Couples sitting close on barstools peered over glasses of natural wine to witness the device sliding toward me across the big pink countertop—a sort of bastardized champagne flute, its stem hollowed out and uptilted into a chute for any fizzy liquid you may want to send careening down your gullet. “Here it is,” the bartender exclaimed. “The La Dive magic.”
I’ve never done a beer bong in my life, but my first face-off with the Chambong felt significantly less straightforward (and more likely to slosh away half its contents while I struggled to unleash it from its branded pedestal). I solicited some advice from my newfound mentor behind the bar: Grab it by the bell end, put the stem in your mouth, and tip it toward you. “It’s very efficient. Gone in three seconds.”
And it was! At least, I couldn’t see the bit I’d dribbled into my collar. I was busy burping, anyway, and my sudden headache had me worried that bubbles would burst from my ears like cartoon steam. “You look flustered,” my friend remarked. Correct. Also, ready to self-soothe with one of the candy-colored wine slushies spinning behind La Dive’s bar.
Everything at La Dive is so effortlessly cool—the funky mural, the beautiful people sipping natural wine, the leopard-jacketed patron drunkenly recommending potato dumplings and a French 75. It felt unlikely this mess of a bachelorette party gag gift could have much to do with that “La Dive magic.” Still, despite my initial doubts, the Chambong is no bourgeoisie excess. It costs $8 to fill with La Dive’s (natural!) cava, making this the bar’s cheapest glass. As La Dive owner Kate Opatz puts it, “It’s kind of a more party version of drinking wine.”
The Chambong was invented in Seattle in 2015. But before it found traction in this city, the flashy flute was perhaps best known among ale-chugging brewers. That’s how Matt Storm first caught wind of it, anyway. He’s served Chambongs at his pizza bar, the Masonry, since 2018, when the Fremont joint took part in a big-deal annual beer event called Zwanze Day. Oklahoma’s Heirloom Rustic Ales sent a keg for the occasion, on one tongue-in-cheek condition: Staff had to serve it in Chambongs. (The brewery sent those, too.)
Storm took great pleasure in seeing “a bunch of snooty” beer people forced to drink like college kids, and, much like a beer bong, it quickly became a group activity. “Chambongs are kitschy enough that people don’t seem to get turned off by the gluttonous debauchery of it all,” he says.
In a land of increasingly academic beverages, there’s some definite magic in bringing a little devil-may-care buffoonery back into our nights out. What’s that? Some guy perched on a nearby barstool, ready to mansplain the mysterious inner workings of this lager I ordered? Oops, sorry! It’s already gone.