All photos by Austin McAllister
The surface of the bar itself is a far cry from the dark old wood our forearms have grown accustomed to. There's no pool table or dartboard or shelves full of beat-up old board games. There's no jukebox and there's certainly no giant flat-screen TV. The lighting is ample and the vibe is decidedly sterile, more evocative of an especially beautiful doctor's office waiting room than a beloved local watering hole. And they don't serve whiskey, let alone cocktails or even wine. Yet, for a certain group of people, their ranks growing each and every day, it's the best bar in Brooklyn. Or maybe anywhere in the world.
Tørst opened in March of this year on Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint, and to call it a haven for beer lovers would be a cruel understatement: it's full-on paradise, really. A joint venture between Chef Daniel Burns, formerly of Momofuku and Noma, and Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø, proprietor of the nomadic and renowned Evil Twin Brewing, Tørst's mission is simple. "When we decided to open this bar," says Jarnit-Bjergsø, "we wanted to be able to serve the best beers in the world in the best possible way."
There are 20 draft lines at the bar, organized from light to dark as indicated by appropriately hued wooden tap handles. Evil Twin generally takes up a few spots, of course, and there will often be one or two beers that are somewhat regularly available throughout the city—think Dark Horse Double Crooked Tree IPA rather than, say, the far more common Lagunitas IPA—but to even the nerdiest of beer nerds, many of the names will be unrecognizable. While this is certainly part of the fun, scarcity alone is not enough to compel Jarnit-Bjergsø to pour something. "People think we just want to put beers on that nobody else has, and that's not the goal," he says. "We just want to serve what we believe is best, and a lot of that is either not available in New York already, or there's just very little of it. With my connections in the beer world, I know pretty much every brewer worth knowing."
So if that's how he goes about determining and acquiring the best beers in the world, then how does he achieve the second part of his goal, the part about serving them in the best possible way? Well, that involves the Flux Capacitor, an over-the-top complicated draft system that allows him to control the amount of nitrogen and carbon dioxide flowing through each line, ensuring that every beer will have precisely the intended mouthfeel. He's also able to control the temperature of each beer being served. "If you go into a wine bar and someone served you a warm white wine that's supposed to be served cold, people would complain," he contends. "But if you go into a bar and order a 12 percent imperial stout and get it at 38 degrees, they don't say anything, and I don't understand it because it's the exact same thing. If you serve a beer like that too cold, you kill a lot of the flavors, and if you serve a pilsner too warm, it just doesn't taste as it's supposed to." This attention to detail has made Jarnit-Bjergsø something of a hero to die-hard craft beer fanatics—and made Tørst a legitimate destination for people from all over the East Coast.
"We get a lot of beer nerds traveling from Manhattan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Washington," he says, noting that they open at noon every day, in preparation for the summer, when thirsty, in-the-know tourists will be out in droves. "I like the geeks. It's fun to have them in and talk to them because they're the ones who appreciate what we do in terms of having the right beers, but we also have a lot of local people who see this as a place where they can just come and hang out."
The beer program alone would be enough to recommend Tørst, as would the prospect of food prepared by someone as accomplished as Burns. But the whole experience is enhanced even further by the minimal design courtesy of the Brooklyn-based firm hOmE, whose credits also include Briskettown, Paulie Gee's and the Mast Brothers retail space. The reclaimed wood and hard straight lines of the walls and tables grab your attention first, then the beautiful old Scandinavian chairs and the gently curved barstools, followed by the shockingly white marble bar-top and the giant, pristine mirror that serves as a more upscale version of dry-erase or chalkboard-style menus you'd find elsewhere. Keep looking around and you'll notice the light fixtures, then the perfect little wooden cases that conceal the iPads they use to operate the cash registers. Basically, you can't look anywhere without taking note of how unbelievably beautiful and obviously fussed-over every single aspect is. Tørst makes no apologies for its high taste—not for the painstaking approach to design, not for the thoughtful planning of the restaurant, and certainly not for the unwavering commitment to the idea something as simple as beer can be transcendent if handled with sufficient care. This, more than anything else, is what Brooklyn is supposed to be about.