Paige Latham Didora
community keg house opens
When I first got wind of the concept behind Community Keg House I was wandering through Northeast Open Streets. This scene immediately came to mind:
For those who have not heard about the tap-DIY soon to open in the Grain Belt Brewing Complex, it has a bit of Kramer to it, minus the risk of personal injury.
Community Keg House makes the customer the bartender, in what they’ve dubbed the “pour your own pint” method. Glasses are leased at the registers and toted to what I’m choosing to call the tap corral (officially the “pour room”). That’s not to say that drinkers are on their own. From there, qualified staff will assist in making a beer choice. The corral is broken into zones, organized by category, in flights of similar beers.
The tap handlers will be happy to help with suggestions or by offering samples. After making a choice, the customer is the one to do the actual pouring.
Let me pause here.
What level of personal satisfaction can possibly come from tugging on the tap handle, I am not sure. During the sneak preview that I attended, the corral was full of mostly industry folks, meaning those who have plenty of experience with the motion of tilting a glass and pulling a wooden logo. There are plenty of people who will surely be excited to try it, and during the grand opening this Friday, January 15th, dreams will come true.
But maybe that’s not the point. The company says this about the inspiration behind the model:
“Community Keg House is built on an idea: pour your own pint. The idea stems from a frustration. The frustration comes from the experience craft beer enthusiasts have at most craft beer bars. Generally, the experience is confusing and impersonal. The average patron is given a long list of beers and at best a brief overview of a given beer. Many patrons feel lost in a sea of choices with little information to back up a given selection. At Community Keg House we’ve done something different. We bring you closer to the beer! We let you break on through to the other side… of the bar.” – CKH
They present themselves as a solution to a common problem. But how common is that problem? Are “craft beer enthusiasts” really having “confusing” experiences? Sometimes. The real target market, in the long run, may end up being the emerging or apprehensive craft beer novice. Drinkers looking to test the craft waters want a chance to talk to staff, sample a thing or two, and operate within a beer category that feels somewhat familiar.
But “impersonal” is something else. I would agree that yes, most bars are impersonal. Taprooms, though, tend not to be be. And isn’t that really what Community Keg House is competing with?
The buzz is loud about this place. I’ve heard craft beer junkies both ranting and raving, with many wondering what the staying power of “pour your own pint” will really be. On the other hand, once you get past what may seem like a gimmick of an experience, if the beer is good, fresh, and rotating often, the place could be a killer beer bar.
One brewer that I spoke with said he was initially skeptical, but that seeing the place in action eased his concerns. He was impressed with the ease of pouring (read: under-carbonation) that will prevent the frustration of what pouring taps can sometimes bring. The other writers I was sipping with were of several different minds, but we all agreed on one thing: it will be interesting to see things play out.
Bringing customers closer to their beer isn’t just about tipping a clean glass and flexing your elbow – it’s about fraternity. Community Keg House could benefit from having brewer visits, doing higher-level education classes, or otherwise contributing to the collective palate of the Twin Cities drinker.
Visit Community Keg House starting this Friday. There will be small bites available and glassware galore in a familiar warehouse setting.
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