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.