Don’t call it a comeback. Joe Hayes is where it seems he’s always been: manning the giant copper brew kettles at Black Forest Brew Haus in Farmingdale. For the better part of nine years he’s been pushing boundaries at the German owned and inspired brewpub.
One of the more memorable deviations was when Hayes brewed a chocolate dopplebock, inspired by his stepdad’s love of sweets. “I went out to the home brewery in Germany and they just couldn’t understand it,” says Hayes. “They just kept saying, ‘Chocolate? In the beer?’ in their heavy accents.” However, intrigue got the better of them; they bucked German tradition and brewed their very own batch on a pilot system.
Hayes left Black Forest briefly when he was offered an opportunity to brew at Greenport Harbor Brewing Co. alongside his longtime friend DJ Swanson. Though he stayed at Greenport for about a year—until Swanson moved on to a gig at Sierra Nevada in North Carolina—he was only away from Black Forest for a couple months. After his replacement didn’t work out, Hayes was putting in 30 hours a week on top of his full time brewing job at Greenport. “I had put in so much time [at Black Forest], I didn’t want to see them fail,” says Hayes.
Now that he’s back at the helm, Hayes wants to take Black Forest to the next level. A more varied tap list and smaller menu are high on his list of priorities, but ultimately he stresses cohesion between the kitchen, staff and brewery. “I don’t just brew the beer, we brew beer,” says Hayes.
“The brewpub market is still wide open,” says Hayes. “It’s a great way to get people in and get them to try new things.” Though old regulars are loyal to the tried and true pilsner, they’re increasingly likely to try something different. Luckily for them—and you—the tap list at Black Forest strikes a balance between tradition and experimentation.