Not Beer? Doesn’t Matter. It’s Still on Tap
Something besides suds could appear on your bar’s tap.
There’s something magical about drinking nitrogen.
When your bartender pulls the tap handle, a tsunami of frothy beverage splashes into the breathless clear glass, and you gaze with anticipation like a surfer just arriving to the Hawaii Pipeline, excited to dive in.
Your drink looks as creamy as a milkshake — or a hearty Guinness. From the side of the glass, you watch the layers form and slowly drift upward like the age rings of a tree detailing its history. At the top, the foamy crest of that wave settles, ready to kiss you with a mustache upon first sip.
More and more, you’ll see among the flood of on-tap craft beverages some interesting beer alternatives, from kombucha to nitro cold-brew coffees — even a type of soda called malta.
“There is definitely something about hand-pouring a drink from a tap that makes it special,” says Melissa Lauprete, owner of At Land, a Dobbs Ferry lifestyle boutique with a wellness bar and healthy pantry. “It feels exciting, and it often sparks a conversation where we get to share information about the product on a more personal level.”
Glide over to the At Land bar, and the wellness mixologist will whip up not only mushroom matcha and rose cocoa, but also one of three kinds of on-tap kombucha, fermented by Calmbucha of New Paltz. In September, her draft flavors were hibiscus, ginger, and star anise; rosemary and grapefruit; and elderberry and lavender.
“This is no supermarket kombucha filled with added sugar and juices,” Lauprete says. “It is a finely crafted medicinal beverage made with intention.”
Lauprete chose kombucha on tap over bottles because she wants guests to be able to sample flavors, especially those wary of trying an entire bottle of something unfamiliar. Pouring from a tap allows for flexibility in serving size, reduces waste with reusable cups and growlers, allows for fresher inventory and more control of that inventory, and enhances the guest experience, she says. Sure, there’s the initial investment of equipment and then the maintenance, but the resulting quality is worth it to Lauprete.
Coffee Labs Roasters in Tarrytown has been around for 15 years, but it was only a year ago that owners Mike and Alicia Love started offering nitro cold brew on tap. Meanwhile, they’ve had still cold brew on tap for as long as people have been drinking their iced coffee.
“People are shocked we are using the same coffee in both taps,” says Mike Love. “There’s a distinct mouthfeel, texture, and flavor [difference] between the two. The nitrogen really gives it a thick, creamy sweetness.”
Nitrogen is a smaller molecule than carbon dioxide and oxygen, making it smoother, denser, and heavier. Nitrogen also acts as a preservative when introduced to a beverage because it pushes out the oxygen, which can breed bacteria.
Love likes to play around by injecting the gas into matcha, chocolate milk, and tea. So much so that a couple nitro teas may be offered at their new location, expected to open in Dobbs Ferry by early 2019 in conjunction with craft beer and bottle shop, Climbing Wolf.
Since 2004, Antoinette’s Patisserie in Hastings-on-Hudson has offered GiacoBean coffee and espresso, roasted in Yonkers and brewed by Antoinette’s son, Kusmanto “Kus” Beham. He started tapping nitro cold brew about five years ago and today goes through one or two kegs daily. Although the patisserie’s iced coffee has always been cold-brew style, which involves using concentrated coffee that never meets heat, now “we’ve evolved from our iced coffee to nitro coffee,” he says.
“Cold brew is one of those ways of giving you a good cup of coffee without the acid, and now with nitrogen, it’s got lift and a lot of body and suppleness to it,” Beham says. Adding milk and sugar to nitro coffee is like adding A1 steak sauce to a cut of Kobe beef. “It already tastes sweet. Nitrogen gives this lift and appeases the palate in a way that’s perfect for not just beer, but for coffee and cold brew,” he says.
Antoinette’s customers can buy a growler with a GiacoBean Sharkbite-brand fill for $24 and refills thereafter for $17.
Sing Sing Kill Brewery opened in Ossining in May, offering several draft beers plus one line for cold-brew coffee, one with nitro cold brew from BPM Roasters in Yonkers, and the one with homemade malta, a South American-Caribbean soda made by steeping, germinating, and drying barley. Bartenders serve the malta by itself or in a sour cherry cordial, a variety of floats, and mixed with rye whiskey.
“I think we’re introducing a new flavor of malta soon. Next batch, we’ll start giving it names and flavor descriptors,” says Eric Gearity, Sing Sing’s co-owner.
Since opening in 2015, most of the taps at Twisted Branch Olive Oil & Vinegar Tap Room in Valhalla are attached to the 25 shiny barrels full of oil and 20 of vinegar in a rotating variety of flavors and single origins. But in July, the taproom added nitro cold brew coffee to its coffee bar.
Within one month, the shop had nitro regulars, says co-owner Erika Cozza.
“It kind of looks like a Guinness when you pour it because it’s dark and the head builds on it. More people can drink it black because there’s no bitterness,” she says. “We try to stay dynamic and be open to new things.”
Amy Sowder had to grab a flavored seltzer water while writing this piece because it made her crave bubbles. She’s a writer and editor based in New York City, covering food and wellness. Learn more at www.AmySowder.com.