LIMA — You’d better not walk into Vino Bellissimo and ask for whatever beer is on tap.
“It’s funny the reaction you get. It’s not what I expected,” said Marc Reinicke, owner of the establishment at 743B Shawnee Road in Lima that might be better known for its wine selection. “People look and say, ‘Oh my God; there’s too much to choose from.’ They give you a blank stare in the face when they’re trying to figure it out.”
A customer has 36 different beer options on tap at Vino Bellissimo, including a variety of lagers, India Pale Ales (or IPAs for short), whet ales, stouts and porters. Recently Reinicke began experimenting with “nitro” beers and sour beers.
Gone are the days of the local bar only offering one or two beers on tap. Variety is king in Lima, especially with the emergence of “craft brews” from smaller regional breweries that offer a distinctive flavor.
Buffalo Wild Wings has 24 taps, including four craft beers on tap at any time, at its 2948 Allentown Road location. Beer Barrel has 20 beers on tap at its Findlay, St. Marys and Market Street Lima locations, including a handful of craft beers. The Met, at 306 N. Main St., Lima, only has 10 taps, but they all have craft beers.
“The climate in the beer-drinking world is changing, and people are wanting to try new things,” said Mark Aldrich, vice president of marketing for Good Food Hospitality Management, which owns the Beer Barrel restaurants.
For Reinicke, it became important to have the largest selection possible. The business he and his wife, Carissa, runs started with four before expanding to 12. They knew they wanted to lead the city in beer selection, with Carissa Reinicke recommending 36 to avoid looking over their shoulders at the competition’s number of taps. They installed the additional taps in May.
“We wanted to increase the taps, and there are so many beers out there to offer,” Marc Reinicke said. “We wanted to expand on that. My wife said, ‘Let’s just make sure if someone’s going to outdo us, they really have to outdo us.”
One challenge with so many options is educating the consumers on what they might like.
Justin Rinderle, a Cicerone-certified beer server at The Met, said many people walk in asking for a Bud Light. The business keeps bottles of that in the refrigerator just in case, but they try to guide them down a path of more adventurous choices.
“They tend to try getting comfortable drinking a Weihenstephan. Then they usually go to a Breckenridge Avalanche,” Rinderle said. “From there, the next step up is the heavier beers.”
Rinderle knows the transition: He was “in the same boat” back in November or December. He’s now an admitted convert from his Bud Light.
Vino Bellissimo offers a beer book, with a “tech sheet” devoted to explaining each drink. It also offers “beer school” each Wednesday to focus on a variety of beer.
There are some advantages to craft beers for the retailer, said Donna Hall, manager at Buffalo Wild Wings, which has Leinenkugel Summer Shandy and Fat Tire as popular options among its craft beer drafts. The restaurant tries to rotate its craft beer offerings to match customer tastes.
“I think it’s less filling, so that’s good for us,” said Hall, who noted craft beers are priced higher than domestic ones. “It is less filling, with a different variety of tastes. There are a lot of citrus beers and apple beers, which are big sellers.”
Many people are turning to those IPAs, Reinicke said. His business keeps four or five IPAs on tap at all times.
“There’s a subculture in the craft beer market, the ‘hopheads,’” he said. “You always have to have at least four or five IPAs, or people get upset.”
Rinderle credits the distinctive flavor of IPAs for their popularity.
“They have a hoppy bittery-ness,” Rinderle said. “It’s something very different. People like it. It goes with a lot of foods, counteracting different foods.”
Aldrich added, “There is a customer out there that just really loves to try new beers, craft beers and unique beers.”
Reinicke things the 36 taps at Vino Bellissimo might be his limit. The business had 275 different beers on tap last year.
Or maybe not. Earlier this week, he had a “firkin tapping,” opening up a special cask-conditioned ale for his customers to enjoy. He plans to do that one a month, bringing his tap number up to 37 for a few days a month.
“I was looking over the numbers today,” Reinicke said. “It has been very overwhelmingly successful. For us, it just makes sense.”