Over the past week, a handful of local blogs have been abuzz with news that a new bar had opened downtown that lets you pour your own beer. I was suspicious. The concept of pouring your own beer sounds much better in theory than in practice, I thought. And while I’m still skeptical about what type of person will be drawn to this quirk, Keg No. 229 (229 Front St., at Peck Slip, Financial District) has credentials that make it a promising venue for craft beer downtown.
First, the whole self-serve beer thing is much more toned down than an all-out draft beer free-for-all. There are four kiosks with two taps each that can be used by larger groups of people (there are four seats at each kiosk). You’re limited to those two beers, but there’s usually two contrasting beer styles paired on those taps (for example, above is Kelso Pilsner and Captain Lawrence Brown Bird Brown Ale). And if there’s something that doesn’t suit your fancy on those two taps, you can always order from their ten taps at the bar.
The beer is dispensed through a metered system, which is pre-programmed based on how many ounces of beer you purchase through your server. You pay by the ounce - 37 cents an ounce, to be exact - which works out to about $6 a pint. A screen embedded in the table at each kiosk measures your consumption.
Since this system takes only one corner of the bar and can only serve about two dozen people, it may not turn Keg No. 229 into the sh*tshow that I feared. In fact, despite being quirky, the self-serve beer system is ideal for watching sporting events (there’s a big flatscreen TV right next to these kiosks) or a night out with a few friends.
A side note, by the way: if you’re going to pour your own beer, do it right and refer to this manual from the Brewers Association on the perfect draft pour.
But let’s say you’re going out for a quick beer or two and would rather someone else do the beer pouring for you. That might be the better option. After all, why limit yourself to two beers and struggle with pouring a beer with the perfect head? Even as a stand-alone craft beer bar without the quirky self-pouring contraptions, Keg No. 229 holds its own.
The beer list is a work-in-progress and Keg No. 229’s owners say it’s already rotating, but it already boasts a strong variety of draft, bottled, and canned American craft beer, including selections from Ithaca, Southern Tier, Full Sail, Oskar Blues, and local selections from Sixpoint, Kelso, and Captain Lawrence. They’re also reasonably-priced, with bottles and pints averaging about $6. There’s food, too - including burgers, wings, and the usual bar food that complements beer well. It’s sister to Bin No. 220 across the street, which lends credence to its food credentials.
The vibe of Keg No. 229 is upscale, but the service is friendly, not snobbish. It’ll fit in well downtown, serving the Financial District crowd and the tourists from South Street Seaport alike. But people live around here, too, and this neighborhood was in desperate need of a craft beer option. Now, they have one. You might know someone who lives down here and mock them openly for living in a “dead zone.” Now, it might actually be worth venturing downtown to visit them.