For over the last year, craft beer lovers in Ferndale have had to make the drive into Bellingham to enjoy a pint. Since Maggie’s Pub closed in early 2017, there hasn’t been a taproom in Ferndale, making it hard for some residents to justify going out, weighing the risk of drinking and driving or an expensive Uber home.
Ferndale’s beer-related problems should be solved this spring, when DownTime Taps opens its doors and joints the Whatcom County beer community. Co-owners Tomas Aminnie and Chay Tan are eagerly awaiting the completion of their space, which will be located at 1730 Labounty Drive.
“We all know that taphouses, brewpubs and breweries are a big deal in Whatcom County; we’re just going to be one of a lot of great ones,” Tan said of entering the beer community. “All of them are unique in their different way.”
Amminie and Tan have worked together for eight years, Tan as the owner of multiple Coconut Kenny’s locations, and Amminie as the manager of the Ferndale location. While Coconut Kenny’s does have some beer on tap, serving pints to Ferndale isn’t their primary focus. After seeing a need for craft beer in town, Amminie approached Tan about opening a taphouse, thus was born, DownTime Taps.
Other than being the only taphouse in Ferndale, DownTime is setting itself apart from every other craft beer option in Washington state; skip the line and the guy sampling eight beers in front of you. DownTime Taps will be self-serve.
This is pretty revolutionary, considering self-serve beer isn’t actually legal in Washington state yet. Tan and Amminie have been working closely with self-serve tap system provider, iPourIt and the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Control Board to make this a legal option.
Washington is one of six states not to already have legalized self-serve beer and wine, and DownTime will be a big part in making this idea safe and efficient.
While pouring your own beer may seem complicated, DownTime has a system in place to ensure the customer is getting an easy and hands-on experience.
When you walk into DownTime, instead of heading straight to a bar where they may be a line to get a beer, you check in with the employee at the counter. Like any bar they check your ID, which they scan into a system to check for validation. You also start an account with a credit or debit card, which keeps track of how much beer you’ve had since you’ve been there, making it easy to prevent overservice.
At this point, the employee gives you an iPourIt e-bracelet, which you use to activate the tap you want to pour from on the tap wall. You can pour as much as you want from that tap, meaning you can commit to a full pint or pour yourself a sampler of multiple beers. Everything is priced by the ounce, allowing customers to try a little of everything they wanted to taste, without holding up a line or settling for a beer they didn’t love, out of fear for asking to taste too many. Screens will show what resembles a “sale sheet” for every beer on the tap wall.
“What’s cool is the LCD screens that allow the customer to read up on the beer they might drink,” Aminnie said. “This gives breweries the opportunity to describe their product. I know they put a lot of time and effort and this will let them talk about it a little more.”
There can be a slight learning curve if you’ve never poured a beer before, but a DownTime employee will be at the tap wall at all times to help anyone who needs it. The system is also calibrated to pour well, and slightly slower so it’s easy for everyone, regardless of their beer-pouring experience.
Because iPourIt has such a high-tech system, they’re able to collect data from the 104 locations who use their system. The average customer using the iPourIt system visited the tap wall 4.6 times in their time at the given taphouse, and poured 5.5 ounces each visit to the tap wall.
“This [data] shows that people are wanting to taste craft brews, not necessarily get inebriated from it or drink large amounts of it,” Tan said of the customers using iPourIt and his expectations. “They want to experience the brew up close, and in smaller portions.”
The system maxes you out and shuts off your bracelet after 24 ounces of beer in order to prevent over-serving someone. In this instance, since that’s a little less than 2 pints, it’s up to the employee to decide if you are allowed more on your bracelet.
By implementing this system, DownTime is setting itself apart and hopefully setting up self-serve laws for success. Having control over your own beer experience sounds appealing, as Tan puts it, it’s like Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt, but for adults.
As far as beer varieties go, having 32 taps will allow DownTime to have a handful of certain handles dedicated to Whatcom County’s breweries and the rest will be beers you can’t necessarily find easily in Bellingham. Aminnie and Tan are also playing around with the idea of having customer choice taps, where customers can choose from different beer possibilities what they’d like to see on tap at DownTime.
As far as food, DownTime’s convenient location will allow customers to visit surrounding businesses for outside food, such as Tan’s Coconut Kenny’s location in Ferndale, which happens to be in the same business complex. The taproom will be brand new and have a garage door that opens to an outdoor patio space, perfect for their late-spring/early summer opening.
Both Aminnie and Tan describe themselves as casual beer drinkers with a mind for business, but see themselves becoming more evolved beer drinkers after opening DownTime.
“Being there day in and day out I’ll meet a lot of beer fanatics and get to know them and talk to them. I think that will definitely change me [as a beer drinker],” Aminnie said.
DownTime is taking a unique approach to craft beer in Whatcom County, and this customizable experience that gives control to the customer sets them apart from every other craft beer experience in the state. While they are still under construction, you can start practicing pouring your own beers at home before their opening in early summer. Ferndale isn’t just recieving a new craft beer hub, but one of unprecedented style at that.