Bodacious Beer Bar Owners is a terribly named weekly feature—and also a slightly misleading one; biweekly-ish is more likely—spotlighting the bodacious owners of Long Island's best spots (bars, restaurants, stores, etc.) for beer.
The format is simple: Each bodacious owner will bodaciously tackle the same four topics in relation to their spot(s), so we can better understand their bodaciousness.
Ralph Perrazzo, BBD's in Rocky Point
"ON STARTING OUT"
The initial spark that became the raging open flame in BBD's brick oven came in 2005. I was living and working in Las Vegas at Bradley Ogden’s restaurant in Caesars Palace and "Bradley’s," as we called it, was fresh off a James Beard award for "Best New Restaurant." An incredible collection of chefs and friends were putting out stellar food and pushing the envelope. We were making everything from scratch—highlighted by a burger made specifically for the president of the hotel. We only used prime meat for it and so the grind became the trimmings of what we used for all the other dishes. We had a wood-fired grill to cook the meat and used a house-made brioche bun. Hands down the tastiest burger I had ever tasted.
Bradley had come out of Northern California and along with an amazing wine list, he stocked a bunch of craft beers from the West Coast. I vividly remember the first craft beer that hit my lips: Abbey Ale from New Belgium. I loved the coriander spice and balance of flavor that paired so well with the burger. At this time I was 26 years old and having the time of my life in Las Vegas. (Regular visits to In-N-Out Burger!) But one night I was at a dive bar downtown and it hit me: I was tired of working for other people. My friend Hugo asked what my favorite things were, and a few beers later I answered, “Beers, Burgers, Desserts! BBD's man!!” That is quite literally how the brand and concept started.
In 2012, after years of traveling and cooking all over, I realized it was time to settle back home on Long Island near family. I really missed my nieces and nephews and so I found a restaurant space close to some of them in Rocky Point. It took nine months of painful planning and building with the help of some key people, and I made many things with my own hands while researching day and night for salvaged artistic pieces. I love art and music and get inspiration from both Victorian and Gothic styles. And you can see that in the look, right down to the steer skull I had carved in Indonesia with our logo in the nostrils. I'm extremely happy with the way BBD’s looks and customers say you can see the heart and detail put into every inch of the space. That same heart and detail follows us into our food and beer programs.
"CHOOSING YOUR BEER MENU"
Traveling the country to meet the brewers and taste their beers is how our beer list gets designed. Personal time with brewers is everything! I love showing them videos of our custom tap system, how a bottle cap can rest perfectly on the head of our beers because of pressure control, and how our custom cask engine pours at 55 degrees. All this ‘beer porn’ helps make a connection with the brewer because they see we’re taking their product seriously and serving it with the same commitment we do our food. This is how we build relationships and a large reason why we can host things like our annual charity Craft Beer Dinner event at the beginning of June featuring all Vermont breweries, many of whom are unavailable in New York. I'm extra excited this year because I brewed a special beer with Otter Creek for the dinner. If you want the best, you need to make the effort to connect.
Our draft list is ever-changing. On the main tower we have 20 taps at a short distance, or draw, from the kegs so we can control consistency and calibration per style; I designed the system around what I saw in Europe during my travels. We usually have about 10 local drafts on that and you will always see breweries like Threes, Greenport, and Barrier. To that we also recently added a six-tap Belgian tower dedicated to beers like La Trappe's Quadrupel, two nitrogenated lines with separate refrigeration, and a custom cask engine made with a separate temperature-controlled thermostat to keep the cask between 53 to 55 degrees at all times.
I should say the above doesn't include our list of over 100 bottles and cans, which feature many reserve brands that are only available because of our aging program. Many of my personal favorite beers are sour ales and these limited beers get issued to us because of that. I love all in the B. United and Shelton Brothers portfolios, especially Cantillon and the OEC stuff.
"PRICING YOUR BEER"
Good beer is not cheap and so pricing is very tricky. Sometimes we get bashed and labeled overpriced but we're always rotating our lists and bringing in the newest and rarest stuff. Obviously the limited availability creates demand and the rarer product is priced as such.
People come in to buy bottles and then try and leave with them unopened so they can sell or trade them; it sounds crazy but it’s true! We had an incident recently where we had a 2010 Firestone Walker Parabola priced for $125 and someone complained it was $25 more than one of our competitors, but really they hadn’t updated their beer list in months and didn’t have it in stock. Another time a customer said they bought a Maine Beer brew for $6 less and we told them to check the date when they got home. They called us the next day and apologized saying it was nine months old and when they opened it tasted stale. More often than not, the customer understands the higher prices necessary for the best, freshest, and rarest.
Our pricing is done by the market and we believe we are more than fair. The problem is you have big-chain beer places doing things like pouring 10 percent beers in a pint glass. That's where I cannot compete and personally I rather stick to serving beer in the proper glass and by the right portion. I do what I can to keep the integrity of the craft-beer world.
"OPERATING ON LONG ISLAND"
The explosion of craft beer in America has been a double-edged sword. On one hand more craft beer is being purchased, which supports the small guys and helps more craft brewers get funding to make delicious juice. On the other hand a lot of bar owners are just trying to cash in, serving beer on terrible lines and using dirty glassware because it’s all they know. That’s why so many brewers are out there talking to owners and trying to educate them on how to properly serve their product.
Long Island is already a bit of a stepchild to the big city, and this is personally amplified by where BBD's is on the North Shore: a relatively nondescript shopping center in Rocky Point. In sort of a perverse way we kind of like it like this. If you’re coming from the city, it’s a bit of a commitment with the distance but obviously we think the payoff is worth it! At the end of the day though, operating on Long Island is no different than operating anywhere else; you put your heart and soul into serving great food and good beer and people will come! You can even ask the person doing this interview. He travels for his double steamed burger with cheese and a beer from Brooklyn pretty often.
Photo: Courtesy of BBDs