Twenty beers for $4 all day, every day through Labor Day.
This summer marks the fourth annual Summer Craft Beer Festival for the Black Sheep Ale House in Mineola. The festival runs from July Fourth through Labor Day and means that 20 of 25 taps will be pouring $4 beers, all day every day. The idea started as a way for owner Vince Minutella to sustain business during the summer and continues because “customers won’t let me not do it,” he says.
Four years ago, Minutella bought a small Irish bar and went about turning it into the Black Sheep Ale House. “We lost all the customers,” he says. However, word of mouth built a solid base of regulars in the fall and winter. After managing bars and restaurants for 30 years, Minutella knew summer was going to be a struggle. “Everybody goes to Long Beach or out east or on vacation,” he says. “They don’t go to their neighborhood bar.”
Not only was he concerned about the bar itself, but he was very worried about the staff. “We finally built up a great group of core bartenders and I wanted to make sure they were taken care of.” So he figured he was not going to worry about making money for the bar and instead focus on getting people through the door. His solution was to make every beer in the entire bar $4 for the summer.
“I really wanted to reinforce the idea that it’s really just beer. It’s still an everyman drink,” says Minutella. “It was our way of saying to people, ‘You’ve got it wrong.’ It’s not about high price and putting on airs; it’s a good product with good people in a nice environment where everyone is welcome.”
People loved the idea, the bar was packed and after that summer they never looked back. Minutella says as long as Summerfest is still financially possible, it will continue.
This year there is a slight twist; 20 of the 25 taps are reserved for $4 pours. The other five will have more elusive beers Minutella is now able to get his hands on due to better relationships with brewers and distributors. “We don’t want to become a different place over the summer by serving different beers. This is a way to make everyone happy,” says Minutella. Click here for a list of the beers on tap.
This story originally appeared on Edible Long Island.
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.