Friday, May 9, 2014

Out and About:Pour Your Own Beer at Barrel Republic

By Erik Battenberg
Barrel Republic

In a world where businesses have us pump our own gas, ring up our own groceries and make our own frozen yogurt sundaes, it seems inevitable there’d be a bar where you pour your own beer.

Enter Barrel Republic, a craft beer place at 1261 Garnet Ave. in Pacific Beach where you do just that. It’s a concept I’ve never before seen in my 20-plus years of bar-hopping – I mean newspaper column research – and having been there twice, I can say I like the concept a lot.

It works like this: First you go to a station where Barrel Republic employees give you an elastic wristband that you preload with a credit or debit card. Then you select a glass, go to any of the 44 taps, scan your wristband and pour your beer.

You’re charged by the tenth of an ounce, with prices during my visits running from around 35
cents an ounce for the more common craft beers up to $1 an ounce for high-end stuff like
Almanac’s Valley of the Heart’s Delight, a sour beer with apricots, loquats and cherries that was
worth the high price tag.

You can pour as little or as much into your glass as you like, and that’s part of the fun.
I always like trying new beers, and on both visits, there were several I’d never had before and
was curious to taste.

At regular bars, I’d have to take a chance on a full pint or hold up the line while I hassle the
bartender to give me a little taster. But at Barrel Republic, I can pour a couple ounces of
something to see if I like it, then pour more if I give it the thumbs-up.

Each of the taps has a digital display that tells you what the beer is and a little bit about it. If
you’re intimidated about pouring your own beer from a tap, there are tutorials you can view.
The digital display also shows you how many ounces you’ve just dispensed of a beer, and the
total number of ounces you’ve poured since loading the wristband.

You have to go back to the employee station to reload your wristband every 32 ounces,
presumably so the staff can cut you off if you’re in no condition to drink any more.

It would be nice if you could pre-program a tap with the number of ounces you want and have
the tap shut off automatically – kind of like pre-paying for 20 bucks worth of gas at Chevron –
but this is a minor quibble. Another minor quibble is that, because the taps are spread around the bar at different stations, it can be difficult to maneuver your way to them when Barrel Republic is crowded, as it tends to be on Friday and Saturday nights.

But minor quibbles are all I have with this place. The beer selection was good both times I was
there (you can see the current list at barrelrepublic.com) and the staff was helpful and friendly. The fixtures are also first-rate, with Perlick faucets on the taps, an extensive selection of glassware and a glass rinsing station that uses reverse-osmosis water. (You use a clean glass for each beer but rinsing it first helps prevent excessive foaming.)

Erik Battenberg
Now if only Barrel Republic would take the self-service further and let me select all the CDs that
go in the jukebox and control the remotes for all the TVs.

Part of enjoying craft beer is making sure everyone arrives home safely. If you are drinking, designate a sober driver, call a cab or use a service such as Uber or Lyft. New Uber users can get a $10 discount on a ride by using promo code MQGAE.

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