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Just walk in and pour yourself a cold one. Digital beer wall lets you do just that

How to use Turlock’s new digital beer wall

The Pizza Factory in Turlock has installed a new self-serve digital beer tap in its restaurant. The system uses a bracelet that tracks customers pours. (Marijke Rowland/mrowland@modbee.com)
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The Pizza Factory in Turlock has installed a new self-serve digital beer tap in its restaurant. The system uses a bracelet that tracks customers pours. (Marijke Rowland/mrowland@modbee.com)

The technology behind pouring yourself a great draft beer hasn’t changed that much over the past few decades.

Tap the keg, tilt the glass, pull the handle and enjoy.

But now, in this era of digitized doorbells and on-demand everything, even the humble pint has gotten an upgrade. You can pour your own bit of the future at the Pizza Factory in Turlock. The popular lunch and dinner spot on West Monte Vista Avenue across from California State University, Stanislaus, has added a new, digital self-serve beer wall. The feature allows customers to pick and pull their own handles to sample as much or as little of the beers on tap — within a 32-ounce limit.

Pizza Factory owner Brent Jonson is the first and only restaurant in the Northern San Joaquin Valley to deploy the iPourIt technology. The self-serve beer tap system is pretty simple. A customer comes up, says they want to use the beer wall. Then the staff checks his or her identification and take it and a credit card to begin a tab. The customer gets a bracelet with an RFID chip which both activates the taps and keeps track of how much is poured. They are then charged by the ounce up to 32 ounces total (two 16-ounce standard pints), before they have to check back in with staff to be able to pour more.

And that’s about it.

“To me it’s just an awesome concept — getting to pour your own beer. You get to the choose the beer and how much you want,” Jonson said. “It’s just kind of fun.”

The Pizza Factory has 10 taps which feature a rotating selection of mostly California-based craft beers. Above each handle is a small, interactive touch screen where customers can tap to learn more about the beer. And for draft newbies, there’s even a “Beer Pouring 101” tutorial you can read before trying it out yourself.

The beer ranges from about $.30 to $.45 an ounce, with a full pint usually between $4 to $7 depending on style.

The bracelets have a small elastic band and a round, watch-like tag which houses the chip. Customers tap the chip against a Pizza Factory slogan above each tap, then a light turns green and, voila, pour away. Each handle will dispense a maximum of 16 ounces (no spillage). But Jonson said the real treat is sampling of one or even all 10 of the beers. Pour an ounce, pour half a pint or whatever your want to wet your whistle.

“I guess I’m a bit of a craft brew snob,” Jonson joked.

He has had artisan microbrews on tap since he took over the eight-year-old restaurant about four years ago. He had 13 regular taps, and still uses a few of them for the larger domestics like Bud and Coors. The digital taps have a couple selections from Turlock’s own Dust Bowl Brewing as well as brews by San Francisco’s 21st Amendment Brewery, Sacramento’s Track 7 Brewing Company, San Diego’s Saint Archer Brewing Co., Fortuna’s Eel River Brewing Co. and Paso Robles’s 805 Beer.

Pizza Factory manager Brigette Burgess said, after a small learning curve, most patrons really enjoy the chance to try as little or as much of the various beers, which range from light lagers to sturdy stouts, as they like.

“You can do what you want, which people really like,” she said.

The Orange County venture iPourIt is one of only a handful of companies to develop and sell self-serve beer walls. But Pizza Factory is the first locally to embrace the technology, with eateries in Sacramento and Fresno utilizing the same or similar systems.

“This is kind of an adventure,” Jonson said. And he is, it would seem, taking it one pour at a time.

The Pizza Factory at 1050 W. Monte Vista Ave. in Turlock is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (or later) Friday and Saturday. For more information call 209-634-5000 or visit www.pizzafactory.com.

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