July 25, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Majority Rules at Big Board

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
The more customers who order a specific draft beer at the Big Board on H Street Northeast — which typically has eight brews to choose from on a rotating basis — the cheaper the most-sought beverage becomes.

Imagine getting a break on something most folks in this town like/crave/require to wash away their workday blues without having to fork over a fortune to well-heeled influence peddlers. Now open your eyes, turn your ankles toward the Big Board and hoist a glass to plummeting drink prices.

The fledgling H Street Northeast hangout is the brainchild of Eric and Mark Flannery, entrepreneurial brothers-cum-restaurateurs interested in putting their stamp on the quick-casual dining scene. 

Their primary contribution to date involves turning the politically divisive theory of supply and demand completely on its head nightly: The more people  who order a specific draft beer — they typically have eight brews to choose from on a rotating basis — the cheaper the most-sought beverage becomes. 

“It creates a social atmosphere. … They try and play the board,” chef Mike
Lunsford said. Lunsford has seen customers order copycat rounds of drinks, including groups of tightly knit friends and opportunistic strangers, in a concerted effort to drive down the price of refills. 

According to Lunsford, the restaurant’s real-time beer ticker fluctuates based on a range of incoming orders (every beer, every 10 or every 50 appear to be the default settings). But he noted that the market “crashes” and resets periodically, making sustained manipulation of the free-flowing taps a near impossibility. 

“It can only go down. Which is good,” one barkeep said of the sliding-scale suds.

The beer list runs the gamut. Draft drinkers might encounter something old (can’t go wrong with a well-poured Guinness), something new (Chocolate City’s Cerveza Nacional was a malty delight), something borrowed (the thick, rich Kilkenny Irish Cream Ale) and even something blue (the easy-drinking Blue Point Toasted Lager). 

The usual suspects (Pabst Blue Ribbon tallboys, assorted Dogfish Head IPAs, Tröegs Troegenator Double Bock, Flying Dog Double Dog Double Pale Ale) round out the bottled and canned alternatives.

While we enjoyed bending the elbow alongside the scruffy bearded hipsters (faux vintage T-shirts, pre-distressed trucker caps) and desperate-to-decompress Congressional staffers (loosened ties, impeccably pressed slacks) who file in for liquid therapy each evening, the promised savings were, at best, scant. The deepest discount that flashed across the board during our visits was a $1.25 reduction on Kilkenny, which we didn’t see anyone drinking. Another night, we all but lost count of all the Peroni-filled pint glasses flying around the restaurant only to have the board mock us with a skimpy, static 50-cent deduction (must have been a 50-order night). 

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