Beachwood Brewing's high-tech Flux Capacitor, which might just be the future of draft beer.
At last October's Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado, I drank enough beer to swell my liver to the size of a cantaloupe.
This is as pleasurable as it is painful. I do not recover from hangovers quite as quickly as I used to, forcing me to wear sunglasses indoors and swallow Ibuprofen by the fistful. But my desire to overindulge is an important one, dear readers: to inform you about the best new breweries I wish we had in New York.
One of my top discoveries in 2012 was Long Beach, California's Beachwood Brewing. On a tiny 10-barrel system (a bit more than 300 gallons at a time), the BBQ restaurant (it also has a location in Seal Beach) cranks out a dizzying array of top-of-their class IPAs such as the tropical, resinous Amalgamator; citrusy and melony Citraholic; and the Hop Ninja, which is dry-hopped four times with Simcoe, Amarillo and Columbus hops. The bitter gems are complemented by globe-hopping beers including the toffee-touched Full Malted Jacket Scotch ale, nitrogen-dispensed Bulldog dry Irish stout and Mocha Machine, an imperial-strength coffee and chocolate porter. Sounds tasty, right?
Darn skippy. Too bad most of Beachwood's beers are reserved for its two BBQ restaurants and a handful of accounts in Southern California. To get another taste of these terrific nectars, I'd need to book a flight to the West Coast. At least was the case until March, when a plane ride was exchanged for a train ride.
Not far from the G train in Greenpoint you'll find Tørst, the sleek, Scandinavian-style game-changer run by an all-star team including 12 Percent Imports' Brian Ewing, Evil Twin's Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø, Momofuku vet Daniel Burns and Jon Langley, formerly of DBGB. When the crew decided to open the bar, they wanted to showcase the best and brightest in craft beer in America and around the world. That meant plenty of Cantillon, Hof ten Dormaal and selections from Stillwater—basically, anything that was funky, smoky, hoppy or interesting. Such a pedigreed selection of beer did not deserve to be dispensed via a standard draft system.
Most tap lines are set up to dispense beer at around 36 to 38°F, a chilly temperature range that is optimum for mass-market lagers such as Budweiser and Miller Lite. That's because frostier temperatures mute a beer's aroma and flavor and accentuate carbonation's trademark tingle. (Ever had a warm Bud? Blech.) However, beers such as imperial stouts, barley wines and IPAs should not be served as cold as the Rocky Mountains. At warmer temperatures, aromas unfold and blossom.
Furthermore, warmer temperatures demand different blends of gas and nitrogen. The industry standard is a 60/40 (carbon dioxide to nitrogen), which is just dandy for Coors Light. But if, say, you were to pour a strapping stout at a more appropriate 54°F, you might need a 95/5 ratio to serve a spot-on pint. Compounding matters, most bars have taps with permanent settings, meaning a stout tap must always be used to dispense a stout or a similar style.
"It’s unacceptable that we let Bud, Miller and Coors set the standard for how we pour beer," says co-owner Gabe Gordon. Seeking greater control over his beers, Gordon created the Flux Capacitor, a custom-designed, draft system that allows bartenders to instantly adjust gas blends. Under-carbonated draft beers, especially on kegs that might take a week to kick, were a thing of the past. "If your first pour was the way the brewery wanted it, shouldn’t the last pour be just as good?" says Gordon, whose system can also adjust over-carbonated beers on the fly.
Tørst saw the Flux Capacitor was the future of serving beer. The team hired Gordon to install a version of his high-tech draft system at their bar in Brooklyn, which was designed with both a cold room and a warm room that stored beers at 54°F. With such a perfect system in place, wouldn't it make sense to pour more perfect beers? Like, say, offerings from Beachwood?
With the assistance of 12 Percent Imports, Gordon ships a half dozen kegs to Tørst each month—the only bar in the Big Apple to serve Beachwood's beers on draft. Even sparing this small amount can be a big headache. "What we send to Tørst we have to strategically save up," Gordon says. "It’s just real informal right now. I would love nothing more than to expand distribution, but we’re just tiny. I’m honored that they asked for my beer."
What are you waiting for? Go on, get to Tørst on the double. There's no telling when the next shipment of Beachwood will wash up in Brooklyn.