Brandon Fralic | 09/17/2018 | Craft Beer, Restaurants, Savor - Food & Fun |   

Downtime Taps: Experience the Pour in Ferndale

Rachel taps her e-bracelet on the digital reader, pours herself a 6oz sample of Atwood Ales En Blanche, and takes a seat in the taproom. Sure, she’s a Cicerone Certified Beer Server with years of experience in the industry. But at Downtime Taps, you don’t have to be. Anyone age 21+ can pour their own beer, cider, and wine from the tap at Ferndale’s self-serve taphouse.

Walking in, we’re greeted by Downtime Taps co-owners Chay Tan and Tomas Aminnie. They show us the ropes and we’re pouring in no time. Like many first-time customers, we want to know: how’d such a unique business end up in Ferndale? Here’s the story behind Downtime Taps.

The closure of Ferndale’s former watering hole, Maggie’s Pub, left local beer enthusiasts without a neighborhood gathering place in 2017. When Chay and Tomas recognized the need for a new taproom in town, they wanted to make the experience a unique one. Tomas had seen the self-serve concept in action on the east coast; he knew it would be a great addition to Whatcom County’s thriving beer scene. He joined forces with business partner (and Coconut Kenny’s owner) Chay, and together they opened Downtime Taps in July 2018.

Chay and Tomas worked collaboratively with the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Control Board to open the first self-serve establishment in Washington State. Their resulting high-tech taproom marries the benefits of a classic pub (good beer and good company) with an interactive, educational experience. And as an added bonus, customers rarely have to wait in line for their pour.

Downtime Taps aims to be an inclusive space for beginners and enthusiasts alike. Never had a craft brew before? This is the perfect place to try several styles and see what you like. Beer connoisseurs will have no trouble finding a few favorites as well, with the option of sampling cider and wine as an attractive alternative. It’s a fun, fresh approach to the taproom model that could very well catch on throughout the state. “We think this is the way craft beer was meant to be delivered,” Chay says.

Ready to experience the pour for yourself? The first step is to check in with taproom staff, showing your ID and a credit card in exchange for an iPourIt e-bracelet. Staff are on hand to show you the ropes, but it’s pretty straightforward. After browsing the 32 available taps, select the shape and size of glass you prefer, give it a quick rinse, and go for the pour. Tap your e-bracelet on the reader to activate your beverage of choice, then pour as much or little as you wish. The digital screen tells you how many ounces you’ve poured, and the e-bracelet keeps track of your total amount dispensed. When you’ve had your fill, return the e-bracelet to pay and check out. That’s it!

Each e-bracelet is activated for up to 24oz. Once you hit that limit, the bracelet will stop working until you check in with a staff member to re-activate. This simple threshold is a safety measure that prevents overservice. Otherwise, you’re free to taste at will. New to craft beer? Try a few ounces of IPA, pilsner, or porter. Find one you like and fill up a glass, or sample to your heart’s content.

Each beer, cider, and wine on tap features a digital screen, offering information and per-ounce pricing. Ecliptic Mexican Lager, for example, is 4.8% alcohol by volume (ABV) with a rating of 20 on the international bittering units (IBU) scale. And there's always something new to try. Downtime Taps never replaces empty kegs with the same beverage. Rather, they prefer to always have something new and fresh on tap. Customers can view the current offerings online, and even play a part in the selection process by voting for their favorite beer.

While there’s no kitchen at Downtime Taps, food is available from neighboring businesses like Coconut Kenny’s. Food trucks are often on hand, and you can bring in your own food if you wish. As Downtime Taps is strictly a bar, minors are not allowed. Dogs are welcome in the outdoor seating area.

In addition to consuming beer on premise, customers can get a crowler to-go. As for entertainment, Downtime Taps hosts regular events — from live music to yoga sessions and trivia. Keep an eye on their events calendar for upcoming entertainment. Cheers!

        We acknowledge that Whatcom County is located on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish Peoples. They cared for the lands that included what we’d call the Puget Sound region, Vancouver Island and British Columbia since time immemorial. This gives us the great obligation and opportunity to learn how to care for our surrounding areas and all the natural and human resources we require to live. We express our deepest respect and gratitude for our indigenous neighbors, the Lummi Nation and Nooksack Tribe, for their enduring care and protection of our shared lands and waterways.
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