We were recently in a bar that was serving a popular rye beer from a well-known brewery, and there was obviously something very very wrong with it. A rye beer should not smell like feet. Gina brought the issue to the staff's attention, and they replaced her beer. But the proprietor also said something along the lines of "I don't think that's right, but I don't (drink/like, I forget which) that beer".
After taking a walk to the back to look at the keg(?) they continued to serve the beer.
On one hand I can understand that a bar can't just pull a beer because someone has a problem with it, but on the other hand I wonder if a bar has a responsibility to know what a beer is actually supposed to taste like. Where's the line?
And why were we the only folks to notice? All four folks in our party noticed immediately.
in my experience in talking with bars and liquor stores, they say that many distributors will not accept returns of their beer upon delivery. Even if it is bad, they won't take it back. So another curious question is "who pays for bad beer?" The brewery doesn't want it back and the distributors don't either. I really applaud Stone for their bad beer reporting feature on their website. That bar is going to serve that beer, and not take a $150 hit on the price tag.
My first thought (and I admit I have no experience to back this us) was "that line must be bad". I can see where the distributors are coming from - sort of. Whose responsibility is the line? I know that at least some of the local guys clean the lines they use..
It's a back and forth. "The keg you sold me was bad." "No, your lines are dirty." Where does it stop?
I guess the thing is that it doesn't do anyone any favors to keep that beer on - Except that people apparently are willing to drink it and either not notice or not complain.
It hurts better beer as a whole, and those brands. If someone new to better beer or new to that brewery had that beer, they are not coming back to it. They don't know what they don't know. They might think that is how it should taste. Most people don't say anything, and I am one of them. I just don't drink it, and the waiter asks and I will say the beer is off. We have a minority beer drinking population and an even smaller minority of people saying anything about it.
I wouldn't necessarily say the brewery doesn't want it back. Many breweries will buy back kegs that are out of date or found to be "bad." A lot of those breweries are fairly large, though, so they can afford to do that. The entire situation is certainly a difficult one.
The proprietor can choose not to sell the bad beer and take the price hit (or try to return or swap it). This is certainly the more admirable option, but also the more expensive one. In this case, it may very well have been a bad line, which is definitely the responsibility of the proprietor, but also more expensive than simply replacing a keg.
Of course if you're the only table that has registered a complaint, and others are still purchasing the beer, that makes the proprietor's job even harder. You might be soured on the transaction, but he/she is still making money off the beer. While every customer is important, you have to weigh the impact of telling all of the customers currently buying the beer that they could no longer purchase it because some other customer didn't like the way it tasted, right or wrong.
So what would I do? I would offer to replace your beer with a different one, and offer samples to people who order future pints to let them know that a customer earlier in the evening said they detected an issue with the beer. At the end of the night / the next day, I would contact the distributor and set up an appointment to clean/inspect the line and verify the beer. If the beer was bad, I would work that out with the distributor and stop serving it. If cleaning the line fixed the issue, I would put the beer back on. But I guess all of that is with the assumption that I could tell what was off about the beer in the first place. If you're clueless as a proprietor then it's going to be hard to fix a problem like this.