Serve Yourself Craft Beer?

leatherhead-taps
leatherhead-taps

All photos by Kevin Gibson.  I walked into Leatherhead Brewing Company in Green Bay, Wisc., looking forward to dinner and a couple of good beers to cap off the final day of my visit. But when I sat down, I noticed a table tent on the bar that seemed to be shouting at me.

“Go ahead, pour yourself a beer!” it read in big, bold letters. I had read about serve-yourself beer bars before, but didn’t expect to stumble across one in Wisconsin.

The table tent sign continued: “Try one of our Pour-My-Beer Taps. Ask our staff about activating a card so you can pour your own beer at our beer wall or table taps.”

 leatherhead-self-serve

leatherhead-self-serve

That’s when I noticed a little alcove-type area to my right equipped with a high-top table for 10, a dartboard, a flat-screen TV, and a row of tap handles bearing the Leatherhead logo. It was like a party room.

And then I noticed a handful of stations of two taps each scattered throughout the bar. Each station had a card reader attached. There were a handful of tables in the main dining room that also had pouring stations. Those folks didn’t even have to get up if they wanted a refill.

Hmmm, I thought. Genius and yet dangerous.

The bad news was that the computer system running it was down when I was there, so I didn’t get to use it, nor did I get to see anyone else use it. On the brewery’s website, it states you have to pre-buy a card good for 32 ounces, and you can pour any house beer you want in any amount, up until you reach 32 ounces, at which point you’ll need to get another card.

However, when I asked the bartender about it, she said it was actually a bit easier to open a tab, and then pay after the fact. She said that way, you could pretty much drink whatever you want, and then pay when you’re done based on what’s on the card. Of course, that could get dangerous as well, as it seems it would be easier to lose track. But it actually is a pretty good deal.

“It’s about 30 cents per ounce,” she said.

So, consider that if you go to a new brewery or craft beer bar and decide to do a flight: most sell you four or five four-ounce pours. Or, they charge you $1.50 or $2 for a four ounce pour and let you build your own flight.

But with this system, you could theoretically pour a two-ounce pour for under a buck to taste-test a beer. Hey, if you aren’t a fan of witbiers, or know you want a stout but are curious to test out the pale ale first, you can do so without committing to a four-ounce pour. Sure, it’s only four ounces, but wouldn’t it be better to save those precious ounces for what you really want to drink?

Leatherhead happened to have six house brews on draft the night I was there, including a farmhouse ale and an English-style ale – nothing fancy, although naming the stout Full Beard was kind of fun. The brewery was actually a bit more like a bar in many ways, what with the acoustic duo playing cover tunes in the corner. However, the brewing system being fully exposed and in the middle of the space, between the dining room and the bar, was an interesting touch. No mistaking that you were in a brewery there.

Anyway, if you go, cross your fingers the pour-your-own system is up and running. Just be sure to count your ounces as you go – or have your Uber app at the ready.