In the expensive level at Oracle Arena, tucked in the back corner where the best craft beer bar used to be, there's a new phenomenon: the self-pouring station. Dub's Local Craft Wall featured no wait, decent craft selection, and was a few yards from my section -- what could be the problem?
There were a few problems. The most obvious of them was that I am not a bartender, and neither were the other people walking into that section. Pouring a beer seems easy until you're looking at a cup that's 10% beer and 90% foam. I have some experience with the tap, and I couldn't avoid it, and I saw others suffering along as well.
That created a need for an extra attendant, who had to intervene in perhaps 75% of all interactions that I observed. The ordering bot sometimes malfunctioned, but the rest of the time she had to put in administrative credentials in order to fill someone's beer with something other than foam.
Wait long enough, and foam turns to beer... and this actually turned into an opportunity for me to get more than I should have from my $25 card -- I ended up having three full beers for that price, turning it into a bargain. But then there's still the matter of the shadow bartender and all that foam.
Was the selection a problem? My usher thought it was a problem -- none of this stuff is actually local! he yelled -- which was surprising until he revealed that his son was formerly the brewmaster at Knee Deep. Ballast Point Sculpin and Grapefruit Sculpin, Elysian Immortal and Space Dust, Lagunitas IPA and Lil Sumpin, and Bear Republic Racer 5 and Red Rocket... I see a few local options.
If they are from larger mid-market breweries, that's probably because it's difficult to run a high-velocity bar in a place like Oracle. Is a smaller brewery going to be able to keep up deliveries during peak demand? How much change do the three or four people overseeing this operation want to deal with? Do they want to be constantly updating the board? They don't even have a bartender.
Apparently traffic is inconsistent at the Wall. Depending on what team is in town, it's either crowded or empty. The Hawks were the opponent, so I got in an out at will. Had three good beers and paid $25. That represents the upside, and it's worth a little foam and annoyance.