Dining With Denise Neil

People buying beers just to watch local restaurant’s futuristic tap system fill them

You order a beer. Your bartender grabs a glass. She pulls the tap handle, waits for the foam to subside, pulls the tap handle again, waits for the foam to subside...

At one Wichita restaurant, that time-consuming beer delivery process is sooooooo 2016.

The new east-side Picasso’s Pizzeria, which opened in late October at 5900 E. Central, is the only restaurant in town using a pricey but mesmerizing new tap system sold by an Indianapolis-based company called Bottoms Up.

The system works by filling an upright glass from the bottom to the top through special-made glasses. The user sets a glass on a dispenser, presses down, and the beer fills the glass through a hole in the bottom that’s sealed with a disc-shaped magnet in the bottom of the glass. The machine automatically senses how much beer to fill the glass with and turns itself off before anything overflows.

Picasso’s owner Kurt Schmidt has his 10-tap system set up right at the front of the restaurant, where people order their food. Although the system costs much more than a traditional tap system, Schmidt says he’s already confident it will pay for itself. For one, it allows restaurateurs to extract 90 to 95 percent of the beer from each keg. A traditional tap system yields only about 70 to 80 percent.

Also, customers are so fascinated by watching the beers appear, they’re ordering more. Beer sales are way up at the new Picasso’s, Schmidt said.

Schmidt had considered installing the Bottoms Up system years ago, but when it first was offered, it could fill only one-use plastic cups, which were expensive because of the holes and magnets in the bottom.

Now, the company has developed a way to fill reusable glass pint glasses, which are much more affordable. (Though Schmidt would really prefer it if you never dropped and broke one of the glasses.) The disc magnets in the bottom of the glass aren’t reusable, and Schmidt had them printed with the letters that spell out “Picasso’s.” Anyone who collects all the letters gets a free appetizer. People also have been adhering their beer magnets to metal surfaces all over the restaurant.

One word of warning, though. Try to resist your curiosity about how the magnet holds the beer in the glass. If you press on the bottom, you’ll get very wet very fast. And Schmidt has seen it happen.

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