Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø, founder of Evil Twin Brewing Company, doesn’t think there are many good beers in his home country of Denmark. This is a little surprising, given that his identical twin Mikkel owns Mikkeller, a microbrewery in Copenhagen that’s well-liked enough to be distributed in more than 40 countries.
Nonetheless, Jeppe’s is selective, and his selectiveness and passion for beer – along with a solid dose of business cunning – is what’s made him this successful. It’s why he originally started brewing his own beer, it’s why he opened a bottle store in Copenhagen, and it’s why he eventually got involved in distributing American microbrews throughout Denmark and the rest of Western Europe. Finally, it’s what got him into the market with his own creations, which have taken America by storm and gave him the momentum needed to bring his life – and family – to New York City.
Now, Jeppe has come to the next step with Tørst, a specialty craft beer bar at 615 Manhattan Ave opening next Friday, March 8th.
If Tørst (which is Danish for “thirst”) fails, it won’t be for lack of confidence on Jeppe’s part. In fact, he’s worried the bar may do too well.
“We’re going to open at noon on Friday, and it’s going be a very big deal,” Jarnit-Bjergsø explains. “People are flying from Denmark to see this. Honestly, we’d like to keep it low key, because if we did make it a big deal, we’d have a line of 500 people around the block. I hope that doesn’t happen. We’d hate to risk having 1,000 people show up and have to turn them away.”
Technically, Jeppe is not the owner of the bar, though you wouldn’t know it by the way he speaks of the place. The owner is technically his wife, Maria, with Jeppe officially playing the role of “Beer List Consultant”.
The bar is filled with the stark, bare-wood aesthetic that is the current craze of Greenpoint and has been central to Nordic Europe’s aesthetic since time immemorial. There will be 21 draft beers on tap, and a 26-person dining area in the back run by head chef Daniel Burns, previously of Momofuku Labs. The kitchen won’t be open until May, and Burns is coy about what’ll be on the menu, revealing only that it’ll be seasonal and change frequently, with some culinary nods to Scandanavia.
Unlike Jarnit-Bjergsø, Burns allows for flashes of humility between brash predictions of being New York’s next biggest thing, and admits some degree of nerves as he takes on his first role as a head chef, after working behind-the-scenes at top restaurants in London, Copenhagen, and the Big Apple.
Given the meteoric nature of his success, Jarnit-Bjergsø, who on his company’s website calls himself the Beer King, shows little indication of those nerves. As recently as the spring of 2011 he was an elementary school special education teacher in Copenhagen, making beer on the side. Today, a mere 24 months later, he’s brewing beer in South Carolina, Connecticut, and at breweries throughout Europe while opening a bar in Greenpoint that he says will serve craft brews “beer geeks have only dreamt of.”
Jeppe is easily distracted and eager to get back to work on his bar, where frenetic last minute work is going into what Jarnit-Bjergsø expects to be the next object to turn to gold under his Midas Touch. But he answers one final question about specials for patrons who swing by on opening weekend when asked how he’ll be introducing himself to the neighborhood.
“No. No specials. Not on opening weekend. Not ever. I feel strongly about that. It’s not in our character.”
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