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This State Just Got Its First Self-Serve Beer Restaurant

This bar, and others around the country, are making it easier (and so much fun) to belly up on your own.
FACT CHECKED BY Faye Brennan

The pandemic has certainly spurred some food and beverage establishments to evolve in intriguing ways, like the McDonald's loyalty program announcement and sizzling growth in BBQ. Now, a restaurant in one Southern state just announced a cool new method of beer service that puts control of the tap into patrons' hands… and a little research suggests this is a quickly growing trend.

This week, it was announced that Crave Hot Dogs and BBQ has become the first restaurant in Oklahoma where beer drinkers can serve themselves. Crave is a national chain with eight locations in six states (Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, Colorado, Louisiana, and the new location opening in Oklahoma), and their "self-serve wall"—which features local craft and domestic beer, as well as wine and cider—is a buzzed-about feature in each one. The BBQ joint also specializes in all-beef hot dogs, bratwurst, mild/hot sausages, smoked brisket, and pulled pork and chicken.

Crave isn't the only restaurant chain tapping into the growing trend of self-serve beer. Read on to learn more about this new craze, and don't miss Secret Side Effects of Drinking Beer, Says Science.

Self-service has become a priority thanks to the pandemic.

Portrait of a happy waitress working at a restaurant wearing a facemask.
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If one way you like to unwind is by sitting down at a bar and musing over the drinks menu, most of us can agree that the pandemic made it tough to do that for a while. That's one reason some dining destinations are getting creative with how you can access their products these days.

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Beer consumption habits have also changed.

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In the midst of it all, your imbibing preferences may have adapted. That keg that Costco was selling for $20 is just one example: With no bar to turn to during the pandemic, you might have been looking for fun ways to enjoy a sip at home. While a national love of craft beers had been hugely on the rise in recent years, in 2020, craft beer sales dropped, according to the Brewers Association.

Related: 10 Cocktail and Cheese Pairings You Have to Try

But now that bars are open for biz…

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With food businesses reopening after a year of contactless service, many restaurant brands are recognizing that customers have grown used to interfacing with servers less… or not at all. That's why many food and bev haunts are increasing their offerings with that self-serve or tech-fueled options, even national fast-food chains—check out This Beloved Burger Chain Is Opening 400 New Nontraditional Locations.

So, meet your new barkeep.

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Yep, increasingly, the bartender may be you.

Similar to Crave Hot Dogs and BBQ, restaurants like Oat & Stone in Bradenton, Florida have also armed their establishments with their own "tap walls." Some of these sellers provide an electronic bracelet so they can track how much beer to charge you for. They're also there to guide your thirst: Oak & Stone's tap wall is accompanied by what the restaurant calls their "beertender"—a professional who can help customers make selections to fit their tastes.

Self-serve beer has also become one reason grocery shoppers venture to some Whole Foods stores.

But hey—not so fast.

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Even as this new trend of self-serve beer catches on, we definitely wouldn't say bartenders are about to go extinct. (Heck, a lot of us would miss them!) Drinks self-service might save on some costs for restaurants and bars, but it's probably not likely that you'll see this feature sweep into every spot you frequent. Alcohol regulations for food and beverage establishments vary from state to state, and offering the self-service option requires special licensing provisions.

But, if you're a beer fan who digs exploring, a tour to find tap walls could be a worthy adventure. Also check out The 10 Best American Cities for Beer, According to New Data.

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Krissy Gasbarre
Krissy is a senior news editor at Eat This, Not That!, managing morning and weekend news related to nutrition, wellness, restaurants and groceries (with a focus on beverages), and more. Read more
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