You recently carried Flingers to 4 awards in the Pantagraph Readers’ Choice voting, so assuming there might be some new folks checking us out, we wanted to individually highlight each award over the course of 4 weeks as a way to introduce you to Flingers. This week, we’re focused on our Best Bar award…
So…honest confession: this one caught us completely off guard. I mean…best bar? We don’t even serve hard liquor. We’re also not a huge sports hub with 58 big screens. Nor are we passing out jello shots at 1am to a rowdy late night crowd. We’re not the stereotype of what immediately springs to mind when you think of a “bar” in a “college town” like BloNo.
But maybe that’s why we won. Times are a’changin’. Bars are a’changin’ too.
In case you haven’t noticed, central Illinois is becoming a regional powerhouse for craft beer. Destihl, White Oak, Triptych, Blind Pig, Riggs, Big Thorn, JT Walkers, Rolling Meadows, the list continues to grow (not to mention all the great new brews coming out of the Chicago suburbs). And while each of those places has its own fantastic tap-room, we’re the spot where you can try them all.
Flingers has become ground zero for the new generation of Bloomington bars: a consolidated craft beer capital.
We have 24 taps, all featuring craft beer from across the globe (though at any given time, probably 22 of them are American and at least 7 or 8 of those are from the local lineup mentioned above). Kelsey and her team do a great job of keeping the selection diverse, fresh, and always-rotating.
Atmosphere-wise, since we just remodeled Flingers in late 2015, our bar is new, clean, comfortable, well-lit, with new bathrooms and pretty cool-looking taphandles and craft beer signage on display everywhere. Plus, you can actually have a conversation with your friends at the table, or with our top-notch bartenders, two of whom (Charlie and Sean) were individually nominated for their own Readers’ Choice award this year.
And sure, we do fairly standard things like giving free samples so you can try before you buy, or offering half-price beers on Sunday & Monday, or giving you a free pizza if you blow a keg, or doing periodic glassware giveaways, and regular tiny tap takeovers spotlighting specific breweries. But the innovative idea that sets us apart (and could have secretly contributed to us winning this award) is our baseball card beer menu.
In committing our bar to 24 taps of craft beer, we knew any menu we created would have to prioritize two ideas: easy adaptability and understandable descriptions. Having 24 taps meant we’d be switching out kegs pretty frequently, so it wouldn’t be effective to just have one printed beer menu every week. It’d be out-of-date almost immediately, and it’s no fun when the bartender hands you a beer list that was printed 3 days ago and they have to tell you that 5 things are no longer available. So our solution needed to be easily adaptable and adjustable on a moment’s notice.
But it also needed to explain the beers in an understandable way. Craft beer can seem intimidating. Flingers wants to introduce domestic light beer-drinkers in Bloomington to the amazingly flavorful world of craft beer, and you probably don’t win many converts by talking about astringency, diacetyl, effervescence and esters. So our beer menu needed to include simple, non-snobby descriptions which were written by us (not just copy/pasting the stock descriptions from the breweries, which sometimes aren’t very helpful).
So in the summer of 2015 while one of our staff members was cleaning out his closet, he stumbled upon his old baseball card collection. Binders and binders of those 9-card clear plastic pages, allowing you to see the superstar action shot on the front and then easily flip the page to read the stats on the back. All neatly contained. All easily interchangeable. All protected from wear-and-tear… Clearly the lightbulb went off.
Each beer gets its own card featuring the logo, stats, and price on the front with the description on the back. When a keg blows, all we have to do is swap out the old card for a new one while the rest of the cards stay the same. And with 24 taps and 9 spots per plastic page, that allows us to fill the perimeter with beer cards and use the center space for anything special we might want to promote…like Brüegala: A Festival of Beer coming up, for instance. Throw the plastic pages in a 3-ring binder and boom, you’ve got yourself a killer craft beer menu.
We admit, it’s not a particularly complicated idea, but it’s been cheerfully embraced. We regularly see customers sitting in the bar, flipping through the beer binder for 5 or 10 minutes at a time, even after they’ve ordered something, just browsing it, using the descriptions as a conversation starter. Unexpectedly, it’s become a centerpiece of the Flingers bar experience.
If you’re still reading this far (haha), hopefully that gives you a bit of a window into Flingers, and our attempt to understand why we might have been voted Best Bar in Bloomington-Normal despite not serving hard liquor, lol. The cultural craft beer revolution has clearly established a base in BloNo, and Flingers is at the tip of the spear.