Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Early Bird Gets the Word: Tørst Beer in Greenpoint

Early Bird Gets the Word: Notes on Brooklyn Food+Drink

Sometimes, my favorite moment of the week comes in the form of a sip of cold beer on a Friday afternoon. It's a familiar sip. Finding a life-changing taste of beer isn’t difficult at Greenpoint’s new beer bar, Tørst ("thirst" in Danish), where hipsters mingle with starched collared businessmen for a taste of the 21 draft and over 99 bottled beers you’ve probably never heard of.

The eager bartenders will let you sample any of the rotating selection on draft – names like Nebuchadnezzar, Black Walnut Dunkel and Aún Mas Á Jesús (Tørst is no foe of accented vowels) make the selection an interesting but sometimes intimidating process to navigate. I tasted many, was delighted by some, turned off by a few, and perplexed by a few more. An even longer list of bottled beers, which changes daily, can prove difficult to approach. Good thing for the knowledgeable bartenders (sometimes a little too knowledgeable).  

On a recent night, the bartender led us towards the Stillwater Stateside Saison, a reasonably priced bottle from on the list which hails from Maryland. The large 75cl bottle (true to its Nordic roots, Tørst uses European measurements) arrives with a snarling dragon embellishing the label. Saison is a generic term for farmhouse-style ale, and the yeast often adds a little “funk,” as the bartender described it, to this style of beer. But the first sip of the Stillwater proves light, floral, and bitter with just the slightest farmhouse funk. It’s an approachable and refreshing beer among Tørst’s many options. Approachable and refreshingthat's how I like my beer.

Another winner was the Aún Mas Á Jesús, a slightly darker, more bitter and more complex option that requires no special knowledge of beer to appreciate. Perhaps more difficult to appreciate is the modern, all-wood interior. The stark Scandinavian design feels a bit out of place on Manhattan Ave in Greenpoint, its geometric shapes more fit for a Chelsea gallery than a Brooklyn beer bar. It makes it clear that Tørst is trying to be the cool kid on the block. Then again, it kind of is.

Whatever you choose and whatever your opinion of the build, the beer is best enjoyed with a meat plate from Chef Daniel Burns, who opened Tørst with beer brewer Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø (notice the vowel). (Tørst only serves a meat or cheese plates now, but will serve a full menu at a hotly anticipated Nordic restaurant opening soon in the back room.) Our plate included an addictive New Jersey salami and Kentucky country ham. Burns, who makes cameos in the bar and has the Noma look down to a T, serves the platter with small slices of warmed Danish rye so good you'll want to spend your winters in a small bungalow in Denmark subsisting on the bread alone. If his restaurant's food is as good as this plate, Burns will have a Brooklyn sensation on his hands. 

If a mug of beer is the everyman’s glass of wine, then there is something aspirational about Tørst, where the high-quality beer is served in art-deco wine glasses. In fact Tørst may feel more familiar to a wine connoisseur than a beer enthusiast for a first time visitor. It felt unfamiliar to me. But a few sips in, you really wont care. You'll just want to know what other beers you can try.

615 Manhattan Ave, Greenpoint, Brooklyn