“I want people to come in and feel like they’re at a beer festival every day of the week,” says Nate Tomforde, owner of the new Pour Taproom in West Asheville. “We’ll have 46 taps of craft beer and eight wines, and all of them will run on the pay-by-the-ounce model. … You can come in and taste as many different beers [and wines] as you want.”
The idea is a first for Asheville, and very nearly a first for the entire United States. There is currently only one bar with digital pay-per-ounce technology operating with upward of 40 taps, and it’s in San Diego.
According to Tomforde, here’s the way it will work at Pour: You come in and open a tab with one of the bartenders. You show them your ID and hand over a credit card. They swipe it, and return it to you, but they don’t pour you a beer. Instead, they hand you a wristband with the Pour logo on it. The band essentially unlocks the taps and allows you to be your own bartender.
From there, it’s up to you. A variety of glassware will be distributed around the taproom: Pick a Belgian tulip, a classic pint glass or a few taster-sized glasses. Then check out the wall of taps. Tomforde says the beers will more or less range from light on the left to dark on the right, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find the section you’re interested in. Then, you swipe your bracelet in front of an iPad-like screen displaying the beer at the tap below. The tap links to your account, and you’re free to pour as much or as little as you want.
“Each tap has a smart-flow meter that measures the liquid coming out of the keg inside the cooler,” says Tomforde. “That means you’re never charged for foam, and the screen will be able to tell you right away how many ounces you poured.”
Tomforde quickly adds that the pour-your-own model does come with some built-in limits. After 16-ounces, or about a pint, you have to check in with a bartender before you’re allowed to pour another ounce. This keeps the system in compliance with North Carolina law, according to Tomforde. “It’s an important check-in,” says Tomforde, “but it also shouldn’t slow things down. We’ll have enough staff on hand where you can easily talk to someone and they can get beer back flowing from the taps for you pretty quickly.”
In a town that already has plenty of options for grabbing a beer, Tomforde is hoping that both the business model and the beers he can offer with that model will prove to be draws. “I want people to be able to come here and try beers from all over the world and really rare beers,” says Tomforde. “Those beers can be expensive if you’re looking at whole bottles or pints, but it’s easy to afford a few ounces of them.” He also hopes that those looking for a variety of flavors will stop by for a beer or two. “By coming here you’ll be able to try 10 beers but drink a total amount that’s less than 2 pints.”
With cutting-edge technology, the shop will have some fun online options shortly after opening. While Pour won’t keep data tied to names, according to Tomforde, patrons will have the ability to sign up for online accounts in a similar fashion to the popular Untapped service. Tomforde says that unlike Untapped, where you have to manually check in for different beers, if you drink at Pour, the data can be compiled for you. So whether you have trouble remembering a particular beer a week later or simply want to keep a running list of beers you’ve tried, the data will be there.
Pour Taproom is open at 800 Haywood Road in West Asheville. Hours will be 4-11 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 1 p.m.-midnight Friday-Saturday and 1-9 p.m. Sundays. Look for a grand opening event with its neighbors, Odd’s Café and Asheville Sandwich Co., later this fall.
Local Awards from the NC Brewers Cup
When you think of the North Carolina State Fair’s competitions, you probably think first of the horses and livestock. Or maybe a blue-ribbon-winning apple pie comes to mind. However, a beer competition is now an official event in the month leading up to the fair.
This year, Asheville’s Hi-Wire Brewing took the gold in the German Pilsner category with Hi-Wire Lager, and the beer went on to win second overall for Best of Show in the N.C. Brewers Cup. The brewery also took home two silvers and a bronze. Sylva’s Innovation Brewing brought back medals of its own, with golds for its ESB, Black IPA and Whiskey Sour. And Oskar Blues rounded out the local award winners with a gold for Old Chub and a bronze for Ten FIDY.