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Craft beer Market, Calgary....What a disappointment

On paper it would seem that Craft has everything working in its favor. However, our first visit (and likely our last), put all that hard work to shame.

Firstly, the service was atrocious. I understand it takes awhile to iron the kinks out (all 3 of us spent many, many years in the food & beverage industry) , but that is no excuse to wait 10 minutes to be greeted and another 20 min for a drink when there are so many servers they are bumping into each other. To sit with an empty drink for another 20 minutes. The servers themselves add to the overall bad vibe of the place. We witnessed 3 servers fighting over tables, the bartender was telling some friends of our who were sitting at the bar, how hungover he was (as if this would be an excuse for the crummy service), and there was zero menu knowledge whatsoever. I asked what sauce was on the clubhouse sandwich, and our server didn't know. She checked with the kitchen and came back with the answer- nothing, just butter. Imagine my surprise when the sandwich arrived with mustard and mayo, the latter being the exact thing I was avoiding. Later we ordered a glass of red wine-Syrah to be exact which is pretty standard- to which she replied- would you like that on ice?? uhhhhh, no thanks. One has to wonder if there was any training done at all before the doors opened.

The amount of beer and lack of experience just adds to the confusion. Even the most seasoned server would have a hard time distinguishing different lagers apart when they are all served in the same glassware. My friend and I ordered one cider, one Wraspberry ale and those were mixed up on delivery- honest mistake. I drink the latter all the time- and that was not what I was poured. I kindly told the server, to which she brought back to who I found out after the fact was the GM- and he TASTED it, and sent it back to me, saying I was wrong. No thank you, I do not want that pint. She proceeded to bring me a sleeve of a very fruity, sweet beer that was much more raspberry in flavour. It seemed to be so condescending...here miss, you wanted a fruity beer? Try this, it's much more girly. I politely said, Thank you, but that is far too sweet- can I just please have something else?? She brought the beer back to the bar, and we proceeded to watch the General Manager pound back the beer I sent back. The same beer that all 3 of us at the table tasted and drank from. That is beyond gross. We couldn't believe we just witnessed it, from the GM of all people.

The 104 beers on tap- great concept...if there was actually 104 beers on tap. When we were there there we 40ish. Also, having alot of experience in the industry- one has to wonder how it is remotely possible to keep all those kegs (even 40) fresh. There is no new technology out there. One has to think come a month from now, there are going to be alot of unhappy customers with spoiled pints.
We were very clearly not the only ones not enjoying our visit. Everywhere you looked there were customers with pursed lips, looking impatiently around, waiting far too long for their drinks and starving because their food is taking an hour and their server is no where to be found. Everyone looked stressed- like they really wanted to like the place, but Craft is just digging their own hole.

As for the food- it was mediocre at best. Prosciutto flatbread was SUPER salty. Chicken Club, very dry and boring. Fries were cold and soggy on delivery. Food also took an hour to arrive.
Prices are very high, especially for the beer selection, considering they are served in 12 oz pint glasses. I have no problem paying for a pricey pint when everything else falls into place, but charging $8 for a domestic pint with everything being in a state of chaos, just seems cocky.

On the plus side- the bathrooms are very nice. However, only 4 stalls for the entire place. Thumbs down.

We appreciate opening a new restaurant and the kinks that come with that, but in this city where there is such a selection of places to go to, one has to make sure they are on the top of their game from the get go. It is a poor excuse to put forth- "oh give us a break we just opened". I compare to WURST which opened the same weekend- where the service is amazing and food is stellar.

It was a very disappointing visit at best for a pub/restaurant (still not sure what they are aiming to be) that we were very excited to see open it's doors. The way they are operating now, Stampede will eat them alive

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  1. I'll point out the early reviews on Wurst haven't been kind, either. But, as far as the draft goes, with some quality control, keeping them fresh shouldn't be an issue (assuming the bar is willing to eat some spoilage). I've been to bars in the States with far more that 100 taps and seem to stay profitable. Hell, a couple of those changed their selection completely every two days.

    That story about the manager pounding back your beer is disgusting, though. Wild Rose's beers can be rather batchy, so it doesn't surprise me that you may not have believed what you got was the Wraspberry. I didn't mind the place the other night, although there were, as you mentioned, some growing pains to be felt.

    1. Wow....that whole beer debacle is just terrible. I've heard horror stories about the service at this place on opening weekend, but I chalked it up to "opening weekend jitters". However, from reading your reviews, it sounds like it was more due to sheer ignorance & stupidity.

      Anyone have any idea who the ownership group is behind this place?

      1. There's no excuse for staff not knowing the product in a restaurant. I've worked in places where you can't even bus tables unless you know the entire menu. It immediately weeds out those who are either too lazy or stupid to remember what they're serving. Those who stay are the ones who realize that being able to answer almost any question from a patron will be rewarded by both the customers and their employers at the end of the night.

        Not that I really expect that level of competence at most restaurants. Just saying, if you're opening a place and putting an emphasis on quality and knowledge, you're nailing your own coffin shut by hiring inexperienced and lazy staff.

        1 Reply
        1. re: piano boy

          I agree totally. Logistical hiccups are somewhat excusable on an opening weekend....but the stuff described by the OP is just plain unacceptable, period.

        2. Hmmm, I was looking forward (with trepidation) to trying this place when I come into town for Canada Day weekend, but I'm kinda disappointed with how Craft is royally screwing things up. Reviews have not been good. Much frustration all around.

          The craft beer scene in BC has exploded over the last couple years and it's something that I love. I was hoping to spend part of my vacation enjoying some quality brews in Calgary but looks like I'll have to settle. :(

          At my local haunts in Vancouver (Alibi Room, St. Augustine's, etc), I've NEVER seen staff drink while working. EXCEPT when it was maybe a cask beer event staffed by volunteers...but even then, no spit-sharing.

          Would you guys recommend Wurst or District? For beer and a little good food? Any other places or forums threads I should know about?

          8 Replies
          1. re: flowbee

            The Hop n' Brew, Charcut, and the Ship and Anchor. There's also Bottlescrew Bill's and 1410, just for the size of their selections (I don't particularly care for their ambiances).

            1. re: Leibowitz

              Thanks! I'm definitely hitting Charcut! Go Connie!!!

              1. re: Leibowitz

                x2 for Hop n' Brew, great beer and GREAT pizza too.

              2. re: flowbee

                I definitely recommend District - especially if you go during happy hour(s) - 4-7pm every day! - when you get $3 of glasses of their house beer. They have live cask nights often enough as well. Lots of good food there too!

                I too had a rather unfavourable experience at Craft - we had originally intended to go there for dinner but ended up leaving after just one beer as it was pretty clear that they didn't have their ducks in a row.

                1. re: uncultured

                  Another +1 for District. We were just their on Friday and the food & service were great. My only little complaint was that the music was so loud that you could not carry on a convo easily.

                  1. re: Merry113

                    District for sure!!!! I love that place!

                2. re: flowbee

                  I love District! They brew their own beer and as mentioned, their specials are very good. I've been there a dozen times and have yet to be disappointed with the food. It's usually my go to casual dining place. The service, however, has been hit or miss. I've had really awesome service a few times and some pretty bad service other times.

                  Wurst has a larger selection of beers. They just opened so they're still working out the kinks. See this thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/776249

                  1. re: flowbee

                    It's not all bad at Craft. I was there with a large group this past friday after work, and the place was absolutely packed to the rafters. We had great service and our waitress was excellent at suggesting beers for people to try, and kept everyone's order straight even with the huge volume of business they were doing. At one point one of the managers came by to make sure everyone was happy and suggested that if our service was slow they'd be happy to help us out at the bar if needed because they were still working out some staffing issues. Although it wasn't necessary for our group the attention was appreciated.

                    I didn't eat, but several in our group did and thought the food was good. I'd suggest that Craft will only get better over time. They were doing an admirable job with a crowd of at least 200 that day. Hopefully reviews will reflect that improvement. And drinking while on shift is totally inexcusable...can't believe that story!

                    THAT BEING SAID; District is great during happy hour, highly recommended, and if you like German brews don't miss Wurst.

                  2. My friends had wanted to go but I was reluctant after seeing their Twitter feed (which I posted about, and my post was removed). I went the other day anyways and I was pleasantly surprised. First and foremost, I hate beer. However, Craft has some ciders and fruity beers on tap, in addition to a cocktail and martini menu, so it's actually awesome for someone like me because I don't have to gingerly nurse a highball while my friends take their sweet time finishing a pint. We sat at the bar, which gave us a great opportunity to observe the staff. They seemed to have been hired more for their cleavage than their knowledge. I observed a customer ask if they carried any honey ales and the bartender had no idea. Her only strategy to find out was slowly reading over the beer list. One of my friends asked for a recommendation for a sweet fruity beer, and the server told her that the Cowgrrl Cooler was a sweet, strawberry-raspberry cooler. When the bartender handed her the glass, she said, "Oh, it's actually cranberry-lime." I would have expected her to ask if my friend still wanted it, but she just walked away. It turned out to be very tart, rather than sweet. I watched the bartenders read menus while preparing mixed drinks. They seem to have almost NO knowledge of the product, which I find rather odd. Cluelessness aside the staff were all very friendly and attentive. We didn't eat but we chatted with some guys who were eating and their food looked good. In addition to hating beer I also don't eat meat (I sound like some kind weird prissy hippie!) and I think it's great that they have several vegetarian choices on the menu.

                    (From my seat I could see that they were out of seven beers. Assuming it was about the same on the opposite side of the bar that would mean they were out of fourteen choices out of 100+.)

                    1. I'm hoping they have ironed out their kinks by now.

                      Any update on the food here? I'm going with a large group for lunch on Friday. I'm not a big beer drinker unfortunately, so beer recs are wasted on me.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: ybnormal

                        Was in there a week or two ago for the first time. Menu prices are laughably high; food quantity looked small for the price. We could see into the kitchen from where we were sitting; everything (and I do mean EVERYTHING) is pulled out of plastic containers and plated. In all fairness, it may have been made fresh that morning and they are strict on portion control....

                        Service was mediocre at best.

                        Good luck; from our experience we'd wait a decade or two before going back.