Duluth Tap Exchange brings self-serve brews to Lincoln Park

The Duluth Beer Exchange will feature 40 self-serve taps offering beer, wine, cider and other beverages. The space is expected to open in December.

Beer and wine lovers will fill their own glass in a new, high-tech Lincoln Park drinking establishment scheduled to open this winter.

Duluth real estate agent and commercial developer Jordan DeCaro announced plans earlier this week to open the Duluth Beer Exchange at 1905 W. Superior St. The new business venture features a beer wall — similar to a convenience store soda fountain — where customers can choose from 40 different taps while serving themselves a cold refreshing beverage.

That’s right: No bartenders.

Duluth real estate agent Jordan DeCaro plans to open a new tap room in Lincoln Park.

DeCaro said the project offers beer and wine drinkers a unique experience in a cozy, new Lincoln Park night spot. The former Kirby Company vacuum shop was gutted in 2018 and the 17,500-square-foot space was redesigned as a social hall. It’s located next to another soon-to-open drinking establishment, the Noble Pour.

Duluth Beer Exchange’s tap room features custom-designed wood tables, bench seating, televisions and room for board games and food delivery.

“My biggest thing is trying to bring cool, different things to the city,” he said. “So we can let everyone enjoy some of the different and innovative ideas that are in places like Minneapolis or California.”

The Duluth Beer Exchange will use new iPourIt Inc. technology to distribute and monitor the sales of beer, cider, wine, mixed drinks and other beverages. Customers will check in with a host and confirm legal drinking-age status. Hosts run credit cards and issue wristbands which operate computer-controlled wall taps. Using the wristband, customers can determine the amount and brand of beer they wish to sample — up to 32 ounces for each purchase.

No waiting. No hassles.

DeCaro said he saw the concept in action at First Draft in Minneapolis. According to its website, the North Loop tap room and kitchen has served more than 700,000 ounces of beer, cider and wine since it opened in July, 2018.

The variety, control and fun atmosphere caught DeCaro’s attention.

“When I was there I watched a young lady and she was pouring two ounces per tap,” he said. “It was like she was having her own beer and cider tasting.”

With 40 taps to work with, DeCaro said Duluth Beer Exchange will balance its offerings between 10 must-have classics, 10 local favorites, Lincoln Park specialties, wine taps and — sometime in the future — craft cocktails.

A Duluth native, DeCaro has worked in residential and commercial real estate for eight years. He branched out and opened an East Hillside Toppers Pizza franchise in June 2018 and planned a second Duluth location at 1905 W. Superior St.

Duluth Beer Exchange will be located in 1905 W. Superior St., seen here on the right in the same block as OMC Smokehouse.

But the free-wheeling, fun and experimental nature of the self-serve tap room fits better with the fresh, young vibe making its way into Lincoln Park, he said.

“Being able to support all the breweries and cideries, that’s what we’re here for,” he said. “We’re bringing everyone under one roof. You can enjoy Bent Paddle, Wild State. You can enjoy Duluth Cider, Castle Danger. We kind of wanted to be able to give it a different twist as far as the customer experience.”

In a press release, iPourIt Inc. Vice President Darren Nicholson said the self-serve tap system is designed to bring the community together in a new, innovative way. “We are continuing to revolutionize the Lincoln Park area and the way patrons enjoy time with family and friends,” he said.

The California-based IPourIt Inc. has installed 5,100 taps across North America since its founding in 2012, according to its website. The company reports 8.9 million people have used its self-serve system in the past seven years.

“We’re going to have fun with it,” said DeCaro. “I think people are really going to be wowed.”

6 Comments

Paul Lundgren

about 10 months ago

I have a few observations to share that might be helpful, since most Duluthians have never been to a pour-your-own establishment. It's not necessarily a better or worse drinking experience than traditional bars, it's just different.

Yes, it is more expensive, but it's not a lot more expensive. The value is that instead of buying two pints of craft beer for about $12 you can buy more than a dozen small pours that are the equivalent of two pints for about $15.

Yes, you don't have a human being pouring your suds for you and telling you about the robust oak and tea-leaf notes or whatever, but you have a touchscreen to read that info if you want to.

In short: If all you want is a pint of Bent Hop or Castle Cream, you should go to the breweries that make them, or to a traditional bar or tap room. If you want to sample a crazy abundance of different beer, then a pour-your-own establishment is an even better way to do it than buying a flight at your local brewery.

In particular, you might want to try a weird/harsh beer like a peanut butter and chocolate porter or a mint stout, but not drink a whole pint. Pouring your own puts you in charge of that.

Below is my receipt from drinking at Oak & Stone in Florida. It's not a perfect comparison of what Duluth Beer Exchange will charge, but it gives you an idea. On average I paid 47 cents per ounce. A pint of craft beer in Duluth can range from $4 to $8. If it's $6 the cost per ounce is 37 cents.



As you can see, I took just a sip of some beers; others I found exceptional and returned to for more.

Matt Hill

about 10 months ago

I'd like it to sample a lot of beers. My g/f will like it because she can get small amounts as she can't drink a whole pint.

Question. Is it "on premises" only, or can you fill growlers?

Kelly Lou Archambeault

about 10 months ago

I do think it's awesome that they are trying to make Lincoln Park better, but how about the families that have absolutely nothing to do with their families. All Duluth is turning out to be is like Superior used to be -- bars bars and more bars. How about looking into making another roller skating place, or an actual video arcade place that doesn't include drinking. One day we might get future business owners who care about all the people in the Northland, not just the drinkers.

Rae

about 10 months ago

I just experienced one of these on the West Coast, and thoroughly enjoyed it.   

A piece of advice: Make sure the user before you moved the tap handle back to neutral before you drop in your card. I, unfortunately, dispensed about $5 of beer straight down the drain when I didn't realize the handle was still in pour/open mode and dropped my card in, while still holding my glass.

Paul Lundgren

about 10 months ago

In response to Matt's question: No, you can't fill a growler. In Minnesota only brew pubs and production breweries can sell growlers. 

Paul Lundgren

about 8 months ago



Update: The name has apparently changed again. Originally it was Up North Beer Exchange, then Duluth Beer Exchange, and now it is Duluth Tap Exchange.

And it opened on Jan. 18. Yes, it's "now now open." Later now? No, now now.

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