First Look

First Look: First Draft Taps Into RiNo Beer Scene

A new concept in beverage service kicks off tonight when First Draft will unveil its self-service beer system in RiNo. First Draft opens at 5 p.m. today with a wall of forty tap handles and an electronic system built by iPourIt that allows customers to pour their own beers (measured down to a tenth of an ounce), track the amount they've been drinking, and taste as many or as few of the beers, ciders and wines as they want.

First Draft is set up so that customers open a tab at the service counter, where they then receive a card that activates the taps. Cards will be stocked with forty ounces — and then proceed to tap into them at the tap wall, where a wave of the card activates a green light to let you know it's time to pour. "Taptenders" are available to give guidance on beer selection and pouring technique (hint: open the tap all the way or you'll just get foam). Glasses — tulip, shaker pint or wine stem — are marked with pour lines so you can gauge how much you're serving yourself. Each tap also has a tablet screen that describes the beverage and displays your information, including how much you just poured and how many ounces you have left on your card.

This is the Skynet of beer systems: It's smart enough to stop the beer stream in mid-pour if you go over your 40-ounce quota and will reserve pours of special-release beers for you at your request if you sign up for the reserve club — that way, there's a special beer waiting for you when you walk in the door. You can also get printouts of the beers you've tried to keep track of your favorites. One thing iPourIt can't do is determine if you've over-served yourself, so the 40-ounce limit is in place to help staff monitor drinking; a 24-ounce card refill is available (at First Draft's discretion) at the service counter if you blow through your first allotment.

Owner Mark Slattery says the idea behind First Draft is sharing and building community, so the dining room and the food menu are designed to encourage interaction with friends and other guests. All of the seating is at community tables, and the menu features a wide range of shareable plates from chef Eric Lee, whose previous experience includes time at some of  Boulder's top eateries: Jax Fish House, The Kitchen and Cafe Aion. The menu starts off with house-made charcuterie and cheese boards, kale and chickpea fritters (like a greener falafel) and a range of sliders — yes, there's a mini burger, but there's also an "offal and apples" slider made with boudin, pork terrine and pate. Larger plates include skirt steak, a de-boned half chicken and rabbit leg confit.

Brunch kicks off tomorrow morning at Frist Draft and will be served every Saturday and Sunday. After today, First Draft will also be open at noon for lunch daily. Keep reading for more photos.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Mark Antonation is the former Westword Food & Drink Editor. In 2018, he was named Outstanding Media Professional by the Colorado Restaurant Association; he's now with the Colorado Restaurant Foundation.
Contact: Mark Antonation