The beauty behind Tørst, Brooklyn's newest craft-beer bar, is not the exquisite jewel box of an interior and its Scandinavian sense of materials (a contrast of gleaming marble and rich wood tones)—it's the bar itself. More specifically, it's the Flux Capacitor, the device behind the bar, which allows owners Daniel Burns (of Momofuku and Noma) and so-called "gypsy brewer" Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø (of Evil Twin Brewing) to pour a rotating selection of 21 different beers perfectly every time.
Invented by Southern California brewer and restaurant owner Gabe Gordon, the Flux Capacitor is a finely tuned mission-control system that makes it possible to rotate a wide range of beers, from the lightest pilsner to the darkest stout, by controlling the carbonation and temperature of each tap, meaning that a pilsner best served at 38 degrees with a gas blend of 60/40 (carbon dioxide to nitrogen) can be poured at the same bar as a darker beer that tastes its best at 54 degrees with a 90/10 gas blend.
Aside from Tørst and Gordon's two California locations, every other bar in the country uses standardized taps with permanent settings, meaning a stout tap will always be a stout tap, and if the keg kicks and there's no replacement, the tap stands empty until a new shipment comes in. Either that or the bar pours all their beers, regardless of their individual characters, at the ice-cold, flavor-numbing predetermined industry standard.
Why does temperature and gas blend matter? You don't have to be a brewmaster to taste the difference when a dark, complex barleywine is poured like a hoppy, aromatic IPA. But who set the one-pour-fits-all industry standard? According Gordon, the Big Three —Bud, Miller, and Coors—popularized icy-cold pouring temperatures and the mid-range blend of carbon dioxide and nitrogen because warmer, ambient temperatures open up the notes in beer (and wine, for that matter), while a frosty-cold mug masks them, which explains why the last few chugs of your room-temp session beer don't taste as good as the first.
For a bar owner, the Flux Capacitor's ability to make adjustments to a keg throughout its lifespan at the tap is well worth the $8,000 investment. This may not matter for popular kegs that get drunk dry in a single night, but other beers might have a shelf life of a week or more. Your average bar can't adjust its system to accommodate for the natural carbonation change that occurs over that period of time, which explains all those flat beers.
So far, Gordon doesn't have any plans to market the Flux Capacitor, though he's open to sharing it and taking on a one-off gig or two. At this point, "We don't need cheerleaders for craft beer," he says. "We need people doing it right."
—Perrin Drumm (@perrindrumm), associate Web editor at Details