In a state whose role in beer culture is well established – birthplace of the iconic Sam Adams brand and home to new craft brewers and taprooms every year – one sudsy modern novelty has yet to take hold: self-serve brews.
For the uninitiated, pour-it-yourself beer taps come in many forms: a rig that looks like a soda fountain and operates on a pre-paid card system, for example, or a tap built into a booth at a bar (keeps drinks colder than a pitcher, the thinking goes).
They’ve been popping up in pubs and sports venues around the country, as well as some cruise ships, over the past few years, but have yet to make a sudsy splash in Massachusetts. Metro could track down just two in the state, at Amherst Brewing Company in Western Mass. And at Irish pub chain Waxy O’Connors, neither of which are in Boston. The Littlest Bar in the Financial District used to have a small set-up, but it has since closed.
Now, at least two self-pouring beer gadget companies have their eyes on fitting the Hub with the DIY taps, they told Metro.
“It’s only a matter of time,” said Josh Goodman, founder and CEO of Chicago-based PourMyBeer.
Goodman’s company, which has donated tap systems to “Bar Rescue,” the pub renovation TV show, has to its credit self-serve gadgets in more than two-dozen states.
Demand has been steady around the country, he said, but not here.
“We’ve had a few inquiries but no one has brought our concept to Boston the way we brought it to other cities like Kansas City,” he said – he said he recently outfitted a Missouri bar with 40 self-serve taps.
DraftServ, a company that recently installed soda machine-style pay-by-the-ounce systems at two stadiums in Philadelphia, told Metro it hopes to add Boston sports teams to its portfolio.
“We’d love to. It’d be great to be doing things certain at Fenway or the Garden,” said Jose Hevia, CEO of DraftServ, a self-serve beer installer based in Georgia. “We haven’t gotten anywhere with it.”
Hevia, speaking on the phone from Tampa, where he planned to meet with Florida sports teams, said he sent emails to leadership at Fenway Park, but they turned it down. Spokespeople for Aramark, the ballpark’s concessions operator, didn’t confirm the exchange for Metro by Sunday.
For fans and bar patrons, the company heads said, the allure of self-serve beer is avoiding long drink lines and the novelty of tech-enabled boozing. For stadiums and watering holes, they said, the system means less wasted beer and increased sales.
“When you give people convenience and control they will frequent more often,” Hevia said. “You sell more beer that way.”
It isn’t Massachusetts’ Puritan, happy hour quashing streak keeping the novelty beer-serving trend at bay, they said.
The niche be-your-own-bartender industry has so far been able to win over alcohol regulators, touting safeguards prevent issues like over-serving by using a built-in maximum number of beers-per-hour and machine-monitoring on-duty humans.
The Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, the chief decider on state liquor law, told Metro it hadn’t made any rulings on self-serve beer. Kris Foster, ABCC’s legal counsel did express some concern, but said there was nothing in state law to prevent a well-monitored pour-it-yourself beer service.
“Of course the commission is always open to entrepreneurial spirit in the country and are very business-friendly,” Foster said. “It’s just something we would want to review to make sure it’s legal.”
State beer distributors expressed some curiosity about the devices.
“From a consumer’s standpoint, the convenience of being able to do that is interesting,” said Brian Murphy, director of sales and marketing for the Massachusetts Beverage Alliance, an industry coalition. “But I think you don’t want to take away the human-to-human interface: going to the bar and ordering a beer.”
Spokespeople for the TD Garden declined to comment for this story. Requests for comment from Gillette Stadium had not yet been returned.