Walk into CraftWorx Taproom at 5615 Wellington Drive in Gainesville, and the first thing you’ll notice is a wall of beer taps. Sixty to be exact. Show your ID, get a pour card, and enjoy the experience of “no beer pressure” while you sample as many varieties as you wish.
What is self pour? It means never waiting for a drink, says CraftWorx owner Chris McCarrick, who got the idea of opening a self-pour taproom after visiting a similar establishment years ago with a friend after a concert. The buddies noticed that although the Charlottesville place was busy, they didn’t have to flag down a bartender or wait for a drink – they simply got whatever they wanted themselves. Even on nights after Jiffy Lube Live concerts, McCarrick said, “There can be a couple hundred guests, and no one is waiting for a drink.”
How it works: When patrons walk in, their IDs are checked, and a credit card is swiped to open a tab. The ID and credit card are returned, and an individual pour card is given. The pour card allows patrons to access the taps and monitor their tab in real time.
Each tap has a digital screen labeled with the beer’s name, type, brewery source, ABV and price per ounce. Once selected for consumption, a screen displays the volume poured and price each time the card is used. When they’re done, visitors simply drop the cards into a tip box.
“It’s great for big groups,” McCarrick says, “because there’s no worry about splitting checks.” Everyone buys whatever they want for themselves and can buy rounds for each other—just be sure you don’t leave your card in the slot, or you could end up buying a stranger’s drink.
If a certain consumption level is reached, the card will need to be reactivated by an employee so that a sobriety check can be performed for safety.
What’s on the wall? More than beer. Of the 60 taps available, the first 52 are devoted to beer. The first 20 beers are always local; regional beers are next. And if you don’t like craft beer, there are a couple national brands at the end of the line too—as well as wine, ciders, seltzers and cocktails.
A WiskyWorx bar at the end of the tap wall features dozens of liquors for those who want to order mixed drinks. There’s also an endless $1.75 self-serve soda station for nonalcoholic beverages.
“I wanted there to be something for everyone here,” said McCarrick. “I hate when I go to a winery with friends, and the only other thing available besides wine is water.”
When asked how the beers are selected, McCarrick said that “it’s a bit of a dance.” He wants to give breweries the opportunity to showcase different options throughout the year. Because it’s summer, there are more fruity beers and sours currently. In the winter, a couple more stouts than usual will be featured. A caramel macchiato stout that “tastes like candy” is on tap now, he said.
McCarrick said he wants customers to be able to try IPAs, pilsners, stouts, lagers, sours and more. Because so much information is available on the screens, and customers can pour however much or little they want, they can experience a variety of beers.
“You’re more connected to the beer you pour,” McCarrick explains, “and I want to offer a unique experience for people know more about it.”
There’s no pressure for customers to order something hastily or be stuck with a large glass of something they don’t enjoy. McCarrick is considering tasting nights and other events for patrons to learn more. Want to see what’s on tap before you go? Follow CraftWorx on UNTAPPD.
What else is on tap? Food, theme nights and more. With a full kitchen and liquor license, CraftWorx offers more than many traditional breweries. They open every day at noon and feature barbecue from District BBQ in Bristow. Vegetarian options and a kids menu are also available for indoor and outdoor dining. To order food, scan the QR code at your table.
CraftWorx offers various theme nights throughout the week, like trivia on Wednesdays and karaoke on Thursdays. The newest weekly addition is live jazz on Mondays. Check its Facebook page for comedy nights and live bands to hit the stage on weekends.
A four-station dart board wall, video games and board games are always up for grabs. With free WiFi and a number of plush seating options up front, there’s also the option for a relaxing remote workstation.
CraftWorx also offers parking for Jiffy Lube Live concerts. It’s three-quarters of a mile or about a 15-minute walk through the VIP parking lot, says McCarrick. Customers also like to wait here for their Uber rides, he adds.
CraftWorx opened in November 2021, and McCarrick is still making plans for the space. He said he wants to convert the existing DJ booth to more taps. “I want to put 10 taps in for mixed drinks,” he said. He’s also using the space next door for overflow during concert nights or private events with catering.
McCarrick said he also wants to use the additional space for his own nano brewing where he can concoct two-barrel experimental beers. He’s discussed the idea with local microbrewers to see if they’d like to collaborate in his space since it offers them less risk.
“When you’re a small brewery and you make one beer someone doesn’t like, they may associate that beer with the brand and never try them again,” McCarrick said. “That’s high risk for them. Here, we could get funky.”
Reach Sondra Anzalone at firstname.lastname@example.org