Tap That opened in January to some fanfare as the first establishment in Albuquerque to deploy the burgeoning technology of self-service beer taps. The taproom has since become a popular hangout, attracting patrons with such welcoming touches as a dog-friendly patio and games of corn hole outside its strip mall location on Montgomery just uphill from Del Norte High School.
On a recent Saturday night, it had 36 offerings on tap, including a wide variety of local beers and a few ciders. Upon entering, you give the cashier your ID and a credit card and get a bracelet and a brief orientation, and then you’re set free to explore the long row of taps that takes up an entire wall of the industrial-style space. Each tap has a screen in front of it with information on the beverage and the price per ounce. Once you settle on a selection, you press the face of your bracelet to the Tap That logo next to the screen. With the flash of a green light, a tab is opened for you.
If you were in Denver or Austin, Texas, you’d then pour yourself a glass. But New Mexico state law prohibits bar patrons from serving themselves, so Tap That’s bartenders are there to do the pouring and, on this night, recommend a glass of scotch ale as an antidote to the chilly weather outside.
Along with providing a showcase for New Mexico brewers, Tap That offers a modest-sized menu of pub food.
Standouts include the tri-tacos ($11), a surf-and-turf collection of street tacos. The bulgogi (“fire meat” in Korean) version showcases slices of rib-eye marinated in a soy sauce mixture. Barbacoa, soft, easily shredded clumps of slow-cooked beef cheek, and an excellent fish taco made with tempura- and beer-battered tilapia round out the trio.
Fried avocado ($9) arrives looking like a clenched fist of crispy panko under a crown of greens. A cut through the panko crust reveals a flawless avocado that provides a smooth textural counterpoint to the bed of chimichurri-dressed slaw underneath. The chipotle ranch drizzle brings enough heat to light up your tongue.
Food comes out quickly in shallow metal trays, and you eat with plastic utensils. The manager walks around the room, chatting with diners over a classic rock soundtrack.
Should you find your glass empty, you’re free to resume grazing at the taps, with a caveat: The wristband will cut you off after a few drinks. This does not involve any sirens or alarms – you’ll just get a red light on your screen instead of a green one.
No matter. You’ll likely want to come back to try your own flights and mixes or choose from such specialty drinks as the Stairway to Hefen, a La Cumbre wheat ale mixed with pear and pineapple ciders.
Talk it over with the Tap That’s friendly bartenders.
They make the case that no technology, however sophisticated, can replace them.