Eataly Boston Has a Unique Draft Beer System Headed for Terra
Eataly Boston has been mum on what to expect, dining-wise, at Terra, the third-floor restaurant that will debut this spring. But the beverage program, which the Italian food emporium introduced yesterday in honor of Extreme Beer Fest, will likely be enough to get beer and wine fans through the door.
Terra is home to the first-ever Rack AeriAle draft system, created especially to do something unique with beer at Eataly Boston. Three out of four U.S. Eataly locations have a beer component—both New York City’s Flatiron location and the Chicago outpost brew beer on-site. In Boston, no brewing will happen, but beer will be constantly evolving, says Sam Calagione, founder of Dogfish Head Brewery. Along with Teo Musso of Italian craft beer originator Birrificio Baladin, Calagione is a “Birreria Brother” with Eataly North America, meaning he collaborates on all three beer programs.
Calagione dreamt up the basics of the Rack AeriAle system, which features 15 different, 15-gallon wine barrels filled with three, seasonally rotating beers. While many breweries use wooden casks to age beers, this system is different in that “technically finished” beers are funneled into the barrels to to continue changing even while they’re being served, says Cambridge Brewing Company’s Will Meyers, whose Brett Conspiracy is one of the first beers to pour from the new system. (Terra will also offer more draft beers, which will pour from traditional stainless steel kegs.)
To start, five barrels will be filled with the same CBC brew, five will contain a beer from Dogfish Head, and five will house a brew from Birrificio Baladin. The system, designed by AC Beverage Draft System Installers, allows bartenders at Terra to pour those three brews directly from the barrels. John McKusick, Eataly Boston’s beer and barrel manager, will be able to choose, pretty much on the fly, whether the barreled beer is carbonated with CO2, like a traditional draft beer, or nitrogen, which gives a creamy, smooth pour. He can also blend the gases.
“John is like a gas DJ,” says Calagione. The beer goes into the different barrels “pretty much tasting like a flat beer from a stainless keg, but imagine how different that same batch is going to taste from the last barrel, how much it would have evolved sitting [there], interacting with the gases, the wood, and the air,” he says.
The wood of a Syrah barrel is going to add different characteristics to a beer than a Sangiovese barrel, even to the same brew. CBC’s Brett Conspiracy, a bright wild ale, might be pouring from the same type of barrel that’s housing Dogfish Head’s Syracusa Nera, a roasty imperial stout blended with jammy Syrah wine, explains Meyers. “And they might be tapped side-by-side,” so guests can taste those similarities and differences.
“Each drink coming out of the barrels will be unique in its essence,” says Eataly North America CEO Nicola Farinetti.
AC Beverage, like Dogfish Head and Baladin, has no equity nor any formal ownership stake in Eataly.
“We’re just friends [who said], ‘Let’s just do something fun that’s never been done before,'” says Calagione. While AC Beverage retains to the right to sell the Rack AeriAle system to other bars and taprooms in the future, “Always and forever people will know Eataly Boston is where it was born.”
Terra, with its unique, wine barrel draft beer system, opens later this spring.
Eataly Boston, Prudential Center, 800 Boylston St., Boston, 617-807-7300, eataly.com.