We're both really excited to have our first in-person interview be with Steve Pominski, founder and brewer of the fantastic Barrage Brewing in Farmingdale on Long Island. Although a smaller brewery, we can say with confidence that Steve is brewing some of the most creative and delicious beer on the East Coast. You'll see in the interview that he's definitely the modest type but we repeat: we completely disagree. His brews are THAT good.
We walked into the tasting room and received a big smile from his wife, Diana, who is the friendly host of the tasting room and advised us to meet with Steve in the brewing area. As we walked in to sit down with Steve, we were immediately greeted with loud hardcore music and the aroma of some freshly brewed beer. A big guy with a few tattoos, but a laid back, affable and insanely passionate brewer. We had met him in passing before but he recognized Ann Marie almost immediately. It was a nice start to our interview.
So tell us the story of Barrage: How'd you get started?
Well, I was homebrewing on and off and then probably about 8 years ago, I really got back into it. I started hooking up with a bunch of different people; namely a bunch of local brewers now. Just was playing around doing stuff like that. I actually joined the Long Island Beer and Malt Enthusiasts and the reason why I joined that club was to actually get our beer out at festivals before we were actually an entity. We'd go to festivals, not say we were Barrage Brewing yet, we were just homebrewers, and our beers would be at Nassau Coliseum so we could see what people like because if you ask your friends, and they will lie, and they will tell you it's great so they can get more free beer *laughter*. So that's where it kind of started and once we did a little bit of research, we thought "You know what? I think we can actually open a brewery." We decided to "go pro" and that's basically where it started.
So Ann Marie and I come here all of the time and love the beers. So we want to know: what led to beers like Yada Yada Yada and Tribal Cow? No one else is doing anything like it.
Yada Yada Yada came about from a beer dinner we did at Morrison's in Plainview and it was Seinfeld themed. So each course had a name to it. The soup course was "There Was No Soup" and they had somebody come out and yell "No soup for you!". We were going to bring five different beers we already had but we wanted to do something different for it. I was, and still am, an avid Seinfeld fan and throughout the episodes there were foods that could work well in beer; chocolate babka, Snickers (George would cut his Snickers to eat them), Junior Mints, black and white cookies, a few other ones. I looked at it and thought... I think milk chocolate, nougat, caramel and peanuts would work. First I thought about doing it as a stout, then I wanted it to be a little lighter so we went with a brown ale, brewed it for that dinner, and the rest is history. We brewed it one time and then realized "Holy crap! We need to brew this more often." People were coming in just asking for it.
The Tribal Cow story is the actual beer is a take on a caramel, chocolate, and toasted coconut cookie. It's sweet so we used a milk stout. The name came to me because I like to play around with names and tribal tattoos come from the island of Samoa and it's a milk stout so using cow made sense.
So like you said, people were craving Yada Yada Yada, and we have gotten growler fills of it numerous times, along with McLaughlin's Folly, but are we going to see any bottles or cans or bigger distribution in the future?
We had planned on bottling Yada Yada Yada and it took so long for us to get the approval on the label that we were going into the summer and we didn't want to release it then. So, we're looking probably Fall maybe September or October in a 22 oz bomber bottle. Possibly cans? We're looking to get approval for Galaxy Beast's label so if we get that soon enough, that'll probably be done as well; if we can get enough of the hops. Right now there's a shortage of Galaxy hops and you can't grow those because they are trademarked; can't get the plant itself.
So out of your beers you brew here, which one is your favorite? It is fair game if you say all of them are equally your favorite. We totally understand.
Actually, I'm the opposite. It's going to sound funny but my beers are "O.K." I don't get here and think "I can't wait to drink my own beers today!" I think my beer is "good" and they can all be "better" but that's just me; I'm kind of a perfectionist and I want things to be better than what they are. But probably, my favorite one is Galaxy Beast. I'm a hop head, and besides that, our Russian Imperial, Famous Last Words because I like dark beers too.
We're going to have to respectfully disagree with you here because we truly believe every beer here is excellent and I'm not just saying that because we're interviewing you right now but because we've been coming here since the brewery opened up; getting growlers and tastings and merchandise. Please come to Barrage and drink ALL of the beers because they're all really awesome, regardless of what Steve says.
If you could have any meal with one of your beers, what would you say is the perfect pairing? Could be a dessert or a burger or anything.
It's so funny because we have people all of the time that send us pictures of floats they make with the Yada Yada Yada. Throw a scoop of ice cream in there and I think "Oh my god, that looks so delicious". But going back to the question, Galaxy Beast and a slice of pizza. There's nothing better than that for me... plus, I love pizza.
Ann Marie bakes a lot of things with beer, ranging from tarts to cupcakes and they're always REALLY good.
We've had people make stuff with the beer. We had a person take our Russian Imperial and made a barbecue sauce with it. They just put the meat in it and let it sit and from what I heard, it was awesome.
That sounds pretty cool so I'll be trying something similar.
There you go!
We love the music you guys play in the tasting room and it's always super nostalgic because we grew up listening to the emo, pop punk, post-hardcore music scene and we love Saves the Day, Brand New, Taking Back Sunday, and the last time we were here, we were doing our usual tasting and then New Found Glory came on and we thought "this place is awesome. The music is always on point." What kind of music do you like to listen to when you're brewing?
*laughter* Growing up, there were so many different styles of music I listened to. My parents listened to big band and Frank Sinatra but my sisters were into Motown and then my other sister would listen to acid rock and then I grew up and started to listen to progressive rock. Then, I was a drummer, so I started listening to fusion music, so there were so many different blends. What I love is when I can listen to a song, especially emo songs, they kind of mean something to you and touch you in a way and I think that's kind of why I go between that and just before you guys got here, I was listening to 80s hair band music; Poison and Ratt and Warrant and I'll go between those two and then I'll put on some grunge; Stone Temple Pilots. For some reason, I like to put that music (emo and pop punk) in the tasting room; The Starting Line, Something Corporate.
Oh yeah. Two of our favorite bands that we were just listening to before. When I brewed my summer ale last weekend, I was listening to Motion City Soundtrack's Commit This To Memory. Just something about that album got me in the groove to just go and brew.
Oh yeah, for sure. Sometimes it does get too loud in here so I don't actually have music on but when I can shut things down, the first thing I do is put on music, just so I can get in the mood. Mellows you out a bit.
From what we understand, this is a family operation, correct?
Yup! Pretty much. It's me, my wife, my son. My son does a lot of the artwork; he actually did the artwork for Galaxy Beast. If you go on Untappd, you'll see all of the artwork is pretty much his, except for Yada Yada Yada and our current logo. When we opened two years ago, we went with this new logo. It was a rebranding; a rebirth. We had our followers give their thoughts on it. Had it go from five, down to three, down to two and then what we have now. People seem to like it. They feel it stands out.
We agree. I (Kevin) actually wore the tee shirt when we drank around the world at Epcot on our honeymoon.
Is there anything you want to plug? Upcoming events or releases?
Actually, yesterday we just released My Sweet Angel which is a wheat ale dry hopped with simcoe hops, mosaic hops, and citra hops. And probably next weekend, we have a new beer coming called The Clancy, which is a white chocolate cream ale. We use white chocolate syrup that's usually used by coffee shops and we have it in the bright tank right now so it should be ready for next week!
Thanks so much for your time, Steve!
You're welcome; thank you! Time for the tasting room.
Once the interview concluded, Steve made sure to grab us samples of their unreleased beer, The Clancy and of course... it's great. Can't wait to go back and grab a growler of it, as you should too.