Editor’s Note: It was several years ago, in a Brooklyn tavern after several rounds of drinks, that I first heard Woody Chandler’s rules for drinking at the bar. Charmed, I asked him to put pen to paper and share his commandments with the readers of All About Beer. The original list of commandments is here. Now, several years after COVID-19 upended our social drinking habits, and with the state of beer bars in the United States in flux, I once again asked Chandler to share his revised rules for drinking at the bar. -John Holl.

The Updated Rules

A good while has passed since the last time that I came down from the beery pulpit, carrying several tablets of aspirin which enabled me to hold forth in my own inimitable fashion. In the interim, we have experienced a pandemic which has caused a shift in people’s patronage of bars, brewpubs, and other such gathering places. This deca-revisitation will allow the reader to consider ten (10) contemporary ideas to put in motion when visiting their favorite watering hole. 

1. Thou shalt continue to give thy custom to thy local establishments! 

This one is tough for me to write since I have become a bit of a recluse since the COVID-19 outbreak. I used to frequent numerous local places for “Trivia Night,” but since I discovered a challenging online trivia site, that impetus has been nullified. I go to the places that I really cannot live without and when I travel, I am happy to go out and explore. It is at home that I am less inspired to go out. Don’t let my ennui happen to you! 

2. Thou shalt not participate in “Dry January”! 

Going along with #1, if your local is on the ropes, how do you think that your participation in a non-alcoholic endeavor is going to help? If you need a month to dry out, then maybe you should take a good, long, hard look in the mirror.  

3. Thou shalt not turn up thy nose at Mliko pours! 

The mliko, or milk, pour originated in the Czech Republic and is served as simply a glass of foam. This has led to derision and ridicule from and by the uninitiated, but it is a case of “Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.” Once you’ve tried it, you may knock it all that you want, but chances are that you won’t be so inclined. It is not a widespread phenomenon here in the U.S., so give it a chance if and when you can. 

4. Thou shalt not practice snobbery when it comes to smoked beers! 

This dovetails with #3 in the “Don’t Knock It Until You’ve Tried It Department.” I am also openly copping to pandering to my editor and his “This Week In Rauchbier.” I will readily admit that smoked beer can be an acquired taste, but to dismiss one or all of them without having tried an example of the style first is a disservice, both to yourself and the style. The best way to drink them is with a combination smoked meat and cheese plate! 

Yes, Virginia, they all exist.  

5. Thou shalt grab a sixer, four-pack or a Crowler of thy local’s beer to take home!

I have already copped to not wanting to go out like I used to, but that is not a valid reason for totally gaffing off my local(s). Visit your local brewery or package store, buy some cans or a crowler, and enjoy a quality pint in the confines of your own home. Not only is the flavor great, but you’re still helping out small business. 

6. Thou shalt leave a space when at the bar! 

Lots of people, including/especially me, are skittish about sitting right next to someone not of their household in these post-COVID times. If there is space available to leave a seat between you and someone else, leave it open. For guys, here is a relatable example – we hit the head at the same time and there are an odd number of urinals, all available at the time of arrival. Are you going to take the middle one? If so, I guess that you will also be striking up a conversation mid-stream. If not, then you get the idea.

For those who may counter that this could create a sticky wicket for late-arriving couples who may want to sit together, I would retort that you should have planned better and asking a singleton to move just to accommodate you is out of bounds and smacks of privilege. Let’s put the shoe on the other foot. I arrive late, by myself, but I want to be right in front of the TV to watch the game and that is where you, as a couple, are already sitting. 

Are you going to be willing to accommodate me if I ask you to move, even if just one seat over? Hmm.  

7. Thou shalt stay at home if thou art sick! 

Going back to the previous commandment, no amount of space is going to be sufficient if you are truly unwell. I have no idea if: a) you are vaccinated; b) my vaccinations will be enough against whatever you are carrying and possibly spreading; and c) whether a mask will be enough. If you insist on staying, then I will insist on abruptly leaving.  

8. Thou shalt keep a civil tongue!

In a previous iteration, I made the same statement, but in this case, I want to be a bit more specific. You should not be openly disparaging breweries or their beers, especially in their establishment, and definitely not while at the bar. The industry is in decline right now with closings occurring all the time. I am not telling you to be a cheerleader or to not vent online, but negativity has no place at the bar.  

9. Thou shalt maintain control over thine children and/or pets! 

I understand that people want to have “Family Nights” and/or bring their non-service animal pets, but there is too much potential for chaos. I have never felt that any establishment that focuses on alcohol production and/or sales is an appropriate venue for a child. I speak from personal experience since my maternal uncle took me to a bar when I was 5 or 6-years-old and I felt really out of place! 

Most places require that you be of drinking age to sit at the bar, but there are no such restrictions on the rest of the establishment’s space. If you choose to bring children and/or animals, you need to keep them in check!  

10. Thou shalt provide feedback and/or pushback!

I received a lot of responses from the initial iteration of this list and I expect nothing less from this one. I am not one to shy away from controversy nor do I wither under scrutiny. One must have a thick skin to be an opinionated writer and while I am not an armadillo, I can take the slings and arrows. I would really like for these to be less commandments as food for thought and to possibly generate reasoned conversations around them. 

See you at the bar!