It's New Beers Eve at Tørst and Luksus!
Ahead of National Beer Day, spend 24 hours at the bar and restaurant pairing beer with fine dining
Tomorrow (Thursday) is National Beer Day in the US, which means tonight is the equally toast-worthy New Beers Eve! April 7 was the day when, in 1933, US alcohol prohibition was repealed. On April 6, would-be drinkers lined up outside bars and breweries, waiting for the chance to legally drink again.
To mark the occasion this year we've abridged an extract from our new title Food & Beer, a 60-recipe book from the internationally acclaimed chef/brewer duo Daniel Burns and Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø, whose Brooklyn bar, Tørst, and accompanying Michelin-starred restaurant, Luksus, have introduced great brews to fine dining.
From daybreak's fresh produce delivery, to the final drinks served, around fourteen hours later, here's how a typical day shakes down according to Daniel and Jeppe.
“The morning begins when Annie Novak stops by. Annie’s greens are great, her purslane is perfect, and her radishes are rad. She comes about once a week, rolling up on her bicycle with a plastic crate under her arm. Annie founded Eagle Rooftop Farms on the roof of an old warehouse in Greenpoint back in 2009. She was one of the earliest adopters of commercial urban farming in New York City and a fervent champion of Greenpoint. Far more than a supplier of our salad greens, Annie is more like a partner.
"Our bartenders’ days start early for the industry, at around 10 a.m. Because Tørst’s proposition is so unique, we don’t get a lot of apathetic bartenders. Most of our staff is made up of avid homebrewers, and if they aren’t, they are steeped in beer and breweriana. The early morning for them is taken up by the usual bar prep, polishing glasses (customized for us by Martin Justesen, who does all the graphics for both Tørst and Luksus) making sure the low boy coolers are full, and that the beer lines, running from the Flux Capacitor downstairs, are functioning.
"The Flux Capacitor a complex system for getting the beer from the kegs to the tap, which allows us to control the pressure of each of the kegs, as well as to modulate the mixture of CO2 and nitrogen used to carbonate the beers. Beers are carbonated on draught since they tend to flatten in transport and storage. It was developed by Gabe Gordon, a friend of Jeppe’s, and a fan of the Back to the Future films. (Gabe also happens to own Beachwood Barbecue in Long Beach, California.) It is up to the bartender to modulate the pressure with which a beer is dispensed as well as the ideal balance of CO2 and nitrogen.
"We divide up our beers into three groups - light, medium, and dark - of seven each. In the light section are easy-drinking lagers, Pilsners, wheat beers, and Berliner Weisse. The medium tranche consists of brown ales, and bigger IPAs. Stouts, barleywines, porters, as well as the occasional Quadruples, are found in the dark section.
"Besides what we offer on tap, we have an extensive bottle list. All the beers we use in the Luksus pairings are bottles, for no other reason than that it allows us to guarantee availability. Also on tap are some of their more outré experiments, like Weisse Weisse Baby, a beer with lime, vanilla, and cinnamon. By 11 a.m., there’s a long line of thirsty beer lovers waiting for our doors to open.
"Meanwhile, down a steep flight of stairs - but a world away - five cooks crowd into a workspace no larger than 225 square feet. They are cooking for Luksus, the refined, Michelin-starred restaurant attached to Tørst. No matter what is going on upstairs during the day, the prep kitchen operates at a steady and focused frequency. With so little space, the men must move as octopus tentacles: independent but well coordinated. Because Daniel worked for so long in a pastry kitchen, and because the staff and space is so limited, there is no strict hierarchy.
"The true measure of a restaurant is the quality of its staff meal. At Luksus we take this very seriously. It is a rotating duty, and cooks love to do it. A staff meal is a rare chance for cooks to make whatever they’re excited about at the moment, even if it’s a world away from what is on the menu. It’s their chance to freestyle.
"Upstairs, it’s already a party by 1 p.m. Beer bars have a bad reputation for being sausage fests, but that’s not the case for us, perhaps because Tørst has done away with the traditional trappings of a testosterone-soaked bar. An elegant Carrara marble bar and intricate wall paneling made from reclaimed wood forestall any incipient bro-ness. There’s no neon; no sports; little shouting.
"At 3 p.m. every day, Daniel starts the sourdough bread that forms an integral part of the Luksus experience. The bread takes twenty-five minutes to bake, and is reheated as soon as the guests sit down for snacks. At service it must be hot enough that the butter melts on contact.
"The menu at Luksus is on the terse side and that’s by design. Daniel would prefer the guests to explore first through taste. But the servers must know each step of each element, from whence it came, and what was done to it in case a guest inquires. Generally, servers try to limit their initial explanation to a few sentences rather than extended rhapsodic soliloquies. A bite should yield jouissance, not just plaisir.
"Obviously, one of the things that makes Luksus unique is our beer pairing. Jeppe curates the selections, drawing not just on the offerings of Evil Twin Brewing but also on the extensive bottle list stored in the basement room. Many of these beers are difficult to get anywhere else, but we try not to labor that point. As with a wine pairing, the beer is a character with which the character of the food interacts. At Luksus, there is absolute parity between the food and the beer. Since we are the only Michelin-starred restaurant in the world to offer a full beer pairing, and only a beer pairing, the vast majority of our guests avail themselves of it.
"One of the pleasures of service is watching guests try new beers - like the Del Borgo’s Enkir, an Italian-made Belgian-style pale ale made from an ancient grain - for the first time. Some close their eyes, trying to grasp the flavors. Others’ eyes widen in surprise, marveling at the complexity of the flavors. It’s a pretty rare sight that a guest will drink a beer and not notice it."
By 1 a.m., Daniel and his team leave the building they entered fourteen hours before. Manhattan Avenue is still bustling in the early morning. Though the Polish bakeries, hair salons, and most restaurants have shuttered, the bars that cater to local Greenpointers are still open. Music spills out. On Friday and Saturday nights, last call at Tørst is 2 a.m. After the last guest leaves, the bartenders take stock of their glasses, wipe and clean the bar, sanitize the taps, and finally, close up. It’s 3 a.m., just a few hours before the day will begin all over again."
If you're heading to Tørst tomorrow, be sure to order a bottle of Rodenbach Alexander, a recently reissued, legendary Belgian beer, which is macerated with sour cherries; the guys are proud to have in stock. Meanwhile, for more on food, beer and life at Tørst and Luksus order a copy of Food & Beer here.