Pour It... Yourself?

Eno Sarris, November 19, 2013

Go to Barrel Republic in San Diego, and you'll notice something is missing. The bar. Bartenders. You know, the things that you normally seek moments after entering an establishment offering beer on tap. It's gotten to the point where you don't know what word to use to describe the place. There's beer there. But it doesn't seem like a bar. I dunno.

This phenomenon -- pour your own beer -- is a couple years in the making. Culver City's City Tavern claims that they were the first state-approved self-pour establishment in California. But they were version 1.0 -- you could only get three pours from your choice of three beers at three booths. Bet those fill up decently quickly... unless the selection of three isn't up to snuff.

Tap Shack in Newport Beach was the update. They have mobile tables, but then they also feature a patio with button-push taps that allow patrons up to two beers per person. Here's the thing... not one review on Yelp's first page mentions the self-pour, and most actually talk about either how small the beer selection is our how bad the service is. Maybe they still have the self-pouring taps, but they only break them out at certain times? Or patrons just don't care because they need a server anyway in order to get some food?

Barrel Republic seems like it's taking the self-pour bar a step further. There is a maximum -- 36 ounces -- but there's no way around that. Liquor license laws require servers to cut off drunken patrons, so you can't just let a person pour himself into a stupor. But Barrel Republic doesn't limit the beers you can self-pour -- all 44 taps are available to the self-serving patrons. You get a beer card or wristband, and a sensor on the tap monitors how much beer you've poured yourself. The bar likes the wristband because it not only eliminates the need for more servers, it also gives them detailed data on their patron's perferences. BeerGraphs is officially interested in that data, especially if this thing starts spreading.

The taps at the Republic will be 50% local (not a problem in San Diego) and the servers (not bartenders) are all Cicerone certified in order to help you best pick your beer. And since there's no kitchen (there will be food trucks), there's none of this Tap Shack "I didn't know you could self pour because I spent all my time picking my own lobster in the dollar machine and then needed to call my server because my fries were cold" nonsense.

It's just you. Your cup. Your companion, since there's less talking to the bartender, maybe. And all the beers you'd like to pour yourself.

Seems like the future. Maybe.