Jeffery Lindenmuth / May 2013
Hoisted to exalted status by this like-minded duo, frothy brews take rightful position alongside their bar beverage companions.
Contemporary cocktails may be triumphs of creativity, and few drinks are as sublime as vintage wine, but neither can rival gulps of cool frothy beer when it comes to satisfying thirst. At chef Daniel Burns’ new Greenpoint, Brooklyn, bar Tørst (Danish for “thirst”), beer is the sole beverage, with a focus on rare brews that span the elusive, esoteric, innovative, and of course, thirst-quenching—thoughtfully curated by Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsøe, the itinerant brewer behind Denmark’s Evil Twin Brewing.
Jarnit-Bjergsøe is no stranger to elevating beer’s prestige. He contracts with a half dozen brewers around the globe to produce tiny quantities of 40 or more different beers each year, many of which land on tables at the world’s best restaurants, including Momofuku Ko and Eleven Madison Park in New York City and Denmark’s Noma. “I’m a big foodie, and I spend a lot of time and money seeking out the best restaurants in the world. Of course, I love to drink wine when I go out. But when I connect with sommeliers, I also want to introduce them to beer, to say we can go all the way and be as good or better with food as many wines,” he says.
With its sleek Scandinavian interior, Tørst looks more like a swank wine bar than the typical American craft beer haunt. There are no brewery posters, look-at-me tap handles, or the usual clutter of branded goblets and glassware. “We aim to present the best beers in the best possible way. We use wine glasses. I really prefer them because they work well for any beer. It’s just not true that you need to have a special glass for each beer,” says Jarnit-Bjergsøe. Draught beers are offered in two sizes: 8 ounces, served in a white wine glass and starting at $5, or 15 ounces, served in a larger red wine glass, starting at $7.
The draught system is a technological marvel. Custom-designed by Gabe Gordon of Beachwood BBQ & Brewing in Long Beach, California, and jokingly dubbed the “flux capacitor,” it enables precise control of pressure and gas mix for each of the 21 draught beers, so Jarnit-Bjergsøe is able to customize the balance of carbon dioxide and nitrogen gas to enhance the mouthfeel and texture of each beer. There are also multiple temperature zones, with the lighter more refreshing styles served at 38˚F to 40˚F, while the “bigger beers,” with their greater complexity and nuance, show best at 48˚F to 55˚F. Think of them like white and red wines.
All this technology comes cloaked in mid-century modernism by design firm hOmE, including a sleek white marble bar lined with simple tap handles of reclaimed oak and featuring tabletops crafted by Danish furniture designer Børge Mogensen.
Food offerings to complement the beers at Tørst currently include a small menu of cured meats, cheeses, and fresh pickles, paired with heavily seeded Danish rye bread. (Add gluten-free to the list of folks Tørst is not currently catering to.) “Basically, I have an oven and a meat slicer right now,” says Burns.
As that list of equipment grows, Burns will apply his talents—honed at Noma as well as The Fat Duck in Bray, United Kingdom, and St. John in London, and most recently Momofuku Ko—to a 26 seat restaurant tucked behind the bar, called Luksus. “It’s Danish for ‘luxury,’ yes, but it’s very tongue-in-cheek,” says Burns. “Fine dining is moving away from white tablecloths and French service. It can be about a restaurant that can give a great meal behind a neighborhood beer bar in Brooklyn.”
Luksus will offer a five-course tasting menu, priced around $55, with a beer pairing supplement priced around $40. The other drink option will be juices, an idea lifted from Noma’s service for pregnant diners. No wine. No cocktails.
Burns has little concern about finding beers that pair perfectly with his fresh cuisine, as he embraces the lighter flavors, healthful ingredients, and playful temperature contrasts that are a hallmark of his time with Noma. In addition to crafting two house beers, barleywine style ales aged in Malaga barrels and Port barrels, Jarnit-Bjergsøe has already secured draught beers like the wild-fermented ales of Colorado’s Crooked Spade; a potent, dark, smoked imperial stout from Denmark’s Fanø Bryghus; and a farmhouse ale with earthy white sage from Baltimore’s Stillwater Artisanal Ales. Bottles range from the tropical fruit-laden brews of Stockholm’s Omnipollo to the tart Belgian benchmarks of Cantillon. “I’ll cook what I like and invite the beer community to help us. When you think about it, there is almost more diversity in beer than there is in wine,” says Burns. Tørst may prove that, like love, beer is all you need.