At Pacific Standard, the “Wager Book” Tracks Beer-Induced Bar Bets

Ante– and bottoms– up.

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Except for those entered in the official Wager Book at Pacific Standard, the 5-year-old craft beer and sports bar on the Boerum Hill side of lower Fourth Avenue. Take a gamble at this watering hole, and the risks include having your silly stakes recorded for posterity.

Such as:

“I wager 1 plate of cookies and a 6 pack of delicious beer that the Oregon Ducks will dominate this season.”

“Michael Crudele bets J-C. G. R. one day of slavery that he cannot drink one gallon of milk in one hour without throwing up.”

“MJ will be the ultimate wussy and not steal the pint glass from this bar.”

“Rachel will need help to figure out the stereo.”

“John Elway will be struck by lighting as God’s punishment for trading the chosen one.”

True, the Pacific Standard Wager Book is something short of a legally binding document, though barkeeps will stamp your entry with a seal upon request. But it’s so popular, the third version of the register—a battered red six- by nine-inch Spell-Write steno book from Mead—is nearly full as of this writing.

The Book—open to anyone who asks for it—lets bettors keep track of both boasts and the ante, says Jonathan Stan, who opened the place with his college bud John Rauschenberg in 2007. Stan (who cooked at Chez Panisse and the Spotted Pig) and Rauschenberg (a former editor at the Oxford University Press) attended UC Berkeley together before both moved to Brooklyn in the early 2000s. They share a passion for sports and small-batch, full-flavored beer, but also dreamed of curating a wager book before they even opened their woodsy space, whose book-filled back room channels Berkeley’s brainy Telegraph Avenue. Luckily for them, the betcha-book antes usually consist of the superior suds they sell. (“I, Andrew Baker, wager with Matt Griffin that Plastic will get into Telluride. And rock the pants off somebody big. A good IPA if I win, a solid stout if I lose.”)

The idea for the Wager Book, says Stan, was lifted from a U.K. trip to the Bear Inn, a 770-year-old public house in Oxford thought to be one of the oldest in England. That bar has been collecting wagers since the 1300s—one can envision the Earl of Salisbury betting the Duke of Clarence a pint of bitter over barmaids and battles.

These days, most of what goes into Pacific Standard’s Wager Book, says Stan, are “bizarre sports bets or you-won’t-find-a-girlfriend-before-I-do.’” Though “a lot of them are things that don’t many any sense,” he says with a shrug, “because it’s just drunk people.”

Photo credit: Emily Dryden

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Rachel Wharton is the former deputy editor of Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan. She won a 2010 James Beard food journalism award, holds a master’s degree in Food Studies from New York University, and has more than 15 years of experience as a writer, editor and reporter. A North Carolina native and a former features food reporter for the New York Daily News, she edited the Edible Brooklyn cookbook and was the co-author of both Handheld Pies and DiPalo's Guide to the Essential Foods of Italy. Her work also appears in publications such as The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Saveur.