Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

My first bar crawl

Shaina Mishkin/Collegian

A little bit grimy, with cheap beers on tap, neon signs and a pool table in the corner, The Spoke is exactly how I envisioned a bar growing up. I even had a beer.

It was my first time at the bar, and I was trying to do it right. Sitting at the bar chatting with friends, I was working hard to finish my Magic Hat #9 and taste the fruit overtones that one of my companions swore were there.

“You don’t have to finish it, you know,” Shaina Mishkin, a friend and Collegian photographer finally said.

Not long after, I passed my half-finished beer off, reaffirming my preference for cocktails.

I wasn’t one of those kids that rushed off to the bar with my friends on my 21st birthday.

For one thing, the great majority of my friends had yet to turn 21. For another, my birthday was over spring break and my sleepy hometown of Wilbraham isn’t known for its bar scene.

And then of course, there was the fear.

Having spent the majority of my teen and college years studying or working, I had no idea what the “bar scene” entailed. What do you wear? How do you order a drink? What is acceptable bar behavior? What do you do once you get there?

I couldn’t answer any of those questions.

Reflecting on my situation, I came up with a solution. I would convince Collegian beer columnist, Emily Brightman, to take me bar hopping under the guise of an article. She would take me under her wing, accompany me to a bar, teach me the social norms and turn me into a bar pro, all in the name of journalism.

Luckily for me, she bought it.

Not content to make this easy and go to one bar, we decided to go bar hopping, jumping from the Amherst Brewing Company (the nice bar) to The Spoke (the dive bar) and to the High Horse (the hipster bar), thinking it was best for me to feel bar culture’s range.

Even with slightly different vibes, the protocol at these bars is pretty much the same.

In preparation for the night, grab cash as some bars, such as The Spoke, are cash only. I recommend getting about $30 in the form of two $10 bills, one $5 bill and five $1 bills. Drinks are not cheap. A cocktail is $6 to $10 and beers range from reasonably priced macro brews to more costly craft fare.

In fact, bar drinks are so expensive that pre-gaming before leaving for the bars is necessary to get a buzz without breaking the bank.

While I can’t advise guys on outfit choices (to me male attire just looked casual), girls should opt for outfits with pockets so a purse isn’t necessary. Jeans and a cute top seemed to be the norm.

The trickiest part is paying. As part of a pre-bar session, Brightman warned me about how obnoxious it is for people to not know what they want and have cash ready when up at the bar. Screw that up, the whole bar is left waiting.

Determined not to be “that guy,” I took money out as soon as I stepped into the bars, which isn’t necessary and a little embarrassing. Just order your drink and take out the cash while it’s prepared.

And most importantly, at the High Horse you must tip the bartenders right away. Under no circumstances should you wait and give the bartender a bigger tip at the end of the night. If you don’t tip instantly the bartender will undoubtedly get crabby and yell at you about “not working for free” and how you “always tip the bartender.”

But anywhere else, feel free to wait and tip generously at the end of the night.

Katie Landeck can be reached at [email protected].


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    ChrisApr 27, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    So you lied to your friend, advise people to get arrive already partially drunk, and if we read between the lines you got yelled at by a bartender?