Our multi-part article “Life Behind Bars” examines the canon of coffee and cocktail service, where the two intersect, and what both fields can learn from each other—from quality of craft to hospitality and context.
BY KAY CHEON
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE
Photos courtesy of Bar Fausto
In this installment of “Life Behind Bars,” we talk about service with Koan Goedman, owner of Huckleberry Roasters and partner in Bar Fausto, both based in Colorado. Read the introduction to the series here, the first installment with Amanda Whitt here, and the second installment with Sam Lewontin here.
Many of us gravitate toward coffee shops based on the culture of the café and the comfort it offers. Koan Goedman, owner and founder of Huckleberry Roasters, speaks to this inspiration for service manifesting itself in his part ownership of Bar Fausto, also out of Colorado. As its name suggests, Bar Fausto is primarily a bar, but with Goedman and Jonathan Power (of Crema Coffee) at its helm, the direction of service philosophy and the bar’s goals are hugely influenced by café service. Koan describes Huckleberry’s mission upon opening as “making delicious coffee for folks, while leaving behind the aloof barista that specialty coffee was known for.” It is not by accident that Bar Fausto would have the same raison d’être, opening up specialty and craft service to a larger demographic of guests.
Koan says about Bar Fausto, “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with speakeasies, nor is there anything wrong with beer-and-a-shot dive bars, but we wanted to create an experience in the middle: a well-designed bar that had amazing cocktails set in a neighborhood bar vibe.” Just as Sam Lewontin spoke to the concept of café canon, the lexicon of what a bar offers can immediately draw preconceptions about the type of service and quality of products offered. Koan, however, firmly believes that both hospitality and craft can sit side by side with intentionality. “Coffee professionals are recognizing there are elements of guest service in the bar/restaurant setting that could really up the hospitality we offer to our guests,” he says. “Additionally, utilization, getting creative with nontraditional ingredients, flavor pairings, and visual presentation is something [Huckleberry] started playing with.”
The difference between a bar and a café, to Koan, is almost indistinguishable. “It’s really no different from recognizing that within [our] customer base there’s a whole spectrum of drinkers, and our challenge is to meet each of those drinkers where they are and with what they want,” he says. Being able to open up a wider range of service also allows the bar to become more creative in what they are able to offer. “The greatest creativity is happening with ingredients, both how we use them and our understanding of them,” Koan says. “On the coffee side of things, our understanding of achieving truly quality coffee (along the entire seed-to-cup chain) has improved leaps and bounds over the last two/three decades. On the cocktail side of things, it’s continuing to find room for finding new flavors, creating new drinks, but never forgetting that the classics are classics for a reason—and messing with them just for the sake of exploring isn’t always a smart move. There’s also been just an explosion in spirit diversity and availability, so that keeps it interesting, creative, and fun!”
Bar Fausto implements several things into its repertoire that help achieve the goals that Koan speaks of. Using a catalog-style menu, guests are able to find drinks that they may have ordered long before in the past, while still allowing the bar to offer a seasonally rotating menu and to encourage creativity. Food service is conducted in-house, with a simple style of cuisine that allows the team to utilize fresh ingredients and manage complexity of flavor. Ample space and different seating options inside also give guests options for how they choose to enjoy themselves within the bar, from bright open spaces to more dimly lit settings.
Between bartenders and baristas, Koan’s ideal describes a service professional not limited by their lexicon of product. “Both get excited about providing friendly hospitality, working with high-end and special ingredients, so on and so on,” he says. “And, more generally, both positions have undergone a fairly dramatic cultural shift over the last decades, from being seen as a very temporary form of employment, to being an actual profession to be proud of and passionate about.” This comes with the profession being truly all-encompassing, rather than limited to the production side of pouring beers or pulling shots.
Despite the many similarities between Bar Fausto and Huckleberry, Koan sees them as being two very distinct businesses. With a dialed Fetco batch brewer on the back bar, Bar Fausto also utilizes coffee on its menu, ranging from different coffees brewed as espresso, AeroPress, and cold brew, all to suit the flavor profile of the cocktail being assembled. However, the bar does not offer full espresso service, nor does Huckleberry see any carryover from the bar. “We’re catching folks at vastly different times of their day—their desires and needs are different from their morning cup of coffee to their evening glass of wine,” Koan shares.
He adds: “Painting in broad strokes, I think coffee and coffee service in the restaurant setting is being considered more thoughtfully as being part of the larger experience being created. In the same way that seasonal food, beer lists, and specialty cocktails are fussed over, slowly but surely, coffee offerings and coffee service are being elevated, too. As restaurants (and their guests!) continue to get more excited about ingredients, producers, farmers, and specialty products, the more that starts to translate to the coffee they serve.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kay Cheon works as a coffee educator and bartender in Santa Barbara, Calif., where he is privileged enough to share what little knowledge he has with the people around him, taste good things, and work on bettering service alongside them. His current favorite drinks are tasty batch-brewed coffee and shaken bittersweet cocktails.