FIRST THEY made us fill up our own gas tanks, and I didn’t speak up because I ride the bus.
Then they forced us to scan and bag our own groceries, and I said nothing because my wife does the shopping.
Then they told us to pour our own draft beer and . . . um, hey that’s not such a bad idea, is it?
Introducing the Draft Master, the first do-it-yourself tap system for bars. The unit, installed at barroom tables, allows customers to pour their own drafts without waiting to flag down the bartender.
About 15 Draft Masters, including one at Tir Na Nog in Center City, have been installed nationwide so far. They’re already in about 400 in pubs across Ireland, according to Declan Duggan of Ellickson International USA, which produces the units.
“It’s like manna from heaven,” said Duggan. “Now you can pour your own perfect pint. “
I gave one of the units a test drive a couple of weeks ago and immediately grasped its appeal. Just give the waitress your credit card and fill ’em up. A digital readout tells you how much you’ve poured.
“It’s a conversation piece,” said Tir Na Nog manager Ken Merriman. “People see other customers at the table, and they want in on the fun. “
The twin towers pour two different beers – say, Guinness and Carlsberg – each chilled to its proper temperature. The faucets rotate, so you can just spin the taps toward you instead of getting off your butt to pour. No gushing, no spritzing, no sloppy mess – just pull on the tap handle and you’ve got a fresh draft ready for guzzling.
Sitting atop a well-crafted high-top table plunked down in front of a wide-screen TV airing the World Cup, the Draft Master draws an instant crowd. “It’s the best seat in the house,” said Duggan. “People actually call ahead to reserve the table. “
For those concerned that the do-it-yourself units may allow you to overdo it yourself, Duggan noted that the system is preset to pour about 10 pints. It’s not much different from serving pitchers at tables, he said, adding that the Draft Master is currently legal in 27 states.
They’re also practically dummy-proof, with high-tech gas monitoring equipment that mixes precise levels of CO-2 and nitrogen to produce optimal suds. (The monitoring also means that bars don’t lose money on spills: When a customer overflows a glass, he pays for every drop, even if it goes down the drain. )
It’s a primarily a gimmick, of course, like karaoke for bartender wannabes.
But it also represents a serious paradigm shift and not just because the serious job of pouring the perfect pint should be handled by a pro.
Beer drinkers go to the bar for more than just the beer. In today’s secular world of get-out-of-my-face individualism and isolation, the bar is the last great melting pot. We go there to rub elbows and interact – and that includes jabbering with the bartender.
The bartender as social commentator, sports expert, therapist, gossipmonger, bookie, tour guide and comforting friend would not exist if the beer tap were an ATM.
If we all poured our own beer, there would be no Old Mr. Boston Official Bartenders Guide, no jokes that begin with “a guy walks into a bar,” no Coach, no Woody, no Moe.
On the upside, there’s no need to leave a tip for do-it-yourself pints. Somehow, though, a few dollar bills seem like a small price to pay for a bit of human contact.
Also, how am I going to cop a free pint from a machine?