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.