 for a taste"*

                                        the customer could've turned down the four ounces.

                                        1. re: epabella

                                          Ah you are right. Your peristant replies have finally made me see the light.

                              3. re: epabella

                                This is a poor analogy, and I suspect you know that.

                                The bartender was out of line for pouring the 4oz without clarifying the charge with the customer. As someone upstream noted, a simple, "We don't offer tastes, but I can give you a 4oz sample for 1.50" would have sufficed.

                    2. Just to clarify - he was simply asking for a taste to determine if he wanted to order a pint. The brewpub decided a taste = 4oz. I believe 2oz would have done the job ;-)

                      Personally, I've never been charged for a "taste" in any of the pubs I've ever visited.

                      1. The bartender does not know is job.

                        He should have offered a "small" pour of 1oz (or enough to taste) like a wine server will let you taste a wine to see if you like it (even at wine bars when you order by the glass)

                        Anyway, probably a miscommunication somewhere in the pipeline.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Maximilien

                          Techinically, in some states, it is illegal to give away liquor/beer if you have a liquor license. In that case the bartender was just protecting the owners liquor license.

                          1. re: bookhound

                            Even if this was the case the bartender still could have/should have notified the customer beforehand. "Here in Timbuktu it is not legal to offer free tastes. We offer a generous 4oz sampler for a small charge. Would this be OK?"

                            1. re: HDinCentralME

                              The OP's friend could also have said, "I only wanted a taste I won't pay $1.50 for that. Thanks anyway."

                              1. re: bookhound

                                If given the choice upfront, certainly yes. That was my point. The way I read the OP, the bill arrived after the beer was consumed. In re-reading OP I see that the beer was poured but not consumed. Yes the option is to refuse.

                        2. Here's something to think about: if this bar offers something called a "taste" that is 4oz, (vs. a "half pint" or a "pint", whatever) and the customer asked for a "taste", wouldn't the bartender assume he was ordering the 4oz pour? It would be like if a customer asked for, say, a boatload of beer, and they happened to have a particular pour called a "boatload of beer". Just saying.

                          1. I wouldn't expect a sample to be free unless it were voluntarily offered to me by the bartender, especially given that many brewpubs make a point of allowing you to buy beer in "tasting" sizes. It sounds like this brewery follows that model.

                            That said (and I know that this is a bit of a derail), why the heck would someone need a sample of pale ale before deciding to buy a pint? Even if it's terrible, you'd only be out a few dollars, and it's not like the style is obscure or divisive.

                            13 Replies
                              1. re: lavaca

                                is there a "like" button? oh, wait...

                                1. re: lavaca

                                  Pale ales can differ in taste - there are tons of microbrews out there with different sources of hops, fermentation periods, yeast strain used etc. so even if a microbrew makes a pale ale, it will taste subtly different from one made by someone else. Sort of why wine prices range so much even when it's the same varietal from the same region.

                                  And where I live, it's $6+ a pint ...that's not "a few dollars" in my book.

                                  1. re: SeoulQueen

                                    How often do you drink a beer and think "this doesn't taste at all like the style would lead me to expect"? Of course every beer is different, but it's not like breweries are just picking style names out of a hat.

                                    (Incidentally, I recently inquired about a beer at a bar in Seattle and was immediately given a sample even though it was just a regular ol' pale ale. Sometimes I think bartenders have themselves to blame for this assumption that people are entitled to free samples.)

                                    1. re: lavaca

                                      While some microbrews stick to conventional names, ie IPA, stout etc, there are plenty that use creative monikers that don't sound very appetizing or give little indication (i hope!) of the beer's taste. Circus boy? Sticky McDoogle? Hairy Eyeball??? Waiter - I'll have a glass of water please! :)

                                      In any case, going back to the original post - the OP's friend asked for a taste and the bartender shoulda/coulda/oughta have explained beforehand that they don't provide free tastes, rather than pouring the beer and then telling the friend it would cost $1.50. I think it put the OP's friend in the uncomfortable position of suddenly feeling obliged to pay for something he didn't realize he was buying. It doesn't matter if it was $1.50 or $150, to me it's not right.

                                      1. re: lavaca

                                        fascinating how a dollar and a half will get someone moaning and groaning - to think it was somebody else.

                                        1. re: epabella

                                          It's the principle of being upfront with customers - my issue is the same as what rworange said about not being upfront about the cost.

                                          This reminds me of what happened to some American friends when they were travelling in Europe - they sat down at a restaurant in Vienna, the waiter immediately plonked down a basket containing slices of baguette and while waiting for their food, my friends ate the bread. When the bill arrived , there was a 2 euro per person charge for the bread! So, 4 friends = 8 euros which at the time was roughly $12. $12?! Seriously?? For 1/4 of a baguette? They swear there was nothing written on the menu, no signs anywhere and none of the wait staff said anything to them about the bread not being free. Needless to say, my friends were NOT happy and I wouldn't be either if if that had happened to me. Again, it's the principle of being upfront with your customers.

                                          1. re: SeoulQueen

                                            Well, SQ, it sounds like you and your friends don't understand what is typical in other countries. We spend time in Rio and the "couvert" is standard in "nicer" restaurants. So when they put it down,we say no (actually we say "nao" - Portuguese.)

                                            1. re: c oliver

                                              I've lived in Asia, America and Europe and have visited Austria a few times and have not experienced this. Friends said it didn't happen any other time on their trip so I don't see where your "don't understand what is typical in other countries" comment is coming from. This is an atypical experience if you ask me. Besides, how are tourists suppose to "understand" when they aren't locals, it isn't mentioned in the guidebooks and no one at the restaurant says anything?

                                              But thanks for letting me know they do that down in Rio as well - I'll know what to expect when I visit for the 2014 World Cup.

                                              1. re: SeoulQueen

                                                We own an apartment there but our Portuguese is very poor. But you figure these things out pretty quickly.

                                    2. re: lavaca

                                      I drink a lot of Pale Ales and some are way better than others. A bad brewery makes a bad Pale Ale. I have never been charged for a taste of a beer before deciding on one. I cant think of one bar in all of Portland or Seattle that does such a thing...

                                      1. re: porky pine

                                        I agree that a bad standard bodes ill for the brewery's prowess, but what IS the etiquette for that sort of situation? "I think I'll just have water?" I've only ever had the misfortune at beer festivals, where, worst case, I just slink away and pour my flavorless ESB down the drain.

                                        1. re: lavaca

                                          We have a neighborhood brew pub and will typically ask for a taste of anything newly tapped. That taste is usually about an ounce, not the same amount they offer for their flights. If I don't like what I taste, I'll order something else. If I didn't like the other beers they have (which happened once), I'll order something else. A mixed drink, a glass of wine, a bottle of beer.

                                    3. I am willing to bet this was the bartender's first week. I managed a large brewpub years ago and only rookies would charge for tasters. The veterans pour a 1-2oz taste in a 4oz glass without batting an eyelash. Customers love it, purchase more beer, and tip better. There is probably 1oz overflow on every beer poured anyway so money-wise it really does not matter.

                                      1. snatching defeat from the jaws of victory

                                        you have a customer and first chance to impress you piss off instead of engage.

                                        hopefully jfood's favorite ice cream places do not take up this model.

                                        1. Your experience reflects the trend in many industries to charge separately for things that used to be considered a cost of doing business. We now have to pay extra when we fly to check bags and reserve specific seats on the plane. A few years ago that would have been unthinkable. And it hasn't been that long since we could drive from winery to winery and tastings were free everywhere. Vintners saw tastings as a way to encourage people to try unfamiliar wines and, they hoped, purchase one or more bottles. Presumably, the cost of the tastings was factored into the price of the wines. Now, however, almost no winery offers free tastings. The model has changed, and business are are nickeling and diming customers for every little thing, all the while making empty proclamations about how their customer service is second to none. (In the UK, are people "shillinged and penced"?)

                                          There was no reason the bartender couldn't have poured your friend a one-ounce sample in a small glass or at least have explained that the four-ounce glass would cost $1.50. If it were me, I would have pushed the glass back in his direction and said "No, thanks."

                                          5 Replies
                                          1. re: cheesemaestro

                                            Yes, everyone knows these small independent breweries and wineries are just swimming in money and this is just "nickle and diming" as opposed to trying to keep their heads above water.

                                            1. re: bookhound

                                              Were they swimming in money ten years ago when no one thought to charge for samples? My point is that there has been a fundamental and large-scale change in the way businesses see customers and the way they seek to induce customers to buy. Whereas, in the past, businesses felt that a good way to gain customers was to offer a small sample of an unfamiliar product for free (even knowing that the majority of people would take the sample and buy nothing), today too many businesses value only the money and not the customers who pay. They couldn't care less if you have a pleasurable experience at their establishment. That might make someone want to return and buy more another day, but, they are focused only on what they can get NOW. Maybe it's an age thing. I'm old enough to remember when this wasn't the norm. I see a lot of restaurants with an overtly self-serving attitude going under, and, frankly, it's not just because of the economy.

                                              1. re: cheesemaestro

                                                Just so you don't think it is a money thing in California, a law was passed limiting wineries to three free wine samples per day. This is an old post, but still valid

                                                There are also regional laws. I think Napa is different from Sonoma where there are more free samples of wine. If you search the SF board on wine, charge, law you can turn up more info.

                                                Other than that, this seems to be regional. California is free-sample crazy in terms of farmers markets and ice cream and gelato shops. In terms of restaurants, it is rare that you are not offered a taste when ordering a dish to see if the meal is compatible. Sigh. I miss California.

                                                1. re: cheesemaestro

                                                  Wineries started to charge for tastings because so many people were treating wine-tasting as all-you-can-drink free wine. Just about every winery in California waives the tasting fee if you actually buy a bottle, and many smaller places don't bother charging a tasting fee at all if you show up outside of tourist season (though this does seem less common than it used to).

                                                  1. re: lavaca

                                                    t's true that many wineries waive the tasting fee if you make a purchase, but I've recently been to a couple (not in California) that charge separately for tasting even when you buy one or more bottles.

                                            2. If you want a free taste, go to Costco on Saturdays. You can practically eat your lunch there with all the samples. Otherwise my personal opinion is expect to pay and if you get something for free, then be surprised and gracious.

                                              1. Question to the OP - what did your friend do when the bartender poured and then told him there was a charge? Did he pay or say "no thanks"?

                                                1. Re-reading the original post, I'm wondering if this "$1.50 for a taste" policy was brought about by people abusing free tastes and asking for, like, six ("no, that one isn't quite right either..."). You know they're out there, they're the same people that caused the "won't seat incomplete parties" policy. Ach.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: purple bot

                                                    Exactly, I think it's just another example of the bad "customers" ruining it for the rest of us. I live near several breweries and I heard of friends who would take the tours multiple times per day just to get a buzz off the free beer. Of course, I live in an area where people are notoriously cheap, almost counterproductively so (such as driving 30 min out of their way to get a free $1 of gas, not realizing they just burned that $1 driving the 30 min or waiting in line 2 hours for a free $5 KFC meal when they could've worked those two hours and earned enough money for 8 KFC meals)