Sunday, January 21, 2018
Bars & Spirits

Bar review: So much to pour at pay-by-the-ounce Pour Taproom

As a perpetual sampler, I’m accustomed to paying a premium for variety. It’s the rare beer bar that serves 16-ounce flights without at least a 133 percent markup. That’s fine with me, if it means that I don’t have to choose just one beer from a menu of dozens.

It’s safe to say that my interest was piqued when the Pour Taproom chain announced a downtown St. Petersburg location earlier in the year just west of the Sundial shopping complex, promising 85 self-serve taps, the largest such setup in the United States. Originally founded in Asheville, N.C., there are now a handful of locations ranging from Knoxville, Tenn., to Santa Cruz, Calif.

You may not be familiar with the self-serve concept, and frankly, it may not be your thing. Instead of ordering a beer from your bartender, you start a tab, get a smart wristband, select a glass (ranging from mason jars to tulips) and pour your own beer from an array of taps, paying by the ounce instead of the pint.

It’s pretty far removed from the familiar bartender and drinker dynamic, and it can get a bit expensive, with the average pint clocking it at a solid $8. Who’s it for? People like me, who don’t mind throwing a couple of extra bucks in for the sake of great variety.

With 85 taps — a little over 75 beers, a half-dozen wines, coffee and ginger beer — that variety is all but guaranteed. A wall of taps runs along Pour’s 2,300-square-foot interior, with beer bunched into semi-vague categories like "dark," "sour" and "specialty." There are many bay area beers represented, along with high-end domestics and some well-chosen imports.

Pour has a stripped-down warehouse feel, with cement floors and an unfinished ceiling. There are rows of plain wooden tables stretching to the back, near a couple of large lounge sectional sofas, capable of accommodating some pretty large groups.

Since you’re in charge of pouring your own beers, the only interaction you’re likely to have with the staff is when you set up your tab, and when it inevitably runs out of credit and needs a recharge. In that sense, it feels more like hanging out with friends at a bottle-share than hanging out at a bar. I really dig that.

Sometimes I don’t want 12 ounces of Prairie’s hefty, spicy Birthday Bomb!, or even 4 ounces. Maybe I just want a 2-ounce serving while I plan my next brew. That might be the Boysenberry #FLIPA from Safety Harbor’s Crooked Thumb, and I may like it so much that I go back for an extra 6 ounces.

If I’m feeling especially seasonal, I’m likely to have a half-pour of Anderson Valley’s Winter Solstice, with perhaps a more modest pour of Belgium’s Barbe NoŽl, the most expensive beer on the line at 95 cents per ounce.

The point is — even ignoring the variety — there’s a lot more flexibility at Pour than you’ll find at your average beer bar. That flexibility comes with a somewhat higher price tag, but I think that’s a reasonable trade-off. And while you should still throw a tip on that bill when you settle up (especially if the friendly staff helps you with recommendations), I don’t think a full 20 percent or more is really necessary.

Some will take a look at the taps at Pour, see 75 cents per ounce listed on the screen and write the bar off as a place that serves $12 pints. That’s not the point. If you’re most comfortable ordering a pint and mixing it up with your bartender, then you’ll find no shortage of beer bars in town that are more your speed.

If you’re an unrepentant variety hound like me, however, you’ll get a kick out of the ability to pour as little or as much as you want from a tremendous selection of brews from across the globe. Consider it a self-serve beer festival, if you’d like. With no lines!

It’s a cool concept — and the biggest of its kind in the nation — that’s worth checking out on novelty alone, but the excellent selection doesn’t hurt, either. Keep an eye on that ounce ticker, though, so you don’t come down with a case of sticker shock when it’s time to settle the tab.

Contact Justin Grant at jg@saintbeat.com. Follow @WordsWithJG.

Pour Taproom

225 Second Ave. N, St. Petersburg; (727) 440-6677; pourtaproom.com

The vibe: A stripped-down and spacious beer bar with a monstrous selection of beers sold by the ounce.

Booze: Beer and wine, 20 to 95 cents per ounce.

Specialty: There are 85 taps, including around a half dozen for wine and a couple for cold-brew coffee and ginger beer. The specialty at Pour is an inherent non-specialization — take a small pour of dozens of styles, have a large pour of a few, or try any combination thereof. That’s the whole point.

Hours: Open noon to midnight daily.

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