A quick glance at the many marquees outside of bars, pubs, and brewhouses seems to suggest that quantity is the determining factor for what makes a good place to have a glass or two with friends. “15 beers on tap” says one, “Largest selection of microbrews in the area” says another. But is this what really drives people to return over and over again to their favorite bars, especially when the majority will order Coors/Miller/Bud Light when they get there? Wethinks there’s something else at play here, and it’s something that most drinking establishments overlook when they’re trying to decide what people want from their experience.
Enter Beneluxx with a Onething that, frankly, knocked us over when we saw it and made for a really great experience just for the discussion alone. In an earlier Onething, we talked about how in order to become a zealot of something, you have to be able to experience that thing many, many times. In the case of beer, you need to be able to try the different beers in order to find out what you like. Beneluxx has taken the “try everything” model to new heights with two things: its beaker system, and its glass cleaner.
Have you ever ordered a beer that you just didn’t like but you finished anyway (for whatever reason – you didn’t want to be rude, it was expensive, “Any beer is good beer”)? Beneluxx removes the fear of trying beers by selling you beers in quantities as small as 4 ounces, and each comes in its own little beaker exactly like the ones you would have seen in your high school chemistry class so that you know the bartender isn’t skimping. It seems trivial, but the beaker system really does remove the fear of buying a beer that you won’t enjoy, and it also removes the tendency to fall back on something with which you are familiar to avoid that scenario (my standard is Yuengling; Jon’s is Stella Artois). Even beers that I normally would not have tried (e.g. IPA’s) can make it through the gates at Beneluxx because there’s no risk that I’m going to have to swallow down 12 ounces of a raspberry hinted hopfest.
So what do you do when you’re done with your beer? Normally, you’d give your glass to the waitstaff and ask for another one. Not at Beneluxx. Instead, you flip your glass over, put it on this spritzing contraption on the table and push to your heart’s content. The glass fills with water, washing away the previous beer’s residue / backwash / etc., and prepares your glass for the next beaker1. And to coin a phrase that our parents might have used, it’s a freakin’ gas. Even if my glass was perfectly acceptable for the next round, I would give it a spritz. You know, just to make sure.
For Beneluxx, Onething part A is to remove the risk from the buying process. By allowing us to buy a smaller quantity, they removed a barrier to entry for the customer. We can think of a bunch of sectors to which this applies, not the least of which the design firm sector. Onething part B is to change the expectation of what the experience can be. Anyone can bring you a new glass poured by an uninvolved bartender in a seemingly far off land. It takes a special place to recognize that part of having a good time is doing something different – like handling beakers and spritzers – and making that different thing an integral part of the experience. Beneluxx isn’t perfect (in fact, it’s our opinion that the food is treated as an afterthought, but this isn’t a restaurant review site), but the simple enjoyment of pouring your own beer and spritzing your own glass easily makes up for it.
1 A few people we’ve talked to about this place have said something to the effect of, “EWWWW!” or “That just can’t be sanitary.” We say get over it – it’s too fun to worry about the slim chance of some odd disease that jumps from mouth to glass to spritzer to glass to mouth. If you’ve ever seen the movie Multiplicity, you know that this unknown bug just couldn’t survive jumping this many iterations away from the original source.