TRIA TAPROOM, on Walnut Street just off Rittenhouse Square, opened this week with a newfangled web-based beer-auditing system that may finally solve that most niggling of First World Beer Geek problems: Who's pouring what?
Called Bevchek, it's part of a POS (point of sale) system that monitors beer and wine sales and tracks inventory. Nearly every bar or restaurant you've visited has some type of POS, relaying waitresses' orders to the kitchen and spitting out credit card receipts.
(Bartenders will often tell you that POS truly stands for "piece of s---" because of the systems' occasional digital glitches.)
Bevchek counts every ounce that goes through every one of Tria's 40 beer, wine and cider taps. The "real-time" monitoring is mainly designed to prevent "slippage," industry speak for over-pours, freebies and downright theft.
That's backroom administrative stuff you really don't care about.
Here's the big technological breakthrough for beer fanatics: The bar's inventory is online.
Go to tria.bevchek.com and you'll see a rundown of everything on tap. Click on a specific brew, say Saison de Pipaix, and you'll find info about the brewery, style, price, alcohol content and a brief description of the beer itself. Plus, the screen shows how much beer is left in the keg. (Only 10 percent of this Belgian farmhouse ale remained when I last checked, so you better hurry.)
There are no drink menus at Tria Taproom. Before ordering, just consult your smartphone or one of the bar's handheld electronic tablets.
A spokesman for Canadian-based Bevchek said it's the first POS of its kind in Philadelphia.
When I stopped by the bar Monday, owner Jon Myerow told me there were a few kinks to work out, but he was pleased with the system. "I'm a believer in this technology," he said. "I've always believed in the notion of monitoring all our products for guests, to make sure we're giving them what they're asking for."
Now, to many of you, this will sound like a bunch of gee-whiz techno gimmickry. Plenty of bars, after all, do perfectly well just scrawling their tap lists on chalkboards.
But for beer geeks, a real-time online draft list is the missing link in the nightly pursuit for the elusive perfect pint.
It doesn't take much of a visionary to see where this could lead: A live database of every tap in town.
The city already has something close to that in PhillyTapFinder.com, an online listing of taps at more than 100 bars in the city and suburbs.
It's a terrific service, one that an average of 750 to 1,000 beer drinkers consult daily. But as Philly Tap Finder's founder, Jared Littman, acknowledged, it's not exactly seamless.
Currently, Littman depends on bartenders and owners to individually send their tap lists by email, text or a simple photograph of a chalkboard. Then he adds every beer - up to hundreds every day - one by one, onto the website. So far, he's charted more than 6,000 separate brands.
It takes time and, because kegs kick hourly, it's not always up to date.
When I called Littman about Bevchek, he was already on the same page as me.
"I love it. Anything that gives more information to the consumer, I'm all for it," he said. "The next step is figure out how to get all this info onto one site, and make it automated."
Exactly. I see a single app that alerts me when my favorite IPA goes on tap. Then it automatically sends a car to pick me up, invites my Facebook friends to belly up to the bar with me, Instagrams a photo of my pint, signals the Internet jukebox to play "Gimme Shelter," tweets my Yelp! review, calculates the bartender's tip, and texts my wife with some lame excuse for missing dinner with the in-laws.
Nerds, get to work on this, now.
"Joe Sixpack" is by Don Russell, director of Philly Beer Week. For more on the beer scene, sign up for his weekly email update at joesixpack.net. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.