Come December, Valencia Street will be the proud recipient of San Francisco’s first stand-alone self-service taproom, Brew Coop. Yes, like self-serve fro-yo — but with booze.
“We’re basically giving the users the ability to try various qualities and styles of beer without having commit to a half or full pint every time,” explains Gore Song, the 27-year-old founder of the taproom.
The locally novel concept will come to life at the former Osha Thai space; the restaurant shuttered in June.
Here’s how it works: Customers will hand over their cash or credit cards at the front entrance. In exchange, they receive a glass and a scan card. The card is then used to interface with a reader above each of the 20 taps, which enables one to pour beer. The pour is measured and the customer’s card is charged by the ounce. Another four taps will be dedicated to red or white wine, sake, and kombucha.
“The vision is to give the customer the flexibility to try whatever they want,” Song said. “When you’re going to bars in the city that aren’t craft beer-focused, it’s hard to get smaller beer sizes.”
The beers, however, are not bottomless. Song said each card automatically cuts customers off after two or three beers. At that point, they have to re-up with staff, who make sure the customers are fit to imbibe another round.
The place will have a sports-bar vibe, and the menu is being put together by Chef Tim Luym of Alchemy Kitchen, with “elevated” comfort bar food, Song said.
Song, an Orange County native who landed in the Bay Area while attending the University of California at Berkeley, got the idea in 2012 while vacationing in Prague. “They had this great concept,” Song said. “We had a lot of fun, because we were able to interact with the product and do it ourselves.”
Pour-it-yourself tap rooms are not anything new in the United States. They’ve popped up in places like San Diego and San Luis Obispo — and the San Francisco Brewing Co. in Ghirardelli Square, although it is not purely a self-serve establishment.
“This has been a dream of his for a long time,” said Ben Bleiman, a co-owner of Tonic Nightlife, which runs the popular Teeth on at 19th and Mission.
Song previously worked with Tonic as a manager at Soda Popinski’s. He saved up some money while working in the food and hospitality industries, and he’s using it — as well as funding from friends and family — to open his spot.
The face of Valencia Street between 19th and 20th will look very different in the coming years, as 20 market-rate studios have been proposed to replace the Phoenix Irish Bar, next door to the future beer hall.
So, for better or worse, the corner is not losing its booze entirely.