OP-ED: Are self-serve bars cooler than breweries? I’m now starting to think so

OP-ED: Are self-serve bars cooler than breweries? I’m now starting to think so
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Pour Taproom, Hoppin’, and soon Pinhouse have brought the pour-your-own beer craze to Charlotte.

Initially I was concerned that the self-serve concept wouldn’t be able to compete with Charlotte’s affection for breweries.

I was wrong.

Not only are the self-serve bars a strong alternative to the brewery scene, they’re actually cooler than breweries at this point. Here are five reasons why.

Are self-serve bars cooler than breweries?

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(1) You don’t have to wait for a bartender

I’m sick of squeezing between banker bros to wait for a bartender to notice me at breweries. Isn’t that the same stuff that makes the club scene so obnoxious?

In fact, breweries are becoming a lot like clubs: slow bar service, overcrowded, music’s way too loud.

Nothing kills my buzz like waiting three minutes to find a spot to order, waiting another three for the bartender, and having to scream my order over some 21 year old’s indie folk playlist.

Self-serve bars are faster. Less time at the bar means more time with friends and more time to drink.


(2) They’re not crowded with dogs and babies (yet)

If you want to host your two-year old’s birthday party at a brewery, more power to you.

If your Golden Retriever is just so special that you and the brewery owners feel the need to violate local laws, then bring it inside.

But me and others who want to drink in an environment for adult humans will find our way to the self-serve bars.

I’m crossing my fingers that this trend continues. I don’t hate dogs or babies, but the self-serve bars should be one place where we can get a little break from them. A toddler or two and a couple of dogs is fine, cute even. But as long as breweries are swarming with them and self-serve bars aren’t, breweries have to take the L on coolness.

[Agenda related guide: Top 11 breweries for babies, ranked]


(3) There’s a larger variety of choices

It’s a total bummer to hit up a new brewery only to find that they’ve only got 4-5 beers on tap.

I’m not trivializing how long it takes to develop and brew new beers. I’m just saying that’s a problem I never have to worry about at self-serve bars.

Both Pour and Hoppin’ host dozens of options, many of them rotating. They’ve even got a bunch of the top local brews.

I’m fine giving up the aesthetic of drinking something brewed in-house if it means that my options become a lot more open.


(4) Choosing your own glass is sneakily fun

It’s hard to describe the pure joy of choosing your own glass at a self-serve bar.

This is going to sound super Millennial of me, but this added element of choice makes drinking more fun. Checking out that sparkly row of glasses and getting to choose which logo you want to drink out of is way more fun than just getting whatever the bartender grabs.

I’ve wondered if this is something that breweries can replicate. Even if they did, point #1 is still in play. It’d just slow down the process even more.

The more personal choice I have while drinking, especially if it’s efficient, the more hip the entire process becomes.


(5) Brewery owners are getting a little complacent

When was the last time a brewery opened with a unique concept?

Breweries are becoming very paint-by-numbers. Old warehouse space, high-tops, unfinished ceiling, industrial theme, two IPAs, two stouts, two sours, run/yoga club, and a food truck outside.

It’s so formulaic.

The business model will be safe because people always want somewhere to drink, but if the self-serve owners open up more hybrid concepts like the bowling element of Pinhouse, it’ll be tough to justify going to an empty warehouse to do your drinking.

It’s not a competition, but the self-serve bars are winning. Cheers to them.

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