Meet the Brewer: Paul Pignataro of Decadent Ales
5 questions with the innovative, risk-taking flavor meister.
At Decadent Ales in Mamaroneck, Paul Pignataro brews some of the wildest beers you’ll come across. Strawberry Cream Pop, Butter Pecan, and Double Toasted Marshmallow are just a sampling of this former investment banker’s creativity. We caught up with the man who brews these ‘desserty’ IPAs.
When did your brewing journey begin?
I brewed my first batch in 2005. It was one of those things where you bought a kit. I thought, Here’s something cool to do. I lived in the city then, so I’d leave it at my parents’ house, come back in two weeks, and see how it was doing. The first time I did it, the bottles exploded. People told me I’d get hooked. I got hooked.
How did Decadent Ales come to fruition?
Regulations had to get passed in Mamaroneck, but there was stuff in-between. The dawn of a farm brewery license made it possible [to start up] for $400 instead of $10,000. You just need an industrial spot to brew it at. That’s where my aunt’s chocolate shop [Chocolations] came in. It met all requirements. I sent in the SLA application; they approved it; I made a website and home-brewed beer that I dropped off to local bars. I took some to Tørst in Brooklyn, and that affiliation got me connected with Twelve Percent Beer Project. They sampled my beer and wanted to distribute it. I wanted my own brewery, and the owners of [Mamaroneck retail-beer emporium] Half Time wanted to have a bar. This all took two and a half years.
Where do you come up with these flavors?
Everyday life. My wife will order blueberry pancakes with whipped cream, and I’ll think, That’s gotta be a beer. Beer labels would read, “It tastes like this,” and it wouldn’t. I became obsessed with that. For fall, we’re working on pumpkin-spice latte, chai latte, and apple-crumb beers.
With the beers you’re brewing, one might accuse you of having a sweet tooth.
It’s funny; I don’t. And I don’t eat much. I’m a big salad guy. I’d rather drink my dessert than eat it, so we’re trying to salvage the tagline: “Eat your beer.”
What do you do when you’re not dreaming up decadent ales?
My social life ended when we opened. I go to the gym a lot. But when I get a couple of free days, it’s dedicated family time with my wife and daughter. We’ll get away and spend a few days on the beach.