Nitro Beer: It’s What’s on Tap

Tap and Barrel Nitro Beer

If there were a beauty pageant for beers, Guinness Stout would surely have a shot at the crown. Whether or not you’re a fan, the slow separation of rich, black stout and the creamy tan head until they strike a perfect balance is something to behold. That theatrical pour, however, has more to do with the draft system than the beer itself. The beauty comes from the nitro tap line, and it’s not just for Irish stouts anymore.

When Vincent Minutella bought what is now the Black Sheep Ale House in Mineola, it was a “little Irish pub” with five tap lines. He added 20 more, plus a cask engine, but kept the existing nitro tap in place. He uses the taps to draw beer that already contain nitrogen gas, which was added by the brewer to enhance the suds. These are usually dark stouts or porters, though he has been known to pull nitro IPA. In addition,un-nitrogenated beer passes through the nitrogen nozzle for a quicker, smoother pour and creamy mouthfeel. “The brewer made the beer, who am I to change it?” says Minutella, which is why he never adds nitrogen to a beer brewed without it. He instead pushes the beer along with a gas mix of nitrogen and carbon dioxide.

The Black Sheep Ale House is also one of the few places on Long Island with authentic cask beer. Cask ales are served at a higher temperature and with less carbonation than a typical beer; it takes some getting used to. Unlike nitro beers, cask ales are not usually limited by style and everything from a pale ale to an imperial stout can be in cask. “Once people find they enjoy cask beers, they will try any style,” says Minutella. “I like that beer is a living thing. The beer that I have in this moment is going to be different from how it is at the end of the night.”

Nitro pours are also always on the menu at Brewology, at the original in Speonk and the new spot in Port Jefferson. “A lot of customers notice the difference,” says owner Roger Bencosme. “The creaminess is just unparalleled.” They currently pour Empire Brewing Company Cream Ale on nitro at both locations. “I’ve tried it on a regular tap and it’s just not the same,” he adds. But his favorite is Blue Point’s Armchair Nitro Stout.

Nitro beer is also available at Blue Point Brewery in Patchogue, Tap and Barrel in Hauppauge (pictured) and several other bars and restaurants across Long Island.

This article originally appeared on Edible Long Island.

Brickhouse Brewery: A Profile

Brickhouse Brewery Arthur Zimmerman and Paul Komsic

Patchogue, a harbor front village on the South Shore of Long Island, New York, is home to a bustling main street with 20+ bars and restaurants including the centrally located BrickHouse Brewery. The brewpub occupies the oldest commercial building in town (built in 1850). The building housed Shand’s hardware and general store for 75 years before they closed shop in 1990. Five years later, the building was purchased from the Shand family and BrickHouse Brewery was born.

Among the original group of owners was Tom Keegan who is still involved in the business today. His son, also named Tom, owns Keegan Ales in Kingston, New York, which is why you’ll usually see at least one Keegan brew, typically Hurricane Kitty, on tap at the BrickHouse.

With the Shand’s sign still behind the bar, BrickHouse Brewery has become a Long Island staple over the last twenty years. Outfitted with a 10 barrel brewery, full bar, kitchen and stage for live music, it wouldn’t be that difficult to overlook the fact that BrickHouse is in fact a brewery and not just a restaurant that produces a few house beers. New brewmaster Arthur Zimmerman is setting out to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Zimmerman was introduced to the craft while interning for the environmental health and safety department at Coors. A senior brewer gave him a tour and explained the process, and something about beer “struck home for him.” After having a desire to experiment with brewing more than one recipe, Zimmerman began homebrewing, moved on to work at Funkwerks and Avery in Colorado and obtained his masters of brewing from U.C. Davis. He found himself applying to BrickHouse after his girlfriend was offered a job on Long Island.

He was hired as head brewer in early 2014—ironically, the former head brewer of BrickHouse moved on to a job in Colorado—and long-time employee Paul Komsic was bumped up to assistant brewer.

Komsic was a homebrewer, getting into the hobby after falling in love with Dogfish Head India Brown Ale and reading Extreme Brewing by Sam Calagione. “Once I realized the same guy that wrote the book made Dogfish Head beer I thought, ‘I gotta try this myself.’ ” He saw the opportunity to get his foot in the door about five years ago when he took a kitchen job at the BrickHouse with his sights set on the brewery.

Experimentation in the BrewHouse

“We wanted to turn around our reputation a bit,” said Zimmerman, referring to the basic rotation of 5-6 house beers that had become expected from BrickHouse. Komsic knew what patrons wanted adding, “We were selling a lot of Blue Point Blueberry and Blue Moon. Customers were looking for fruit and wheat beers.” So fruit and wheat beers they got, with a Cranberry Clementine Ale and Ginger Wheat with lime peel and grains of paradise being added to the rotation.

The unique Long Island geography his home to breweries and wineries within easy driving distance of each other. Zimmerman saw this as an opportunity for a hybrid which became Biera Aromatico, a beer brewed with Australian summer hops and Muscat and Malvasia wine grapes.

It’s not all crossover beers at BrickHouse Brewery though. “Every now and then we get to do a beer that’s just for us,” said Komsic, going on to describe their holiday Krampus, a black IPA that was their first experiment with mash hopping—adding hops to the mash to impart hop flavor and aroma with little bitterness. “There were hops literally everywhere. Once a week you still see one wash up in a random corner,” laughed Zimmerman.

In 2014 the Brickhouse brewed just over 700 barrels, with 10 percent going to outside accounts, a completely new venture for the brewery. “We’re brewing funkier stuff, and getting our product into the better craft beer bars is a great way to get the word out.”

The Power of the Brew Pub

The only other Long Island brewpub that currently distributes their beer is Southampton Publick House, so customers sometimes still do a double take when they see BrickHouse beer in other restaurants.

“Brew pubs have a responsibility to educate the public,” according to Komsic and part of that duty is demonstrating the potentially harmonious relationship between beer and food. Their new small plate menu, featuring treats like maple bacon popcorn and hand cut, herb dusted potato chips, aims to show customers that there’s more to bar snacks than dry pretzels.

“A lot of bigger breweries have things they’re expected to bring back. As a brewpub, we can play around, have variety and try new things,” said Zimmerman. He and Komsic are aiming to have 10 or more unique beers on tap at all times with something for “everyone from the person just trying beer to the craft beer geek.”

This article originally appeared on CraftBeer.com.