What's on Tap — Besides Beer?

By Jacqueline Church, Foodable Contributor

When you think of what’s on tap, you think of beer. There’s a growing trend in bars around Boston to serve a variety of beverages on draft. Could there be a better time than the dog days of summer to expand the offerings at your bar? 

If you’d like to venture beyond the typical taps, just ask Boston bars what they’re pulling. And don’t stop there, nitro coffee is coming on strong.

Wine on tap at the Beat Hotel | Credit: Instagram @beathotel13

Wine on tap at the Beat Hotel | Credit: Instagram @beathotel13

A Different Drum

The Beat poets inspired free-thinking and challenged the conventions of their time. The Beat Hotel in Harvard Square (also known as Beat Brasserie) challenges the conventions of wine lovers, enticing us to expand our vision of how wine must be served.

AJ Merritt, GM at the Beat Hotel perfectly embodies the confluence of the on-tap trend and the spirit of the Beats. Though he speaks of his “departure from the rigid background” and now enthusiastically embraces this counter-culture philosophy. Wines on tap are green, too. Less weight than shipping cases of glass bottles, the carbon footprint is lower. Many are also biodynamic, organic, or sustainable certified. 

The free-thinkers and drinkers can explore 36 wines that are perfectly preserved by the tap system. The first glass is just as good as the last.

Easing Merritt’s transition into this format and system, is the growing quality. The ability to introduce customers to a solid lineup of interesting profiles at reasonable prices, aligns with the brasserie philosophy. The fact that many of these wines are made by top winemakers, like Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon, helps too. 

From Flower Children to Peat Bogs

Even a Beat poet would give snaps to Scotch on tap, don’t you think? Scotch? On tap? Yes. At Citizen House they’re pouring a cask-strength Scotch on tap. The Compass Box Whisky is a “peat monster,” smokey and peaty, and very strong. (Most whiskies get an addition of water when they’re divided from cask to bottle. Here, the tap runs from a cask-strength supply.) 

While some bars have Fernet Branca on tap, or house-made cocktails on tap, Citizen House likes to offer something unique. The Compass Box Cask Strength Scotch is a very limited release. Brian Mantz, Citizen Public House’s bar and beverage manager, urges one to try this limited edition release peaty Scotch paired with oysters. 

Awake and Renewed

Nitro iced coffee and Kombucha are a couple of other items “on tap,” so if you’re not drinking == or recovering from a night of too much drinking — you’ll be happy to know the tap craze isn’t only geared toward booze-hounds.

Aqua Vitea kombucha fountain | Credit: Aqua Vitea

Aqua Vitea kombucha fountain | Credit: Aqua Vitea

Aqua Vitea — a play on the Latin expression En aqua vitae veritas, or “in living water there is truth” — is the first in the country to put kombucha (an ancient health tonic fermented and tea-based) on tap. Perhaps owing to its Middlebury, VT roots, Aqua Vitea takes its art, its mission and its social commitments as seriously as its brewing. You can find sparkling fresh kombucha from Aqua Vitea on tap at 150 locations around the northeast. There are self-serve refill stations in Bee’s Knees and Whole Foods Ink Block — try some “’booch.”

Employees at startups like Acquia enjoy perks of a caffeinated type. Coffee is roasted and steeped in cold water for 24 hours then filtered into kegs and chilled through a kegerator system. Coffee prepared in this way is less acidic and sweeter.

You don’t have to work for a startup to enjoy cold brewed coffee from a tap though. Cafes around town also serve coffee on tap. And out of town, too. Check out Redeye Roasters the next time you’re in Hingham. Mosey up to the “slow bar” and enjoy a carefully prepared coffee drink, hot or cold on a nitro tap. Small, slow, when third place is where you want to be.

For restaurants or cafes considering installing a cold brew coffee tap, Cambridge Coldbrew has this helpful FAQ complete with tips, diagrams and links.

From the brasseries to bars, juice bars to cafes, there’s a whole new world on tap in Boston. Bar managers, sommeliers, and coffee roasters are eager to help you tap into this new trend. 

Credit: Beatnik Beverage Company

Credit: Beatnik Beverage Company

As we go to press...

Notable chef Will Gilson, chef and owner of Puritan & Co., announced the opening of Beatnik Beverage Company. This juice and coffee bar features two kinds of coffee on tap (kegged cold brew and nitro, which creates that Guinness-like head and smoothness). Beatnik also serves three types of Kombucha on tap.

The tapped brews are complemented by fresh-pressed juices (locally sourced fruits and vegetables as they are available) and an all-new "bullet proof" coffee that's hand-blended with coconut oil and butter from grass-fed cows.

Virtue in a cup.