In “Back to the Future,” the flux capacitor is an invention of Dr. Emmett Brown that allows Marty McFly to bust through the space-time continuum once his DeLorean reaches 88 miles per hour. At the two branches of Beachwood BBQ, chef-owner Gabe Gordon has installed state of the art controls, which he calls the Flux Capacitor, that regulate carbonation or nitrogen levels, temperature and pressure for each tap, bucking a uniform industry standard set by Bud and MillerCoors. He installed a Flux Capacitor at cutting-edge Torst in Brooklyn, and recently explained his system’s inspiration, function and potential.
Josh Lurie: You call it the Flux Capacitor. Is there another name for it?
Gabe Gordon: No. You should never take yourself so seriously, for anything that you do, so Flux Capacitor it is. I didn’t want to give it some name that made it sound like the We Pour Beer Better Than You 3000, or something like that. I wanted to make fun of myself a little bit about it. We toyed with the Illudium Q36 Explosive Space Modulator, which is from “Duck Dodgers.” Marvin the Martian, that’s his gun that he’s always threatening Duck Dodgers with, but that’s too long.
JL: What was your inspiration for putting together the Flux Capacitor and what’s possible in terms of its influence?
GG: The reason for it is, if you have a very standard draft system installed, you’re installing it based on the specifications of Bud, Miller and Coors. They designed it. Until recently, 90-something percent of the market share – correct me if I’m wrong – was Bud, Miller, Coors. They want to ensure the fact that you pour their beer properly, so they determined what their carbonation level was, they figured out how to push it out through a long draw system with a certain percentage of CO2 to Nitrogen, they figured out how cold they wanted it. Everything was all on their terms. Craft beer, god bless their efforts, their carbonation levels are all over the place. Sierra Nevada, perfect. New Belgium, perfect…
What I was finding, when we first opened, we were little and we were slow, so I would pour an IPA and it would have that much head on the first pint, and day three, I’d have to cream it out because it was falling flat. They were carbonating at a higher level than what that system was designed for. That’s the system everybody uses. If you ask brewers, they don’t really know. It’s not like most of them are using analyzers or anything like that. So I had to set out to figure out a way to make my first pint and my last pint pour the same, for two reasons:
1) It was a challenge.
2) I was starting to become friends with these guys. I have a weird loyalty towards my friends I want them to succeed. I felt that it was my job as a bar owner, as a publican, to make sure that I did my job to make them successful, because they can make the best beer in the world, and if I’m pouring it wrong, my system’s not set up right, my lines are dirty, my glassware is improper, you’ll have a shitty experience, you’ll associate it with that beer, and you will not want to support that brewery.
I can’t think of how many times I heard people say, “This beer tastes so much better here,” and not at my place, just sitting at other people’s bars, that I know do a really good job. Here’s some guy saying, “I just had a pint of this down the street, and this tastes totally different.” And you’re like, “Really? That sucks. I’m really good friends with the guy that brews this beer. That is so disappointing to hear that.” In a perfect world, everybody would leave every beer bar and just go, “That beer was so fresh, so good, poured right.” Everything about it should be right.
JL: So you have two of these systems yourself now, and you’ve installed one at Torst.